Monday, July 31, 2006

Ah Choo Baby

Garfield Storytelling Devices 101: Something mysterious happens in Panel One as Character A sits at table with nonchalant expression. In Panel Two Character B, to whom something bizarre has happened, walks past silently. In Panel Three Character A explains what has occurred off-panel.

It's a useful structure, because it allows a medium-strength sight gag to be coupled with a semi-funny life-around-the-house-is-boring joke, and both are bolstered in the process. Though silly, I slightly prefer these strips to simple Garfield put-down gags, because they're harder to write, and gently nudge against the boundaries of the Garfield universe's reality. There's a quiet absurdity to the strip that actually augments the cynicism.

For example, today Garfield watches intently as in the adjacent room Jon opens the caraway seed canister (why?). Jon sneezes into the spice (why?), and promptly exits the room (why?). Garfield lets us know Jon has done this before. It's our job to understand: Jon goes out of his way to make sure it happens again.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Oh boy, folks, looks like Garfield's world has changed forever! He's... sleeping.

The ill-chosen colors of wall and tablecloth today have created the temporary illusion that Odie and Garfield are sleeping on the lawn. They still may be, but "outside" is usually indicated by grass blades and/or a swirly shape representing the sun.

I guess the joke is supposed to be that Garfield fell asleep too close to Odie's butt and got kicked in the face. There's a second level in which Odie's Dream Garfield Avatar inadvertently screws over his real-life counterpart. In Garfield the wish your heart makes is to punt someone in the skull: our great aspiration is to kick a man when he's down. Even the Dream-field in the final two panels indicates with his devilish expression that he knows the seemingly innocuous act of throwing a ball he found, that someone, somewhere, even on another plane of consciousness, is getting screwed over. And it makes him happy.

Title Panel: I'm probably the only person in the world who is concerned that the creepy title panel resembles John Lennon's cartoon contribution to the early queer anthology The Gay Liberation Book. It showed a guy in a turban riding a flying carpet and enthusiastically masturbating.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

KISS Asleep!

We rarely glimpse the nightly (?) ritual of Jon and Garfield saying goodnight to each other. No one says goodnight to Odie, and no one knows or cares where he sleeps. No one is concerned when he disappears for weeks at a time. Instead Jon funnels his energy into making sure Garfield witnesses every landmark moment of his life. Not only did Garfield see the kiss, but he was staring creepily at the young lovers. Not only did Garfield see the kiss, but he saw the entire date. He has borne silent witness to Jon's entire life. So in panel three, as Garfield tries to get momentary relief from being Jon's flesh-and-blood diary, we all feel the exhausted frustration: we paid strict attention all week, and yeah, yeah we saw the kiss.

Doc Wilson should've been less concerned with Garfield's French busboy outfit last week than his atrocious beanbag physique. Panel Two helps emphasize the horror, which is usually minimized by the visual counterpoint of his absurdly long legs. Vertical stripes make fat orange men look thinner after all.

Usually Davis writes Jon's "dialog" in a way that works as one-sided conversation. It's great that Jon is not only asking this question over and over because he can't get his mind off the kiss, but because in his frenzy he half-expects an answer, and can't understand why Garfield doesn't answer. It's a fine critique of anyone babbling about their love lives to our friends: they may start out indulgently half-listening in the first panel, but by the end, you're a dope pestering a speechless animal trapped in a box, pinned under a blanket.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's So Glandular II

This is the grand finale, I guess, so grab a cup of coffee and a plate of last night's lasagna. We're gonna be here awhile.

This one's for the fans. The composition echoes Jon's first kiss with Liz some 25 years ago. The poor guy's fashion sense has either degenerated or improved, depending on your stance on '80s cut suits and wide ties. Frankly, there's nothing inherently wrong with a plaid suit if you don't mix patterns with your tie.

Panel 1:
Now I've had my fair share of kisses under the waxing moon, but never found call to execute the stiff-armed death-grip wrist-grab Jon's pulling on Liz. Also it's funny that it force's Jon's lapel to curl up over his arm. The desperation of this stance ("you will NOT get away") leads me to believe this development doesn't force us to reinterpret the last 28 years as Liz totally masking her affection for Jon, but represents a slow erosion of her standards for a mate.

Liz's attire, a modernized, accessorized, sexier update of her 1981 eveningwear, could have been foreshadowingng for the most astute of Garfield students. Said students are probably wondering what Liz did with her yellow purse since leaving the restaurant, though. For those with a continuity bent, July 28 was never established as Jon's birthday until 2001, skipped again in 2002, and has only been granted silly minor gags ever since. Until today it's never been a landmark date.

Good Lord, check out the trolley on Doc Wilson! Maybe I stare at Garfield strips too much, but it's hard to recall anything sexier than Liz's arched back and sultry expression. Nor can I recall any reason for Liz and Jon to call their emotionally wrenching failed dates a "wonderful time."

Panel 2: The difference between the 1981 kiss and 2006 is a floating comics shorthand heart: it means "love". Although today's embrace is not as full-contact and PG-rated, the emotions are different. Except Garfield, that unflappable Buddha of negative virtue, who still stares with chilly disinterested cynicism at his master's folly. What's whirring in that cat-brain is not the shock we were promised by the promotional advertising for this story, but the timeless, coldly bemused refrain: Human love. It's so glandular.

Also: Is Liz talking while she's got a mouthful of Arbuckle tongue?

Panel 3:
So the newspaper headline that graced the Garfield homepage the last 11 days, "COMIC STRIP SHOCKER!" turned out to be an elaborate mislead. It is certainly what passes for a major development in this strip about inaction, but if something is to "doom" Garfield, it will be the ramifications from a Jon/Liz union, not this sweet and wistful little ending.

