40 years ago today, Garfield made his debut in American newspapers. Yes, Garfield is 40 years old. That’s like 600 in cat years.
Garfield was originally intended as a strip primarily for adults, with an “edgy” sense of humor that at the time was considered quite bold.
It only took a few years, however, for Garfield to become extremely popular. Creator Jim Davis made a few changes to the strip, including the introduction of Odie, having the title character lose some weight, and eventually allowing him to start walking upright on his hind legs like a human whenever he desired to do so. In 1982, Garfield came to TV screens everywhere with Here Comes Garfield, which gave Garfield what might be the most distinctive voice of all time in the form of Lorenzo Music. It also gave us one of the saddest songs ever…
Television would be where Garfield would enjoy almost as much if not more popularity than he had in the funny pages. In 1988, Garfield and Friends premiered on CBS, and became one of the longest running cartoon shows the network ever had at seven seasons. Despite its popularity, finding merchandise for the series is virtually impossible, as very little of it was made outside of a few children’s books (and, I’ve been told, a handful of U.S Acres plush toys).
Garfield was so huge that in the late 1980’s, a theatrical animated movie was well into production. Songs had been written and Jim Davis was excited about the project, but the film was ultimately cancelled when an animation studio for it was unable to be found, with distributors uneasy about the dark storyline and a plot twist which revealed that Garfield was able to “talk” to Jon. Garfield’s Judgment Day did see the light of day as an illustrated adventure book, and 8-year old me thought it was the most exciting book he had ever read at the time.
Even though that film never got made, Garfield continued to endure, enough so for him to finally land on the big screen in 2004 with that live-action movie which gave Zombieland its best joke. Over more recent years, Jon has found himself in a stable relationship (though he still remains unmarried), though Garfield himself hasn’t changed too much as a cat, still eating too much, still abusing his pal Odie, and still hating Mondays.
So, happy birthday, Garfield! You’re already dead for decades in cat years, but as far as we’re concerned, you can go on living forever.