Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Brokeback MeowMeow

Every human rejoiced when they read the opening panel, right? That is a world-class joke set up.

Let me get this straight: Jon does ask his cat about his lip quality (weird) and does expect an answer (weirder), but does not like to be kissed by Garfield (because it crosses some weirdness boundary? Come on!). I think you're pretty much "asking for it," Arbuckle.

Remind me next time I'm kissing someone, to grab the sides of their face with my tiny claws and pull their cheeks. Also remind me that the noise to make after touching a cat mouth with your lips is "Poo! Poo!" I do not need to be told the noise that smooching makes is "KISS" because I already know.

It's nice that Garfield isn't such a jerk that he refuses to help Jon with his question. Also nice that Garfield concedes that Jon is fairly kissable, which, given Garfield's impossibly high standards for Jon, must mean Jon is a pretty good kisser. Congratulations, Jon. Congratulations.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Top Hat, yes, Top Cat, NEVER!

The drawing of Jon in the last panel is where I direct people who don't think Garfield is funny. Part of this is the voice I am imagining Jon affecting for this speech, which is very high and reedy.

I like the anticipation built by having Garfield react to something off-panel... but why is he more horrified in panel two, if he's already seen the hat? Perhaps Garfy's eyes are bugging out because of Jon's puzzlingly square-cornered second panel tummy bulge.

Hey Garfield, so, you're too cool for top hats, huh? So you've, say, never worn a top hat and tried to look cool, right?

You keep dreamin', buddy.

Satin top hats like the one Jon has purchased run upwards of $250, so I hope our boy has other plans for it besides wearing it for his cat.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Whitley Strieber's Com-meow-nion

Uh-oh! Garfield's egocentrism has exploded into full-blown paranoia... and circa-1996 X-Files-inspired alien conspiracy jokes. If you don't like the punchline, perhaps you will be amused by Garfield's neck in the third panel. Perhaps confused by the Wellsian deep focus in the shot, the PAWS staff has become so intent on drawing the cat's skin-folds that they've drawn his neck at half its usual width.

Two pressing questions about Jon today:
1. Where has he gone in Panel 2?
2. Why is he at all irritated in Panel 3? Look, Jon "can't" hear Garfield's thoughts, but he's uncommonly adept at understanding the cat's meaning: we know, because he reacts to it all the time. But here, as far as I see, all Jon is witnessing is Garfield walking across the table. He must know Garfield is saying something creepy to the fourth wall. Thanks for looking out for our best interests, Jon.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Think I'll Go for a Nap Outside Now

Title panel: What's the gag here? Garfield has a giant pen with his name on it, but that doesn't stop his leg from being incompletely drawn. If this is some kind of meta Duck Amok joke, I can make neither heads nor tails of it.

Garfield's sudden attachment to a little pink rug is cute, but the entire substance of the gag today relies on his need to nap on this carpet. Otherwise, it's just a strip about how Garfield was sleeping indoors, then he went outdoors to sleep. The idea may have been that we'll be fooled into thinking Garfield is going to go outside and play in the sun, rather than wasting his day sleeping, but it barely comes off that way. Indeed, I had to read the strip three times before realizing that the punchline isn't "Garfield goes back inside, and dreams about being outside."

It is a strange nuance that the drapes indoors mirror the flowers and lawn outside, but I fail to draw any conclusions as to the significance of this visual echo. A conclusion I can draw is that since Garfield's established height is around three feet and change, that butterfly's wingspan must be just shy of twelve inches. Gross.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Meowmeows of an Invisible Man

Indeed Garfield didn't "say" anything, but he laughs aloud in panel 2, which is always unsettling. Jon's barely-stifled anger and willful denial that he was stood up are clear in his clenched claw-hand. So though it might be weird that a man is yelling at his cat in frustration over his rejection, at least here it's justified: the cat is laughing at him.