And the moon cycle changes as we watch, the glands pulse, the cat grins at us, and two people enter a new phase. Did you feel a little warm tingle in your heart? Do you find Garfield's closing sentiment cute? It's not a fare-the-well, folks: it's a punchline. When Garfield stares through the fourth wall, lids half-closed, mouth twisted into predatory sneer, that's when our boy is telling The Truth through sarcasm. If you think anyone in Garfield lives happily ever after, you haven't been reading Garfield long. Two people enter a new phase that looks like happiness. Ever been in love? The glandular rush is a tide that masks a shoreline of bloody shipwrecks like you've never seen. Yah tah tah tah.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Eleven
Hey Birthday Boy! For once your dreams come true! Say goodbye to the last 28 mind-numbing years of frustration and loneliness and celebrate your manly manhood with the love of your life... and your cat. Today's lucky number: 28 (duh)

It is not for Permanent Monday to subject its delicate readers to graphic descriptions of the activity implied by "celebrate your manly manhood". I do not discourage you from mailing me detailed, detailed fanfic on the topic though. It is up to you if Liz asks Jon to wear his fake moustache.

It's very silly that the newspaper publishes a horoscope written for one specific man. More silly is the implication today that Jon is 28 years old just because the strip is 28 years old. This makes less sense than Garfield's one-to-one aging with the strip, because it means Jon wasn't even born when Garfield debuted. So on June 19, 1978, Garfield is a 30-pound newborn kitten and Jon is a talking fetus.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Strange Case of Dr. Liz and Mr. Arbuckle

Panel 1: 27 years waiting to have Liz look at him that way, with those bulbous bedroom eyes, inch-thick glistening lips curled into a knowing smirk... and when it happens, Jon is wearing a huge fake handlebar moustache. Garfield had the good sense to change out of his busboy costume and live this life-defining moment with some fashion dignity, but his owner stands dumbfounded as the Fates swirl around him.

Keep your eye on Garfield, folks. Does the potentially successful, well-deliberated Jon-Liz matchup bring him any joy? It does not.

Panel 2: Looks like Ellen is going to take Jay Leno up on his dinner offer. Presumably her amnesia has wiped out memory of having eaten dinner with Jon a few moments earlier.

Panel 3: What makes Garfield happy?: that it may not be Jon, but at least someone is going to have a miserable, weird date with a crazy lady. Our boy isn't happy unless someone's night is ruined.

Jon's Horoscope: Day 10
People come and go in life. Some leave lasting impressions; others just wad of chewing gum under the table. Learn to let go of the wads. Today's lucky number: 1

So Ellen is a "wad" in life, I guess. I'll miss those phone-call gags. Ellen is dead. Long live Ellen.

Tomorrow is the last official day of this "comic strip shocker!", which promises to change the strip forever. So has the big blockbuster bomb been dropped, or is there even more in store? Patience, as students of Garfield know, may be a virtue, but normal virtues are of little value in this strip. Three panels is certainly enough space for oh, say a marriage proposal.

Taking advantage of a person's psychiatric problems. Ditching a woman mid-date. Stalking another woman. Disrupting an acquaintance's dinner to ruin her chances in love. Impersonating a Frenchman. This story arc describes a message rarely conveyed in any art, let alone the daily comics page. Garfield tells us that our moments of glory are etched and engineered by our very worst behaviors.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Deus Ex Paw-china

Panel the First: Look, I've always insisted that the core of Jon and Liz's back-and-forth is a worship-hate sexual tension. Nothing tells you a woman likes you like being called a jerk, which Liz did the first time they met. It's the surprise on both Liz and Jon's face that breaks your heart: the strongest feelings are the ones you deny yourself. It calls to mind the X-Files moment when Scully says "I've always known", because even though the dynamic between these characters is changed forever, part of you, and part of Liz and Jon, is sad that things have changed.

Panel the Second: Jon is totally hapless and at the mercy of the fates, no matter how much the horoscope tries to imply he's engineered this revelation. Why is this the moment Liz admits her feelings? Because it's the most awkward, embarrassing possible situation. This is the way of Garfield romance: one man humiliated, one aghast at an expression of affection, and one cat dressed like a French busboy.

Speaking of the orangeboy, if any agent intervened for Arbuckle, it was Garfield, whose bizarre entrance tipped Liz off to the Jon-stalking. And it's been Garfield that Jon always uses an excuse to see Liz. Again, from their very first meeting, Garfield's done his bit to push the wayward humans together. One man who ruins his life the harder he fights failure, one woman who hides her heart in abrasive jokes, and one cat with the honesty to embrace futility and meanness. These jerks deserve each other.

Panel the Third: The irony of the terminally forgetful Ellen offering memorized instruction to Rock Hudson is not lost on us, but confuses the issue a mite: was Ellen faking her amnesia for some obscure reason?

Also: I don't find Ellen sexy, but "Need directions?" is a great come-on.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Nine
Ah, Dear Leo. You've always been a Clueless Casanova, but today you're about to embark on a NEW adventure. Be sure and bring lots of snacks for your cat. Today's lucky number: 091608340727

As discussed, I love that Garfield is the real catalyst in Jon's life, and the result entirely bites him in the tail. But today, the guy deserves extra snacks. He not only earned them but he's gonna need them.

I am concerned that this decision flows out of bringing the comic strip more in-line with the plots of the Garfield movies, but since the strip is written months in advance, there's the chance the opposite is true; that Tale of Two Kitties. We can only hope that more fart jokes and Black Eyed Peas dance sequences are to follow!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Calendar of the Jons?

Holy callback to July 7! Seriously, pulling in a minor gag from a strip 18 days ago as a major plot point is a ballsy move. To say nothing of the implication that when Jon told Liz he had a full social calendar she believed him.

