L-r: Roy, Orson. From the animated version.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1986
Creator: Jim Davis
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The comic strip U.S. Acres was a result of the same tendency that brought us Abbie & Slats, John Darling, Judge Parker and many others over the years. A successful …

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… creator, looking to compound his good fortune, starts a new venture, hoping his audience will come along and carry him to new heights. So cartoonist Jim Davis, having seen his Garfield become one of the most popular comics in America, launched his second comic strip for United Feature Syndicate (Li'l Abner, Peanuts) on March 3, 1986.

The title came from the name of a farm, and the animals on that farm were its characters — humans were rarely (never, after the first couple of weeks) seen; and even then, only from the waist down. The main character was Orson Pig — the strip started the day he was born, the runt of his litter. Others included Roy Rooster (sarcastic and somewhat antagonistic but still Orson's friend); Lanolin Sheep (loud and disagreeable, often seen doing laundry tho nobody wore clothes); her brother Bo (easygoing and kind of dumb); Wade Duck (paranoid and cowardly, a bad combination); and a pair of chicks hatched by Orson when he found the eggs abandoned, Booker (adventurous and self-confident) and Sheldon (shy to the point of having hatched only partially, remaining an egg with feet sticking out). Also, Orson sometimes took on the persona of Power Pig, a superhero, who doesn't seem to have brought in a lot of villains but did provide laughs for the others.

The strip had an alternate English-language name, Orson's Farm, which was used when it ran outside the U.S. (Naturally, non-English papers renamed it in their own languages.) Mindful of its initials, marketing folks used it to avoid reminding their readers with the very title that it came from elsewhere.

No-doubt because of the drawing power Davis (unrelated to the Jim Davis who did The Fox & the Crow for DC Comics, by the way) had demonstrated with Garfield, U.S. Acres appeared in over 500 papers right from the start — the biggest launch United Feature ever had, about twice what the previous record-holder, Robotman, had achieved a couple of years before. Early success also came in book form — almost a dozen paperback reprints came out, starting in 1987.

But that doesn't necessarily translate into long-term viability. In fact, U.S. Acres was quite short-lived, the daily version ending April 15, 1989 and the Sunday about three weeks later. By that time, however, the series had already moved into new media. The TV show Garfield & Friends debuted Saturday, Sept. 17, 1988 on CBS, with U.S. Acres as its back segment.

There, Orson's voice was done by Gregg Berger (Kerchak in Disney's Tarzan). Roy was Thom Huge (Jon in the main series). Lanolin was Julie Payne (who did more face than voice acting). Bo was Frank Welker (Dynomutt). Wade was Howard Morris (Atom Ant). Booker and Shelton were both done by Welker (whose other credits include Jabberjaw). The show ran seven seasons. Also, Bantam Books did a series of illustrated children's books based on the series, during the early years of the TV show.

New material about U.S. Acres hasn't been produced in years. But the TV show is often seen in reruns or on home video (where the Orson's Farm title is generally used), and there's a thriving market in used copies of the books.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Paws, Inc.