Part of me wishes Jon had been so delusional as to go ahead and continue his date with an invisible woman, conversing with her over dinner and insisting on buying a meal for someone who isn't there. Another part of me likes that Jon feels the need to make excuses to his pets for being home on a Saturday night. Jon could, of course, point out that Garfield is also alone, and hasn't seen Arlene in more than a year.

Did I seriously check every Garfield strip for the past year to see if Arlene appeared? Of course I did. For you.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Odor-able Kitty

Anyone who doesn't know the first two panels are awkwardly framed to make sure we can't see the table deserves to be surprised by the dead fern reveal. The rest of us deserve to laugh anyway: no other strip is laid out so monotonously that a few millimeters tilted up from the normal angle is thoroughly disorienting.

The only way for Jon to have this information about a his date's odor preferences are for her to have shared it with him before their first date. This can only mean Jon's date is a total weirdo, and if she's a lady who uses "I like my men to smell masculine" as small talk, well, she deserves what she gets.

P1: Motion lines: really necessary?

P2: Jon's pose indicates: he is telling his cat a secret.

P3: Jon also hasn't changed his clothes for at least two days.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Green Coat, Orange Cat/ I Don't Worry 'Cause My Garfield's Fat

Ugly Date Outfit back in force. I guess the mammoth novelty bow tie didn't work out.

Yes!: I like a man bragging to his cat that he has a date! And looking triumphant about it about it, as if to imply "... and you don't." I do not, however, "know" what Jon "means." Don't be so coy, Jon, because if this is implying something either pro or con about your lady's classiness, it's too vague.

The cartoonists in the audience will surely appreciate the cloth-wrinkling work done on Jon's shirtfront as he bends to talk to Garfield in panel two. Looks like somebody's been studying their Burne Hogarth.

All humans, though, will appreciate how plump old Garfy looks this evening. His belly and chest blur into one pendulous wad of doughy cat-mass, plopped on the table, ready to criticize others... including a man who does, after all, have a date tonight.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I Think That I Shall Never See/ A Poem as Lovely as Pooky

Panel One: Jon's pen is as long as a human forearm, and possibly, if no foreshortening is at work, longer.

Panel Two: I can put no price on the pregnant pause of this panel.

Panel Three: I can only assume Jon is writing a poem to Mystique to hand-deliver on opening day of X-Men 3. J/K you guys, LOL! The joke is that "wolverine" is inherently inappropriate to use in a romantic poem. I say "Not so!" and offer Jon a few rhyming words: latrine, sardine, spleen, benzene, vaccine, obscene, gangrene. J/K again! Those are all inappropriate also. Some pretty words that rhyme with wolverine: green, ravine, phosphene... we might go on for 10 minutes like this. Seriously, "wolverine" has a very common ending syllable, so maybe the joke is that Jon is an idiot after all.

Jon asks his cat a question which requires both verbal response and intimate familiarity with the English language. Does he expect an answer, or is he thinking aloud? These are the mysteries of Garfield.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shecky Orange

I'm assuming Garfield is comparing Shecky Green's outdated comic stylings to Jon's squaresville lingo. The "thing" is, Shecky is funny. So maybe Garfield is contrasting them. Or perhaps I'm getting oversensitive as someone who actually does say "How's tricks?"

So this strip has some problems for me, including the presumption of the core audience's familiarity with moldy nightclub comics. I do like that Jon thinks saying hello and asking how someone is doing is an opportunity for wit.

I never before considered how strange it is that when the design change was made to turn Garfield's paws into hands (there are no foot pads, and he has opposable thumbs. Uck... ), a decision was made to continue drawing the mutant body parts as paws unless being used as hands. So in panels 1 and 2 nothing seems to be amiss, until: BLARG! CAT HAND. Cope with it, America!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dropped It In the Mailbox/ Sent It Special G

The big news is that the secret admirer note is apparently real! I was sure it would turn out to be a cruel Garfield hoax, but Jon's actually received a love letter.

Please note that Garfield's phrasing leaves room for the possibility that he does admire Jon and just isn't telling us.