Jon's moronic bravado has revealed Liz's feelings, a fine recommendation for terrible behavior; usually in Garfield humanity gives in to its foibles on a daily basis, but there's a certain amount of bemused fatalism to the moral failure. The best result is usually that the characters have come to Know Themselves, and take sick comfort in that knowledge. It looks like this story arc might "pay off" for Jon. The results will doubtless be as destructive as positive. Because why, after 27 years, does Liz want to go out with Jon? Because after 27 years Jon and Liz are both still alone. That weird camera tilt up doesn't bode well for anyone.

Where'd Garfield go? Probably off bussing tables in the restaurant.

Liz's sentiment in the last panel hits a personal chord with me, and has gotten us all into endless amounts of trouble: well, I had to go out with someone, didn't I?

Jon's Horoscope: Day Eight
There's nothing sadder than trying to impress someone with a lie - except maybe when they run out of clams at the All-You-Can-Eat-Fried-Clam Day. Stay true to your wimpy self. Today's lucky number: 364.

From whose perspective are these horoscopes written? Garfield? I prefer to think Davis' strip celebrates our worst aspects, and wouldn't be too harsh on liars. In fact, the horoscope implies the saddest thing in the world is inability to wallow in gluttony.

In Garfield, compared to today, every other day of the year is your lucky day. And that goes for every day.

Anybody else predicting that Ellen leaves Chez Fruit Picture with old Li'l Abner Blue Suit?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Comfortably Num-Nums

So Jon's plan was to pose as a waiter, infiltrate Liz's date with George Reeves, and... then actually wait on them? Ah well, it's funny that he goes to all the trouble of elaborate costuming and character dialect ("num-nums"!), only to have the ruse last for zero panels.

Someone, whether it's Jon and Garfield, or Jim Davis, thinks waiters work as a team with busboys, and they both come to your table at the same time. Also this means Garfield successfully bussed some other tables in the meantime.

The heart of this strip is in the relish Jon takes in cockblocking Liz's date, a sport of kings in which we all must participate to protect those maidens who want little to do with us but over whom we exert desperate, possessive desire. Magically, this mirrors plots long-past in which Garfield would disguise himself as a chef in order to sabotage Jon's dates. So if this is going to change Garfield's life forever, where will the break in this eternal cycle fall? Three days to find out, folks.

Left Hand of Doom: So in the great Jon Ambidexterity Watch, he's right-handed again today. Could be he just went so deeply undercover as to switch writing hands. Could be nobody at PAWS, Inc. is keeping track. God, they need me on staff so desperately.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Seven
In matters of the heart, it's good to have a respected cardiologist. Short of that, it helps to have a decent accent and a fake moustache. Today's lucky number: no

No lucky number today means: this is the part where Jon fucks up. Now, whether you end in an upright position or not, while you're taking the fall, your number is up, and it's the worst of feelings.

I do like knowing that Jon's accent is decent.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Man of 1000 Disgraces

Folks, it's looking like a distinct possibility that Ellen's amnesia has made her forget she is in the storyline.

Title Panel: Someday I hope to compile a Master Index of Sunday title panels, useful in moments like this. Surely, almost certainly, positively, we've seen Garfield spelled out in pancakes before. Whether we've seen it spelled out in syrup so viscous it can cling in alpha-form to the side of a stack of 36 dough cakes, I do not know.

Actually, Permanent Monday gets so many hits from people looking for strips about hating Monday, that I think a full index of every strip topic should be compiled, but I'm not sharing such research until Fantagraphics has me design The Complete Garfield in 50 hardcover volumes. Also: those pancakes are totally gross. I do note there are so many pancakes so the title panel will fill the entire first row: this way the first panel proper will be on the second tier and this carefully constructed story won't be damaged by newspapers that choose to butcher the strip.

Panel 1: Jon asks "why?" Liz would be dating another man. He thinks of Liz as his girl, even though he's had one date with her more than ten years ago, and is, himself, visiting Giant Painting of Fruit Restaurant with Ellen. Note the crowds in the background, portrayed in silhouette, either lazy cartooning or a stylistic choice a la Dumbo. Note also that Ellen's sundae has disappeared. Garfield has given in to base impulse. Did you expect any less of him?

Panel 2: An undercover sting is the first thing that comes to Jon's mind. Perhaps inspired by his horoscope (see below), but the revealing moment is Jon's resignation to his fate:

Panels 3 and 4: The key to Jon's character is that he's self-aware and resilient. Jon's resigned to his fate, which makes the horoscope a good supplementary text for these strips. It's painful, but we're blameless when we accidentally grab life by the blade. An amazing new level of self-defeat is possible, however: when you cut yourself on purpose.

Panel 5: Garfield's always a step ahead. Maybe not a master of the time, space and reality of his universe, like a Bugs Bunny or Snoopy, but Garfield has his finger on the pulse on the psychology of the Garfield world. As Garfield stares contemplatively at Liz and Roger Ramjet, he's processing Jon's decision. A decision already made, in some ways, and I believe that while Garfield knows Jon's plan to disrupt Liz's date is going to crack Hell a-wide, perhaps the other consequences will be worth the collateral losses.

Panel 6: Accept the cartoon reality that Jon quickly acquired a tux and fake mustache. As a man whose shoulder bag contains couple of fake mustaches and double-sided tape, I'm not prone to question it. I'm glad Garfield can smile, even if Jon can't hear his thoughts. When you're climbing out of the foxhole, it's good to know your friends are behind you, even if they're just shoving you forward because it's funny to watch another man get blown up.

Also: Mystery solved. It's a French restaurant!

