Garfield. Artist: Jim Davis.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1978
Creator: Jim Davis

Garfield debuted on June 19, 1978, from United Feature Syndicate (Twin Earths, Li'l Abner), in only 40 newspapers. Within a decade, it was …

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… in over 2,000, a level of circulation previously reached by only two strips — Blondie and Peanuts.

Cartoonist Jim Davis (no relation to the Jim Davis who did The Fox & the Crow for DC Comics) is the man behind Garfield. He started in comics in 1969, as assistant to Tom K. Ryan on Tumbleweeds. He attributes his phenomenal success with Garfield (far eclipsing that of the first strip to star a self-centered pet cat, George Gately's Heathcliff) to a few simple rules. No topical or country-specific humor (all gags should be enjoyable by anyone, anywhere, any time). A clear, uncluttered art style, so readers can see at first glance exactly what is going on. Finally, characters that people can relate to.

It worked for Nancy, and it works for Garfield, which is immensely popular not only in comic strips, but also in toys, figurines, stationery, T-shirts, and practically everything else merchandisable. Garfield's image has appeared on literally thousands of products, marketed in dozens of countries, over the past couple of decades.

Animated Garfield specials have been appearing on prime time TV almost since the beginning, four of which (Garfield on the Town, 1983; Garfield in the Rough, 1984; Garfield's Halloween Adventure, 1985; and Garfield's Babes & Bullets, 1989) won Emmy Awards — and all 13 were at least nominated. In 1988, he was the subject of a Saturday morning series, Garfield and Friends, which also included a segment on Davis's other strip, U.S. Acres. All animated Garfield shows appeared first on CBS, but have since been syndicated. Garfield's voice was done by Lorenzo Music, whose work is also heard in Gummi Bears and The Jetsons.

Reprints of the Garfield strip in book form have also appeared since the beginning — and over 30 of them have been on The New York Times best-seller list (and 11 of them made it to the top, a rare accomplishment for a book of comics). In fact, Davis has the distinction of being the only author ever to have seven books on that list at once, a feat he accomplished in 1982. Original Garfield material has also appeared in book form, mostly based on the animated specials.

Davis's awards from The National Cartoonists' Society include two plaques for Best Humor Strip of the Year (1982 and 1986), the Elzie Segar Award (named after the creator of Popeye) for outstanding contributions to the field (1985), and the Reuben Award itself, given to the Cartoonist of the Year (1989).

Through it all, Davis has adhered to a simple philosophy: "If we take care of the cat, the cat will take care of us." It seems to be working.


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