Were Garfield a human being, we would not hesitate to read this incident, in which Garfield strips a 3-year-old child to his underwear and leaves him standing in a snowbank, as cruel at best, sexual-assulty at worst. This is one of the many advantages of Garfield's constantly shifting blur between cat, anthropomorphized cat, and cat-in-name-only.
Because of Davis' cartooning style, in which everything is mildly grotesque, we always have to take characters at their word when it comes to aesthetic evaluation. Jon's looks, for example, are regularly evaluated as somewhere in the spectrum of plain to unappealing, but he's drawn essentially the same as world class hottie Liz; that these assessments are often made by the spiteful and rude Garfield does not make them easier to parse. We take it as a given that Garfield is morbidly obese, but from the physical evidence, he does not appear out of the ordinary next to, say, Nermal. This is an interesting phenomenon/ problem for cartoonists with a penchant for exaggerated, hideous stylization, from Don Martin to Kaz to Jim Davis. When a gag requires a character or object to immediately read as ugly or tasteless, the art has to go an extra mile... a sprint of which Garfield is perfectly capable. Witness the character design of Greta the pet sitter only last week.
So the "stupidity" of the boy's outfit in today's strip doesn't even register. No clothing ensemble is particularly fashionable or flattering in Garfield, so as with the case of Jon's bad taste in evening wear, the kid's outfit requires additional cues in dialogue/ reaction, etc. We get no such help until the far right of the final panel. The strip's focus clearly isn't on the kid's fashion crimes as Garfield perceives them, on the kid's hypocrisy, or really his comeuppance for calculated rudeness to animals. The core of the strip is a burgeoning little bully mistakenly trying to tango with a grandmaster. Garfield bats not an eye as he goes way, way past the point of eye-for-an-eye in return of a child's meaningless insult. He lays something else bare, besides the child's vulnerable white underbelly: Garfield cares about what this idiot thinks. And he cares that his art has been attacked, even if he has to destroy it to refute the criticism. And he cannot resist striking the kid out when he steps up to the plate, even though the lad's hopelessly outmatched, because it's a bullying contest, and that's what bullies do. When everyone's an asshole, the biggest asshole may win, but he's still an asshole.
I humbly submit that both combatants in this battle of insults are slightly wrong, as any tiny cat-crafted snowman is not going to be "stupid" but rather "adorable", and with the little outfit, it would be just precious. Not that these things can't happen, but there must've been a heavy surprise snowfall overnight, since spring was in full bloom only yesterday.
"Tango with a grandmaster" officially marks PerMon's first glaringly mixed metaphor of 2008.