Jon's Horoscope: Day Six
No act can be considered really stupid if you're wearing a great disguise. Set free your inner Jon Juan and grab a big chicken leg off the buffet of life. Today's lucky number: 36" x 48"

"Jon Juan"? I suppose "Don Jon" would've been a little confusing, but... either way the metaphor is, if not mixed, at least a tossed salad: is Don Juan, famous Frenchman, really known for his love of buffet dining?

Is it true that no act is stupid if you are properly disguised? I think it's truer that no stupid act will be held against you if you are disguised well enough. Or if you run from the scene of the crime fast enough. Or if you bribe the cops. Or if you can lie your way out of it. I prefer the latter, which is what I bet Garfield recommends too.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Still Life with Bosc Pear

Panel 1: Woah, Jon, settle down, big guy. Yesterday (a few minutes in strip-time) Jon was despairing of the moral bear-trap he'd stepped into. Today he's enraged.

Panel 2: Proof that Garfield actually does have some investment (even if it's only personal stakes) in Jon's love life is all in his facial expression. That's genuine shock, folks... and that's a genuine rubbery cat arm, able to stretch from one inch to the length of a grown man's arm. Would you have understood that Garfy's tapping Jon's shoulders without motion lines?

Panel 3:

Thank. God. Nobody likes Ellen. Not really. I like Ellen as an off-stage joke template device. But I love Liz. Liz is beautiful as a woman gets in the Garfield world, she's mean and sarcastic, but kind to animals. She seems to like Garfield, and she's never entirely cruel to Jon. So that this storyline ended up veering away from an ill-advised, immoral Ellen-and-Jon hookup and into using Ellen as a deus ex Garfield to make Liz jealous of Jon? A sheer lasagna-pan of bliss.

So Liz is on a date with Gene Vincent. Liz tastefully orders the glass of blue water, while her hooknosed date sucks down a classy glass of ... Tang? Well. It's a big nose by Garfield standards.

The deep-focus shock reveal is one of the finest and most dynamic I've seen in the strip. Also it reveals the restaurant's dramatic giant waffle motif. At the same time, it disrupts the Garfield vibe. Which is more important? I figure there's 27 years in which the biggest continuity shocker is the debut of Nermal or Stretch the rubber chicken. Besides, I'm not convinced the events of Amnesia Date Week are going to forever alter the daily thoughts of a cat laying on Jon's kitchen table.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Five
When the dirt hits the fan, the wise run around to the back of the fan and unplug it. Wipe that dirt off your face and fan the flames of love for once! Today's lucky number: 95

The "dirt", eh? The horoscope is obviously advising Jon to yank the plug on his hopes for success with Ellen ("unplug it") but not to abandon the date itself: he can use it as leverage with Liz. It's kind of underhanded, using one woman as bait for another, especially when one is damaged and one thinks you're a weirdo. But who can say they have not lived it? And most of us didn't have an anthropomorphized cat sidekick as a wingman.

Will it be so bad if the strip subtly transforms into a story about Jon as a loser with a girlfriend he has to desperately try to appease? And Garfield has to deal with a woman who sticks needles in his body being around Casa Arbuckle from time to time. Ultimately, I could probably relate to that Garfield just as easily.

At least it'll bring Garfield the strip more in line with the continuity of the blockbuster motion pictures. Now all Jim D. has to do is make Nermal a cross-eyed Siamese.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ellen Vs. Predators

Ladies and gentlemen -- or more accurately, those in the audience who are not gentlemen -- I think we all know we're not looking at a hot fudge sundae. We're looking at the promise of easy Ellen-sex manifested in the form of a three-scoop ice cream dessert nightmare. And that, folks, is not a bad metaphor. It's so smart to provide a physical temptation for Garfield that puts him in the same dilemma as Jon, because otherwise his disinterest in human sex lives would render him useless as a foil for Jon in this story. Setting two characters with opposite moral genetic structures into similar moral conflicts, you have a great chance to illustrate something profound about humanity. It's the Garfield equivalent of Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Despite the unease created by the necessary middle-distance staging (gotta fit in those massive dialog balloons), I love the Jon pose in panel two, both for what he's articulating about his conflict and a brutal self-realization. Yes, A) does he take advantage of a sexy amnesiac?, but also B) the reason Jon realizes the situation is wrong, is because someone likes him. What a shattering moment, when we realize the default setting of the world is loneliness. So shattering it makes Jon grab his own eyeball.

And I'm going to lay it on the line, and say that though the Horoscope keeps prodding Jon to increasingly awful behavior, and though he's lapsed enough to get a date with Ellen under false pretenses, Jon will locate his scruples somewhere in the pocket of that plaid jacket, directly over his boring, miserable heart.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Four
In the gene pool of cool, you've been swimming in the shallow end, but at least you have your trusty water wings. Shape up, sailor! There's land ahoy! Today's lucky number: banana

God bless you, Jim Davis, for what looks to me like confirmation that the "lucky numbers" are just "fucking with you numbers".

That opening sentence is so baroque in metaphor that it's not worth breeching; is coolness genetic? What might be meant by one's water wings in a pool of cool? What support devices exist for maintaining a level of untrained cool?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ellen Autopsy

Whatever the outcome of this earth-shaking ten days of Garfield, today is a landmark. Today we see Ellen. For those not familiar with the beauty index of the Garf-verse, Ellen is a knockout. My personal tastes run more towards the Dr. Liz Wilsons of the world, but I can tell Ellen is supposed to be a 10. She is a 10 despite her Pat Benatar dress, despite her vintage Claire's plastic hoop earrings and choker, despite a huge hank of yellow hair scraping across her unlidded bug eyes. From now on, when you read past Jon-on-phone-to-Ellen strips, this is the blank-eyed visage on the other end off the line.

What's Ellen like? Chipper and weird.

