Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dog Drool Afternoon


The basic dynamic: Odie's expression of unconditional love is overzealous and physically repulsive, and inspires not appreciation but misery. In the Garfield-verse, counting on others for happiness is an unwise proposition, and moments of joy tend to be born from self-reliance and/or self-indulgence. Total obliviousness to others' feelings is a partial explanation of Odie's happiness; ignorance may be bliss, to a degree, but it also gets him put out of the house and branded as an outcast. The other part is simply rushing headlong into what he wants to do. Lest we think Garfield endorses this kamikaze happiness as a successful coping mechanism, note that there is no character as put-upon, loathed or physically abused as Odie. Closer to the truth is that Garfield tells us it's unnatural and stupid to be so optimistic, and in episodes like today's, it is disgusting as well.

Point of consideration: Odie's primary job is foil to Garfield, perpetual optimist to the pessimistic cat. But another aspect of Odie's character is a distilled mirror-version of Jon, specifically Jon's approach to dating; Arbuckle throws himself at women with supreme confidence.

A Note on Cartooning: One of the strip's specialties is suppressing the moment of physical comedy. This is certainly not a hard-and-fast rule, but Davis frequently opts to portray those panels of aftermath, or focus on a character's reaction to off-panel action. Today the scenes of Odie's tongue actually making contact with others are hidden behind sound-effects so large they blot out the action. Add to list of What's Awesome About Garfield: it solves story problems and invents joke structures with techniques specific to the medium, without drawing attention away from the jokes the innovations are supposed to service.

What better panel to advertise the Garfield goodies available via cellular phone, than the image of two angry, miserable characters quietly seething and dripping with saliva? Probably none but the first panel proper, in which Garfield stands motionless and staring into space.

7 comments:

Nik said...

I am surprised you failed to comment on the first panel -- the sideways door with newspaper, and Garfield high in the window. When I saw the panel, I was convinced there was some sort of code hidden in those squares.

Read them vertically (top to bottom) and you get:

GFL
AID
RE

I am certain this means something.

Chris Stangl said...

I'm glad I live in a world where I can write four paragraphs on a Garfield strip and still get complaints that I didn't discuss the title panel.

Ryan Ferneau said...

It took a while for me to realize that those were window panels on a door and not buttons on some device.

Nik said...

Chris, quite honestly, without your input as to why Garfield has depth and humour, the strip is utterly meaningless. So when you fail to address each specific detail, I worry that I'm starting to see depth too -- depth that you didn't see. I'm sure you understand why this is troubling.

Zach C. said...

The door does look suspiciously like an elongated cell phone - and Garfield in the first panel is staring at it across otherwise empty space. The knowledgeable reader is expectant of receiving this week's cell-phone bonus code within these panels, and is thus disappointed not to see them.

At least, until the payoff comes in the panel which may or may not be the "wallpaper" that they receive. It certainly makes up for the content of the panel, that such misery can be displayed on one's phone (for a small fee).

Applemask said...

If you rotate 90 degrees and read them left to right, in the order they'd come if you were actually standing in front of it, they read "lfgdaier"

Which

Firebird said...

Send odie to the plumbers instead of the vet