If you wonder why a choice was made to have Jon spontaneously disappear for the last two panels, when the usual Garfield template would require him to stick around and be half-closed-eye-lidded and deflated by Garfield's withering insult, I propose: today Davis just gave the poor guy a break. Somewhere in another room, Jon is being happy with his note.

And that's the scene I like to imagine. Jon grinning and staring at that note for the rest of the day.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


No idea what the title panel is supposed to look like. Fake airbrushing? Anyhow, I don't like seeing G-field's eyelids so shiny.

Jon's "thinking" face in the middle panel of row 2 is very funny. Actually, most of the Jon body-language acting is pretty funny.

Garfield's refusal to go to the dryer himself and remove the keys - even though the racket is irritating him - is great character behavior. I suspect he's subjecting himself to this aural torture because he's too lazy to open the dryer, but also because part of Garfield likes being angry and frustrated with Jon's stupidity.

Now sometimes Garfield backfires when playing around with a last-panel reveal. Today's strip pulls it off perfectly, and there's no way to guess what's going on with the sound effects, or Jon's mystery, until the very last panel. Kee-tank!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Checkers Speech

Oh boy! What a mess!

Panel One a: What are they looking at?

Panel One b: Garfield's legs have mutated and/or atrophied such that I'm not sure he can walk on all fours even if he wants to.

Panel Two a: If Garfield doesn't know that he ate checkers -- clearly he has no visual recognition of checkers-- then why would the word "checkers" trigger his moment of clarity? I would hazard to suggest the strip would work better with no reaction from the cat until Jon asks where the checkers have disappeared to.

Panel Two b: It is one thing to talk to a pet, despite getting no reaction for better than 25 years, because we all do it, and Garfield is more reactive than most. It is another thing to realize you will be sitting at home with your kitty on Saturday night. It is another thing entirely to ask your cat to play checkers with you.

Panel Three a: Woah, jump cut, settle down! I guess Jon went and got the checkers box, set up the board, and returned to precisely the same position, but it's disorienting. I cannot, however, explain why he is consulting the front of the game box to determine the location of his missing playing pieces.

Panel Three b: Somehow this checkerboard measures six squares on the long sides, four squares on one side... and three squares on the parallel side. It's his professionalism that I respect.

Panel Three c: If Jim Davis ever draws Garfield's tongue like that again, I'm gonna barf.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr. Orangewell

Ugly Date Outfit is back in force! Never you mind that Garfield's sass would work better if Jon were just wearing a normal-sized bowtie. Things to like:

-Jon's wide-eyed expression in Panel 1 as he tentatively asks for Garfield's approval, knowing full well that it is rarely and grudgingly given.

-Garfield's strange, indulgent-motherly attitude.

-Jon's eager delight when given the slightest acceptance.

-Jon bought a giant bowtie that looks just like his regular tie. Lack of fashion sense or no, he must know the new tie is novelty-oversized, as he owns at least one standard-issue tie for comparison.

-Cats: hind legs = very, very long.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cat, Fish

The joke is fine. The structure attempted is impossible because of the realities of daily-strip dimensions. Theoretically we are confused by the first panel, follow through the second, for a reveal in the third. That's the reason for splitting the single image between three panels: a gradual build and payoff, rather than making it a panel gag. Fine. But in practice, there's no way to look at this strip and ask your eye not to take in the entire, unified composition. It happens on first glance, and the eye, seeing nothing to read or focus on in the first panels, will gravitate right to Jon's word balloon.

Would've made a good "Quickie" on Garfield and Friends though.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eat, Drink and Be Hairy

I'm in fundamental agreement with Garfield on this one. I can understand Jon's resentment that the cat doesn't appreciate the meals Jon prepares, but his way of expressing this is probably not the most logical.