Ah, the Garfield tag-along date. Used to be when Garfield wanted to check up on Jon, he'd have to disguise himself in chef's whites and sneak into the restaurant. Now they just seat him at the table as a matter of course. The orange fellow usually takes so little interest in Jon's love life, so he must sense that this could have serious ramifications. Or he thinks it will be funny to watch Jon take advantage of a woman with a brain disorder. Garfield is so interested in Ellen that he stops his back-and-forth head turning to focus his gaze on her stripey cleavage. Perhaps he's curious about Ellen's reaction to Jon's ploy, a lie, which like the finest of lies, totally fails to register with its target.

Note to today's colorist: JON ARBUCKLE'S PLAID SPORTS JACKET IS GREEN. Not yellow, never yellow. And his bowtie is yellow and purple. Do not screw this up again.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Three
Take command over your audience and demand the respect you deserve, even if you have to lie, cheat, and steal. Today's lucky number: 7

Ah 7, numerology's number of The Mind. Ellen's lost hers, and Jon is exerting his mental dominance over the woman, making 7 appropriate... but I'm not sure for whom it is "lucky".

Come to think of it, it's seeming less like these horoscopes offer "clues" to the unfolding story than "snide observations". Today Jon is simply offered advice from the Zodiac. That advice, an axiom after my own heart, is basically "be more like Garfield".

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I know it's serving a necessary expository function, but it's funny that Jon feels comfortable bringing up Ellen's amnesia every third sentence. Especially when coupled with his icky half-lidded sneering "smooth-talker" face, it's classic Arbuckle: he not only lacks the social graces, but violates them as flirtation. Jon's blindness to appropriate behavior is an inspirational message to us all.

From these symptoms it sounds like Ellen's not only suffering amnesia but full-blown and frightening aphasia. The uneasiness today is underlined by a slow camera pullback as the severity of the situation becomes clear. Given that Jon is still keeping Garfield abreast of every piece of new information and knows he should cover the mouthpiece when talking to his cat, I'm not sure who's mental illness is more serious.

Jon had a date at least as recently as June 10, so I don't know what Garfield's being so snide about... Oh, wait, that's his only mode of expression.

Jon's Horoscope: Day Two
Your power to bore the world is diminishing. Someday, Dear Leo, you'll be noticed. Be sure you're wearing pants. Today's lucky number: 542

The bulk of the horoscope seems to confirm the obvious guess that Ellen's going to show some romantic interest in Jon. I doubt very much that Jon's minor, temporary success with Ellen will make him interesting to the entire planet. Yes, instead of scouring the horoscopes for clues, I am second-guessing them. The horoscope is prudish enough to think a great date requires you to keep your trousers on. That, or Davis is implying something unsavory about Jon's junk.

More interesting to me is that the horoscope includes a listing of "Famous Leos", among them Jim Davis. This leads us to believe that Jon shares a July 28 birthday with our favorite asthmatic cartoonist.

Still no idea about the lucky numbers. Wikipedia tells us that a plague responsible for killing millions broke out in Constantinople in the year 542, but I doubt the story is headed in that direction.

Frankly, it doesn't seem like the story is headed in any direction. Normally I relish the glacial pacing, but we're on a ten-day schedule, people. This leaves only eight strips for Garfield's world to be shattered.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Best Week of Garfield Ever? Big Whoop!

P1: Jon's expression is.... freaked out, or wide-eyed excitement that he may be able to exploit a woman's illness for personal gain? Garfield: though mildly interested yesterday, now entirely bored with Ellen's trauma.

P2: Fun way to creep yourself out today: imagine what Ellen is doing on the other end of the line, and assume it involves frustrated screaming and weeping.

P3: Garfield's punchline is less a "joke" about amnesia than an "explanation" or "definition." Funnier is that Jon is updating Garfield on his phone conversation as it progresses.

What's going on at! If you only read your Garfield here at Per-Mon, I suggest clicking over to PAWS Corporate. Something big is brewing in Muncie this week. The official site mainpage has a huge newspaper-headline splash panel that reads:
COMIC STRIP SHOCKER! GARFIELD'S LIFE CHANGES FOREVER! Read the Garfield comic strip and follow the unbelievable chain of events that unfold between now and July 28th!

The fundamental lack of all progress in narrative or character is one of the cornerstones of Garfield's take on modern life, but this sandbox-quaking announcement is making me break out in a cold sweat. Below the headline is a sidebar: "Read Jon Arbuckle's Daily Horoscope every day for hints."

Jon's Horoscope Analysis: Day One
The horoscope page leads to the following prognostication:
Remember to enjoy the little things in life - marbles, birdseed, pushpins. You are about to enter a fortunate phase where misery and boredom take a backseat to dumb luck and slightly less boredom. Today's lucky number: 16 3/4

Sorry to disappoint, but I say today's first Horoscope hints are all ballyhoo to fire us up for the 10-day thrill-copter about to crash into the Garfield world. For those of us that fear change in continuity, placate yourself by clinging to the words "fortunate phase". Surely we all agree the arc in question concerns Ellen, tricked by her head wounds into a creepy Regarding Henry-style romance. Jon's certainly had good dates and brief flings; the way of the Garfield universe is that those sweet moments end in misery. Ever seen how happy Garfield is while he's eating? Does that pleasure outweigh the misery of his obesity? Dumb luck is not the same as good choices, and I predict that's what Jon's going to learn in the next ten days.

In related news, there was once an awesome line of Garfield T-shirts, where Garfield is dressed as the Zodiac signs. The only one I have is the Leo shirt, in a XXL. I'm a Medium at best.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ellen Resurrection

I'm torn as a Garfield fan. I like Jon's pestering calls to Ellen. I like Jon's perpetual ultimate-crush on Dr. Liz Wilson. I guess I'm a Liz-Jon shipper at heart. It's a stroke of storytelling genius that Garfield is wrapped up in the relationship, a sort of love/desperation/indifference/whatever triangle. Though the endless thirty-second chats with Ellen have the tang of high concept, I appreciate that the gimmick helps keep the Garfield cast down to a bare minimum of players.

