Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kitty in the Water


Title panel: This dire possible-Phantom Menace-reference image sort of summates an idea intrinsic to Garfield, unlike most Sunday title panels, which normally have nothing to do with anything. Garfield confidently moves in on his prey with a combination of cat-like hunting skill, human-learned traits, both of which he is abusing: snorklers are not supposed to murder the fish they observe. While he takes visible satisfaction in this, the cosmos are going to collect a hefty fine from the meek and the mean alike. The idea actually plays out in today's strip, too.

Panel 1: Cats have little narrow tongues. While I appreciate Mr. Davis' ongoing effort to demolish standards of feline anatomy at every turn, his depiction of Garfield's tongue always grosses me out a little.

Panel 5: The Garfieldian version of cause and effect has little to do with karma, or swift justice, or even a universal morality meting out punishment and reward in a pattern the characters can understand. But perhaps we can discern a kind of fatalistic irony anyway. What has Garfield done "wrong" today? He fails to look before leaping, literally not checking the wading pool for water. He seeks to sully a neighbor's property -- in Judeo-Christian terms, we might say he is "stealing" -- without second thought. Overcome with excitement, he showboats with an overzealous leap, boastful and prideful. But those are normal, petty sins that in the laws of Garfield's universe are not as funny to punish as the self-satisfaction of someone who thinks they have it all figured out.

Buster Keaton's physics often worked on a similar principle: dumb luck will save your life, but any plans will be demolished in the process. Garfield supposes you might also smash your face into a tree. The difference between this lesson and a Chuck Jones Roadrunner cartoon, is that there is nothing harebrained or elaborate about jumping into a swimming pool. The margin for error is small enough, the scene mundane enough, that only Garfield would see it as an opportunity for punishing a character so harshly.

Panel 6: Here was a chance to reward Odie by having him splashed with a pool full of water, or indicating that he is granted some relief by the shade of the pool on his head. No: he just gets a pool on his head.

Also: Garfield jumped into the pool so hard he reversed the color scheme? Bravo.

14 comments:

IMJ said...

The colour scheme of the pool is correct; in the last panel it is observed from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down as in the previous panels. It was upside-down all along, and Odie was hiding under it (hence getting shade from the sun).

Nitpicks aside, it's good to see this site being updated again.

Chris Stangl said...

Uh. Yeah, I guess so. Despite looking at the strip for half an hour while I wrote, I don't think I really "got" that Garfield didn't just go bouncing out of an empty pool. I may or may not bother revising my thoughts. Probably "not."

luke said...

It's actually pretty complex. The joke is that Garfield thinks the pool is right side up, and we are fooled into thinking so too from the perspective until Odie shows up under it. 'Garfield' is probably the only current strip that would do something like this.

mrh said...

I'm impressed by, I guess, the structural integrity of Odie's ears. How much do you think an empty pool weighs?

Anonymous said...

Almost nothing if it's inflatable.

murgatroid said...

Garfield probably weighs some 60+ pounds.
I'm surprised Odie wasn't crushed instantly under his weight.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised and somewhat dissappointed that you, a Garfield expert, would fail to notice that the pool was upside-down the whole time.

Alas, I shouldn't hold my idols on such a high pedestal.

Ryan Ferneau said...

Well, the pool's drawn pretty strangely. It's hard to tell which side is up. Plus I'm a little bit color-blind and can't really distinguish the two colors on it anyway.

But I still can't figure this out... Did Garfield bounce off Odie's head as Odie was already lying under the pool, or did Garfield somehow flip the pool over onto Odie's head as he bounced? This color-blindness surely isn't helping.

Anonymous said...

Look at the second to last panel, you can see that the white beam which indicates Garfield's path stops at the top of the drawing of the pool, rather than going into it.

The pool was upside down the whole time, Garfield bounced off the top/Odie's head.

John Bauer said...

I think the artwork leaves it ambiguous as to which side is up and which is down in the earlier panels. If the pool didn't move as a result of garfield's actions, though, where is the tree in panels 1-5? In panel 6, the tree is almost next to the pool, so it should be visible earlier on if in fact it didn't flip because of Garfield's jump.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is unambiguous upon close enough examination. Not only do the colors remain correct in relation to one another, but the pattern at their interseciton is not horizontally symmetrical. That is to say, it would look different, right-side-up. You can see that it is the same in each panel, and that if it were turned right-side-up it would resemble a blue cartoon water-line under a pink sky.

The tree just fucking appears out of nowhere because it's "Garfield".

Mark Hewitt said...

Personally I think it's kind of ambiguous too (I thought the same as Chris the first time) and a shame, because if it had been clearer that would be one of my alltime favourite slapstick cartoons ever - I love the "unrestrained joy turning into complete disaster" feeling of the first-impression image. In one frame a cat hurtles with (almost - it is Garfield) innocent abandon toward a swimming pool, and two panels later Garfield has his face embedded in a tree and the pool is upside-down on a dog's head. The only thing which could improve that image is if Garfield was initially wearing a snorkel, which ended up in Jon's ear on the other side of the tree...

Anonymous said...

Huh. Funny. I thought it was blatantly obvious (when we got to the last panel when Odie stands up, that is) that the pool had been upside down the whole time and just gave the illusion of being a pool of water. I'm kind of surprised some other people didn't instantly see that.

Sculptus Poe said...

The pool, being blue on the bottom, looks to the parched and sun-dazzled Garfield and the reader as if it were full of water.

Garfield takes a running jump at the pool and instead of splashing into water, bounces unexpectedly off and into a tree.

It is then revealed that Odie is happily sitting in the shade under the over-turned pool, blissfully unaware of Garfield's plight.

You can tell that the pool is overturned the whole time, even without color cues, because the air-refill nozzle is always in the lower right-hand corner.