I particularly like Garfield's way of refuting this by also angrily demanding more food, which denies acceptance of what Jon is really saying: "You know you shouldn't eat so much, here is a possible means of preventing overeating." Second party willfully misunderstanding first party that they may continue self-destructive behavior? Always a great joke.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Medium Ultra Cool

Garfield: Inexplicable, Unknowable

p1. Why stand there in the first place?

p2. "Dissertation"? Is this supposed to be an added level of sass?; as in "your threats do not even register as threats to me, instead I misinterpret them as your bid for a doctoral degree"? Because the point Garfield is ultimately trying to make is that he's not afraid of the barking, and for a cat, his reaction to the dog is unusual (thus brag-worthy). The expected reaction to a dissertation (when are dissertations read aloud?) is not fear. It is probably rare that anyone loses their cool during the reading of a dissertation. Thus does Garfield's double-edged wise-ass remark cancel itself out.

p3. Is Garfield pumping his fist in triumph, or about to punch a dog in the face? I approve of one, and disapprove of the other.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cat's Entertainment

It may or may not be a good idea to draw attention to the fact that the main character of your strip is not "actually entertaining," but Garfield makes it a daily practice. Yes, Garfield has such a poor attitude, he doesn't care if his laziness ruins his own comic strip. He's not even sleeping. He's just lying on his back, motionless.

Jon's frantic facial expressions are the only thing making up for Garfield's lack of interest in keeping the visuals lively. J. Arb's always been drawn with an overbite, but panel 3 is really pushing it, and looks very much like how Jim Davis draws birds. Dear Diary: Jon's face turned into a little bird face today.

The idea of animals wanting their own pets is too perverse for further elaboration. Deal with it in your own way.

Today's Mystery Question:
How exactly would the stripes on the back of Garfield's head be visible from this angle?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Give My Umbrella to the Rain Dogs

For the non-pros in the audience, the top tier of a Sunday comic strip is frequently hacked off by newspaper editors for space-saving purposes or reasons of simple comics-hating orneriness. Thus do cartoonists either use the top panels for a throwaway gag or expendable exposition. Today Mr. Davis uses the top tier to present his traditional cleverly-customized Garfield title logo, followed by... the first panel repeated twice.

Right? WRONG! The raindrops and landscape behind our favorite mutt change enough to register to the naked eye, but Odie, too, has been re-drawn. Attempts (via Photoshop's powerful layer-opacity tools) to line-up the two drawings of Odie prove they are two separate pieces of art, though admittedly drawn with startling mechanical precision.

Again this week, Davis isn't interested in using the Sunday format to provide more content per se, but to take advantage of the sheer space available. The pacing of this gag is about how long it takes for very little to happen... and when something does happen, it's someone going the extra mile to wrong you specifically and intentionally... which is kind of a Garfield life-lesson in general.

Q's (A's not forthcoming)
Why is Garfield so very happy to see Odie in that penultimate panel?
Is Jon concerned that his pets have escaped to an enormous empty field?
... or is this some kind of existential metaphor?
Why is Garfield so very happy to be locked in a newspaper vending machine?
If I turn the title-panel picture on its side to make sense of the drawing, then the word "Garfield" is sideways. I guess that last one's not a question.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Jon's shock in panel 2 must be the realization that Garfield can swallow his head. Or perhaps it is envy that Garfield can yawn with an exclamation point.

Now, I realize that Jon is really supposed to be an all-purpose "loser," but sometimes that means he's boring, but sometimes means he is eccentric to the point of possible mental illness. All we ask is a little consistency, Garfield! I'm not sure what I think of Jon's increasingly frequent habit of sucking in his bottom lip to further accentuate his overbite when he is irritated with Garfield's behavior. I am sure that I like that today's strip is about a man pissed off that his cat doesn't want to hear what he thinks.

The bonus joke here is that Jon also "knows" what Garfield thinks, on an almost daily basis.

Lordy, I've been looking at Jon calling women for so long that the table looks barren without the phone sitting on it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Splut Goes the Weasel

That's what you get for giving up on Ellen, Jon. Thank God he's not giving up on that automatic-wrinkling shirt, which is very funny comics shorthand.