The one-sided phone conversation is a tricky tightrope to walk for the dialogue writer. It's tough to avoid the obvious cheats wherein a character repeats what someone says as a confirming question. Today's strip is guilty as charged, but I'm letting it off the hook for the why-even-bother? total failure of exposition opening line "What's that you say, Ellen?"

As for the punchline (some days even I'm not sure why Garfield delivers some lines to Jon, some lines to the Keepers of the Fourth Wall), the "dark cloud" is obviously Ellen's amnesia. But does Garfield believe the "silver lining" is for Jon, who now has a fresh shot at traumatizing Ellen? Or is the silver lining for Ellen, Garfield grinning as he lives vicariously through the brain-damaged woman, envying a life in which he does not remember Jon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Little Boy Blue and the Cat in the Moon

Title panel: A Honeymooners title sequence parody? The most timely Sunday title panel satire in Garfield history!

Hi Jon, what are you doing? Oh, sitting at the table sideways, eyes glazed, breathing shallow, mind lost in the cosmos. That's a fine way to spend a Sunday. What's Garfield doing? This week is a cornucopia of Garfield transgressions left to the imagination. The last panel at least lets us know Garfield was either setting something on fire, or screwing around with poison gas. The frame-left off panel area frame=left of the Table is usually indicated as the kitchen, so it's probably just a grease fire. These clues lead to a bigger mystery:

Was Garfield cooking for himself?!

The final panel's second-biggest mystery:
When a cat SHOUTS in green letters inside his brain, does it make any difference to his owner? Or is this just a satire of the terror alert levels? Jim Davis equates them with a panicked lout who's caused his own fire, utterly failing to communicate the situation with those who need to be alerted, and creating only alarm among a nation of Jon Arbuckles.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rustle Stover's Chococats

There are few, rare stories in the newspaper that could make a man shake violently, and then look so sick and panic stricken. As you're imagining what crimes Garfield must have committed, remember Jon is already aware of his friend's history of destruction of property, assault, theft, and animal-murder. So this must be something worse. Consider, given the state of our world, war-torn and blood-soaked, how serious the antics of a single cat would have to be to make even Page Eight of the paper. Whatever the offense, Garfield is not only remorseless but proud. Combined with his sarcastic wit, and obesity, Garfield may be the late 20th century's Oscar Wilde.

To be less ominous - or more?- Jon's response is partially because the story must include an eye-witness identification of Garfield.

The photo revealed when Jon lowers the paper is what draws the attention of any Garfield obsessive: is it a blurry silhouette of Garfield captured on film by a witness? The twin lumps depicted could be Garfield's rounded ears... or could be the same kind of non-specific-indicator-of-a-photograph that is the Three Lump front-page news.

While Garfield frequently mentally chastises Jon for being boring, at the opening of today's strip the cat is sitting at the table staring off into space, doing absolutely nothing. It's important that the story is about Garfield doing something unspeakably exciting and scandalous, but all that occurs within the narrative space of the strip is Garfield staring off blankly while Jon reads. That's the Garfield way: it may be a universe of horrors and those long, long stretches of nothing, those are the worst of all.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Destiny's Kitten

Jon has begun unconsciously (?) imitating one of Garfield's signature leaning-on-the-table poses. I hope this slowly creeping hero-worship begins manifesting as Jon walking barefoot on the kitchen table, kicking Odie over the side, and sleeping in a box with a blanket over his head. The poignant thing about Jon's delusion is that he seems to know his life isn't currently amounting to anything, but he will succeed in this world at some undetermined point in the hazy future. You call this hope?

It's fine that Garfield thinks Jon's utter failure in all aspects of life is hilarious, but his expression in panel two is what makes the joke. The orange-boy is surprised by his own reaction. Can Garfield not believe that even he could be so mean? Is he aghast that his own body is in revolt? That his autonomic Schadenfreude-response has revealed to Jon the black-striped depths of the feline soul? I guess he's also in pain. Anyway, that expression is the Panic of the Busted. Jon's response indicates he knows perfectly well what that "SNORT!" was. And Garfield is busted.

Pointless admiring observation:: Garfield in panel three with his eyes squinched shut and ears flattened is an adorable and rare display of kitty behavior.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gar You Being Served?

All men should live in mortal fear of their pets. The terror on Jon's haggard face, and hand raised in defensive "don't-hit-me" position are my idea of a truly fine punchline.

Garfield thinks gurgling phlegm sounds like a meal announcement, which is gross. Why hunger (or gluttony) inspires Garfield to smell Jon's eyeball, I don't know. It's intimidating when somebody's all up in your grill like that, but it must be nightmarish if they are smiling and bug-eyed.

The first two panels are amazing: imagine a civilization who has never encountered Garfield. A race of space bug-men, early America peoples, or whatever. If you don't intimately understand the shorthand of comics in general and the iconography of Garfield in specific, panels one and two are just abstract shapes. There's no way panel one would read as a cat sleeping in a box with a blanket pulled over his face. No way does panel two look anything like a cat waking up and running from beneath a blanket.

Panel two looks like something is ramming into a suspiciously vaginal cave. Then again, if I didn't know better, I'd say panel three shows a cat with popcorn falling out of his butt.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What a Big Fat Hairy Trip It's Been

The last panel's got both a good fat joke and the shocking sight of Garfield happy to concede this battle of sarcasm to his master. But don't miss the hilarity of the second panel. The comedy mounts the longer you stare at it:

1. Garfield is furious to find out he is not the Godhead.
2. Though adequately convinced he is not a heavenly body of import, Garfield believes he should be.
3. Though Garfield believed himself the center of all things, all it takes to shatter the illusion is one guy telling him "no."
4. That guy is Jon Arbuckle. Since when does Garfield listen to any input from this dope?
5. Blinded by rage, Garfield does not realize he's being set-up for insult comedy. Wounded by your own sword much, monsieur?!

Q: Does the universe revolve?

Q: Some days all I can do is stare at Garfield's feet, which are now the size of the rest of his entire body.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Jon has a plan to make Garfield feel bad about himself, and he wants you to be a part of it! There's usually a reason Garfield breaks the 4th wall. Today that reason is to make sure you know where the green shirt came from. Imagine how freaked-out you'd be if the shirt suddenly materialized on Garfield's body.

The punchline, of course, is not that Garfield is semi-literate, because we witness his reading abilities all the time. No, our pudgy hero is having what may be termed "hysterical illiteracy", a condition hitherto unknown in the annals of medicine. Hitherto unseen in the annals of fashion is the LAZY shirt, which Jon must have made himself. While Old Navy will happily supply those children of roughly Garfield's figure with shirts reading FLIRT and CHICK MAGNET, nothing so brutally honest will grace the torsos of our youth. Why does America love Garfield, when he exists to remind them of their worst foibles and tragedy of their alienation? Answer: We hate ourselves!

Special thanks to the God-among-sarcastic-comics blogs, Comics Curmudgeon for linking to us (me?). May the heavens rain lasagna upon Josh... even though he doesn't like Garfield and is rude about it all the time.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Feeling Gravity's Pooky

I thought it was pretty funny, Garfield blaming the basic Newtonian laws of physics for his personality flaws.

But what kind of set-up is "Why don't you move around more?" Yes Jon, cats are great, and most of the appeal is how much they move around. Cats are notorious movers-around. The motivating factor behind most pet purchases is to watch an animal move around. And why doesn't Jon stick around to "hear" Garfield's answer? Some days even dealing with your cat's non-verbal sassing is too much to bear.

In continuity news... I loved the July 8 strip, but that was seriously how the Vet Appointment Disaster storyline ended? Well, I guess Garfield is a fine portrayal of human courtship. Weeks of buildup and nerve-aggravating excitement... then he tries to tell the girl how he feels... then she walks away. Then he goes home and vents by complaining that his cat doesn't move enough.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

SLURK-er at the Threshold

Garfield, what do you think you're doing? Where are you going? It must not have been a very important journey, since you disrupt it to hang out in the middle of an empty field. Lawn. Park.

While I'm willing to believe a company manufactures tiny kiddie pools, sunglasses, and straw hats miniaturized for use by cats... While I'm willing to believe Garfield can haul these things and his famous bent-coathanger-antennae radio out to the field... I have to assume that there's no way for our boy to fill up the wading pool with water; it looks like he's far enough from the house that the garden hose wouldn't reach. Oh well; I'm sure the entertainment and shade is worth the trouble. The thought of a fat sweaty cat sitting in the blazing sun, an empty pool slowly filling with sour-smelling perspiration as it drips off his pasta-sauce matted fur... that's what the Garfield Summer is all about!

Title Panel: Surely I am not the only one who doesn't like it when you can see Garfield's lips. Surely it is worse when flecks of spittle issue forth from those moist feline mouth-flaps.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Every panel is funny today. Every beat is a perfect measure, musical in precision.

"Uh, Liz?" is such a shitty opening for a come-on; it's unusual because it's real and recognizable, unlike Jon's usual gooniness which is an over-the-top placeholder for our own awkwardness.

"Yes?": Really, it's Liz's expression. "Uh, Liz?" is only two words, but they're so exact they can only mean one thing: you're gonna get totally, earnestly hit-upon. For whatever motivations of her own, Liz is happy about this, and that promise is what will fuel this joke. Because sometimes all you have to say is "Uh, Liz?", witness the scrunched expression of panic and cornered dismay. And that expression, my dear ones, is not funny in the least.

Jon, Panel 2: Jon and Garfield's poses are unwavering today, but the shades of meaning are like a rainbow. Well, a three-color rainbow. Here the eager confidence chills in Jon's chest, and though they're the same circles and dots, I swear I can see them glaze over with sick green fear.

Liz, Panel 2: And yes, Liz's face registers the shift between thinking Jon is sweet and deeply weird, but the sudden retraction of her hand from Garfield's back seals the deal: she wants so little to do with Jon that even touching his cat feels wrong.

Liz, Panel 3: There's not much space in Garfield for timing, but the disappearance of Liz is sudden enough for a laugh, and evocative. Did she run? No, she backed away slowly.

"I choked, didn't I?": Could be Jon blacked out in panel two. Could be he is in denial. Could be he wants confirmation because he really has no idea if Liz's terrified escape means he succeeded or not. Could be Jon doesn't even know what reaction he wanted. I'm happy with any of the above, because the laugh-aloud is Jon's frozen grimace and wide-eyed terror at what he's done. Hooray!

Garfield's punchline: Yeah, I laughed again.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pussycat Pussycat Where Have You Been?

The best detail in this strip is Garfield rotating his head to listen to the conversation of two people standing two feet apart.

Panel three: Is it more insulting or pathetic that Jon thinks he can convince Liz that an appointment written in a notebook can be spontaneously cancelled? Myself I'm surprised that Jon owns a daily planner at all. My calendar just says "read Garfield" every day.

What does Garfield's coy smile mean? I'd like to think it's a timely Tale of Two Kitties reference, and because of Garfield's well-known animosity towards the royals, he's glad the Queen cancelled.