Yes Garfield, Wendy is "clever." Her wordplay turnabout on old Jonny, however, required a convoluted setup in which Jon more or less handed Wendy the punchline on a platter. Because really, who besides Jon would compare his adorability to a non-specific animal, but get specific enough to say "small woodland creature"? When the comeback requires such an unnatural come-on, your wit is less Mad Magazine's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and more Cracked Magazine "Shut-Ups."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

As Jon Lay Dying

Progressively wrinklier shirt: it adds visual stimulation, and enhances the sickening pathos of this gag about a man feigning terminal illness in failed exchange for affection! It's days like today that should be archived to remind the world that Garfield is the blackest thing on the American comics page. Take that, Boondocks!

It is very sweet that Garfield wants to tell Jon he sympathizes. It is typical Garfield that he just sprawls on the table like an undemonstrative orange blob, even while knowing Jon cannot hear the cat say he sympathizes. Thanks Garfield, because you know, this situation wasn't bleak enough.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Beyond the Pooky Principle

Jon's progress: mild anger -> rougishness -> tired. So tired. It is, however, awesome that Jon is admitting to himself (and his cat) that he is trying to trick a woman into going out with him.

Points to Paw-nder:

-This is the first time we've "heard" Ellen's voice through the reciever. I hope you are as excited as I am.

-Jon's shirt has that new automatic-rumpling feature to make you look extra-pathetic at a moment's notice.

-I hope Garfield's last thought is in an Austrian accent.

-Three people are talking in the third panel, making it as visually crowded as any Garfield panel in years.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An Arbuckle's Chance in Hell

This is going to go on for months, isn't it? Behold the only strip in the world that dares show us a man talking on the phone, next to his drowsing cat, for weeks on end.

I like when Garfield shifts the focus to Jon, but for the sake of a dozen blackout gags with the same punchline? Yes!

Panel 1: Jon's way of expressing slyness is to curl the corners of his mouth up between his eye and ear. Even pulling with my fingers, I can only get the corner of my mouth just up under my nose. It doesn't look like Jon's expression at all.

Panel 2: So has Ellen run out of her house without even taking time to hang up the phone? Or have Jon's "chances," as Garfield will explain, become anthropomorphized flesh, and evacuated? One is comedy, the other is Neil Gaimanesque fantasy-horror.

Panel 3: The slight pan right is to accommodate Garfield's thought bubble, but looks like it's a reveal of his butt, which is arguably a funnier joke.

Monday, May 08, 2006

For Lasagna or Money

Come again?

I think I "don't get this."

Does Garfield mean "If 'money can't buy happiness,' then do you, Jon, rent happiness? Because you are clearly a happy man." Or does Garfield mean "If money can't buy happiness, then do humans in general rent happiness, because I see an obvious link between money and happiness."

Either way, I am not sure why Garfield is acting like he's never heard this platitude before, and even less sure if the panic in his eyes is the proper reaction.

I like to think Jon gave Ellen this speech with no prompting but his own insecurity. This strip also raises questions about Jon's income level and professional success as a cartoonist which are better left un-pondered. Believe me. I've pondered them.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Was Sure He'd Be Listening to "Am I Cool Or What?"

Gag panel and strip-proper unity alert! This rare occurrence is intensified by an equally rare joke-about-modern-technology. I do like that the strip isn't reliant on iPods in specific; in 1995, it could've been about Garfield's DiscMan, or in 1989 it could've been about Garfield's new Fisher-Price Pocket Rockers. There's also no hint of the hacky comic strip trope wherein fogeys cannot comprehend the technology of today- e.g. Dagwood shooting himself in the brain because he sees a VCR.

I read Garfield every day, but I'm first to admit that the humor is low-key, if not check-for-pulse catatonic - that's part of the fun. But this punchline actually made me laugh aloud. I even like Jon's innocent excitement to find out what delightful sounds must be inspiring this reverie. This is a fat-guy joke par excellence, and there should be much back-patting in Casa Davis this eve.

Finally, in the Gag Panel, Garfield's right earbud cord is loooong.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

V.C. Arbuckle's Flowers in the Cattic

Wooooah! Check out that zoom between panels 1 and 2! Who directed this, Mario Bava?