So... Panel one: Is Liz about to ask Jon out, before he gets too eager and blows it? Or am I suffering from the same delusions as Jon? It's not because I'm a Jon/Liz 'shipper. I just like the idea of Liz, who knows exactly what kind of bad investment Jon is, making herself unhappy by dating him anyway. Because the lifestuff of tragedy is the dried blood of comedy.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Man Kisses Dog

Panel three. Is... is Garfield guessing where Jon is? Or does he know Jon so well he can predict his behavior? Or does Garfield possess some second-sight beyond the grasp of humans? Because Liz's confusion indicates to me that Jon is physically out of view. I doubt this would be the reveal of Garfield's supernatural powers, whether it's psychic bonding or the ability to see through walls.

The silent panel two speaks volumes about the eagerness of man to degrade himself to impress women. Liz's panel three expression speaks about the effectiveness of this strategy. It is good to know Jon's previous discomfort with bestiality has abated some.

Panel two also reveals that Liz is either not left handed or ambidextrous. So is it an error that she wears her watch on her right arm? Or a stupid, stupid effort at inconvenient fashion? Or maybe just maybe she's trying to impress the left-handed Jon Arbuckle in some subtle, misguided way? I hope so. In the Garfield world, as in ours, the ladies are as bad at courtship as the men.

Animal facts:
- That dog from last week was supposed to be a Saint Bernard, thus joining the ranks of famous cartoon St. Bernos Howard Huge and, uh, Cujo.

-In vet school you learn to take a cat's pulse in its wrist.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Eyes, Ears, Nose and More Eyes Doctor

Jon: more disturbed by revealing his ignorance to his dream girl, or by coming face to face with a depiction of his best friend's guts? My guess: just happy to be so grossly violating Liz's personal space.

Liz: obsessively looking under Garfield's eyelids. She just fooled with his eye yesterday. Perhaps she is just excited to see a cat with human-sized eyes. Or maybe something in the ear-exam made her double-check the eye.

Garfield: thinks digestive tracts can talk, sure. Sadder is that he thinks all cats are as obese and food-addicted as himself.

Jim Davis: I hope Jim did intensive, cat-dissecting research to draw that diagram. He does deserve a ribbon for what is surely the most detailed depiction of innards in American comics page history.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Clinical Tongue Depression

All right you pervo wags, yes, it's funny that Jon enthusiastically shows a woman his huge wide spongy tongue. That's 1/3 of the joke. Another part is that Jon is hanging on Liz's every word to the extent that he obeys commands intended for a dumb animal. Everyone gets the gag.

The bonus-level for the thinking Garfield fan is that Jon is so desperate for approval that he seems willing to follow any directive Liz would give... So surely his vet has told the man not to feed pasta and melted cheese to his 27-year-old cat. It's Liz's one demand that Jon would never follow. Because Jon puts more value in Garfield's loyalty than his chances with Liz. Because he's weird and screwed-up.

Cutest things: Good kitty Garfield behaving himself as Liz examines his eye. Also Liz's smile at Garfield's cooperation in panel 2.

Liz's office is suddenly barren as Jon's breakfast nook. Before the nitpickers cry foul, I remind you this is a prime example of flexible comics reality. Garfield is about stripping everything to the bare minimum elements of visuals. And humor. And life.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Chanticleer and the Foxy Vet

I just noticed that Liz has the Garfield equivalent of the haircut Thel used to have in The Family Circus. Those of you who understand that this blog is not about hating but loving Garfield will probably be unsurprised that I like Family Circus a lot. Yes, this takes precedence over ...

WHAT THE FUCK happened to Liz' receptionist? Old Nel lost about half her body mass, had her hair thin out, and bought a more accurately colored Odie doll since we last saw her.

Other awesomeness:
-Liz is left-handed. We have surmised that sometimes Jon is also a left-o, so maybe it's not such a bad mismatch. Yes, you read me: all people have to have in common to fall in love is being left-handed. However, one cares for animals, and the other feeds his cat cake and entire hams.

-The physical proximity of our trio in panel three is uncomfortable even if one is not caught acting like a rooster. As Garfield seems to note with some happiness, things are gonna get mighty cozy in examining room 2 this week.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Sometimes this dog has a bad rash, sometimes "he's fine." Also he looks like a brown cousin of Dennis the Menace's dog, Ruff, but I wouldn't worry about that... too much. I will be awake all night worrying about it for you.

For those not nerdy enough to know, the strip is a swipe of the hysterical ending of the 1945 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hare Tonic", in which Bugs convinces Elmer he's come down with "Rabbititis", for no more reason than tormenting the poor bastard. "Hare Tonic" holds a special place in my heart because it disproves the older Chuck Jones' misguided theory that Bugs only reacts to those who have wronged him, and is never an aggressor: in "Hare Tonic", Bugs tortures Elmer for no offense at all. The young Jones and Jim Davis know that pure impish meanness is funnier than just desserts.

The title panel shows similar nasty Garfield behavior: he's either too lazy to move the pillows off the couch, or too arrogant to obstruct a view of his name, even for physical comfort.

Weird Three Stooges reference in final panel adds little besides making me retroactively give the dog a Curly Howard voice.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My Cat's Name is Nobody

Panel three is rife with mystery today. Why are the woman and her pet baby fox reacting with such fear to Garfield? Why draw such a hideous and distracting character? What kind of person is that woman supposed to be? Is there Jem and the Holograms cosplay afoot in Garfield? Misguided tribute to Divine?

Not that the off-stage conversation in the first two panels is hard for me to follow or anything, but at first glance there's no reason to "know" who is speaking. I didn't think for a second that Jon was asking Liz where her cat is. Not for a second.

Please, Jim Davis, give me more Garfield with as much blank space as depicted in today's opening panels. Also more punchlines about the alienation of modern man, such as our hero staring into the eyes of a terrified stranger and silently pleading that she understand his loss of personal identity.