I like how this joke is not a simple reveal, but a puzzle we must figure out, including understanding where the characters are in figuring out the situation. Even if you have figured out that Ellen is allergic to the flowers (funny), you still have to figure out that Jon doesn't understand this, even though his own "bless you"s are our only clues (funnier), and that Garfield has pieced this together and is smarter than Jon (funniest).

Oh, and by the by, I guess Ellen is going to be like Mrs. Columbo, or Diane on Twin Peaks. The Ellen mystique will be that we don't get to meet her. She's a interesting character anyway, since she likes Jon enough to speak on the phone every day for weeks, but not enough to go out with him.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Things To Do On Friday When You're Arbuckle

Ah Garfield, a joke in every panel. 1) Crazy bow-tie, 2) the Awkward Pause Take, 3) a man with his head on the table, weeping!

Garfield's last quip confuses the issue in this otherwise stellar strip. Garfield would've believed Jon had a regular not-"big" date? Or does Jon have a date? I thought the joke was that Jon is prepared and excited for something that's not going to happen.

Anyway... this clinches it: Jon officially has a designated, iconic Ugly Outfit for Dates. It will have to be in the Index when Fantagraphics publishes The Complete Garfield.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

These Friends of... I mean "Ellen"

Sorrow! Rage! Jon looks like he wants to punch that bitch... for not loving him! I'd really like to see Jon and Ellen go to the next level, too, because as far as I can tell, they've only spoken on the phone, and I can't wait to see her. She must like him though, because he's called every day this week... Hmm... Actually, maybe they are at the "next level," if not the final level to which all romances must aspire: it always ends with Ellen in silence, and Jon in despair or anger.

And God, it's great that Garfield chooses to insult Jon not for the topic of today's joke - which is Jon's failure at romance - but because in addition to being lonely, Jon looks like an idiot. Bonus cruelty at no extra cost. That's the Garfield promise.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Ellen Quadrilogy

Jon's sudden turn to defeat in the last panel is so fast that it has to mean in the prior panels he is putting on a brave face. I do love the joke in which a man is mired in a situation going badly, and he grins and denies the pleasure cruise is sinking into an octopus pit.

Garfield, more than perhaps any other strip, does not make any pretense of a fourth wall. Here, Garfield does not even try to aim his rude thought for the day at Jon. It is for us. This is eerie in today's strip, because all the communication in this cartoon is not reaching its expected audience. Jon is blathering to Ellen falls only on his cat's ears, and Garfield doesn't even care to share his snottiness with Jon. Three characters are not talking to each other. The fourth, the reader, can only bear mute witness to this scene.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Jon of Living Dangerously

I can safely say I've never seen Jon make the expression in the second panel before.

I am in great suspense to see this "Ellen" woman. I can only asssume that unless she is put off by Jon's phone, which has Hulked-out and turned green since yesterday, this plot will continue until Ellen's will is worn down and she goes on a patented Disastrous Arbuckle Date. Sometime I should make an index of every time Jon's gone on a date. I think we would learn a lot, and it would be a productive use of free time.

Jokes about running with scissors are officially on the same list as tearing the tags off mattresses, and boxes of Fruit Loops with butcher knives in them captioned "cereal killer." They must be put down by Gregory Peck with a shotgun, before they infect other jokes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Ballad of Jon and Ellen

Hooray for continuity! Jon calls Ellen again, last heard from on April 23.

It's kind of cool that we can't be sure if Ellen is lying, or Jon is so horrid that he causes instantaneous migraines. Either way, this time Jon "gets" what's going on. His wilting enthusiasm is funny, but these episodes are so much harder to take when Jon ends up angry, sad, and self-loathing. It doesn't help that he's shown concern for someone's well-being in panel 2.

Garfield is also harder to take when he takes special pleasure in Jon's defeat. Certainly the reader doesn't need Garfield to explain the joke, and the awful cat is just rubbing it in.

And this time Jon's back-fat is utterly out of control.