Sunday, April 30, 2006

Behind the Lavender Door

As with last Sunday's strip, this could have been pared down to the last three panels. Unless it an added level of joke that Garfield lost a little dignity by having to struggle with the human-door. I think he gained back his dignity with the fuckin' Reed Richards arm going on in panel 6.

Burning questions:
-Jon's outfit is... what? Is he going night jogging? No, probably not, because he's wearing socks and sandals. And is he wearing an Iowa State sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off?

-Don't the hinges as portrayed in panel 7 indicate that the pet door should swing out in panel 6? Like, in other direction? For that matter, how does Jon's door lock work?

-Is the gag panel at top some kind of ominous reminder that no matter how much you think Garfield is a message just for you, inside it is a REGISTERED TRADEMARK of PAWS, Inc.? This is the only question with an answer. The answer is "yes."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crisis on Infinite Purrs

I guess the joke is that even though people are in danger, Garfield can't decide if he should prevent their deaths or eat a donut.

It kind of falls apart on realizing that Garfield is just pretending to be a superhero, and no citizens are really in distress - i.e., there are no stakes to his being distracted by a donut.

Funniest part by a mile: the expression of sheer horror in panel two, as Garfield sees a donut and knows he shouldn't eat it, knows the repercussions, but knows that he can't stop himself. He knows his failings, his lack of willpower, knows he is controlled by destructive drives. Garfield doesn't want to eat the donut, and knows he will eat it anyway. Even in his fantasy world, Garfield cannot saddle his unhealthy food addiction to save a human life.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Day the Clown Napped

Jon is as determined as Jim Davis to make sure nothing too wild happens in Garfield anymore. We want a strip about a man sitting quietly at the table with a cup of coffee! I rarely criticze the writing in Garfield, but the last panel would be less crowded and the joke equally-well communicated without the cat's thought bubble.

Wardrobe notes:
*If you are wondering where Odie got that outfit, it bears striking resemblance to one Jon wore on his date last Saturday.

*The pets have bothered putting on spats, but no shoes, a funny animal fashion affectation known as the "Scrooge McDuck," though Mr. Davis has a looser grasp than Disney artists on how the accessory works.

*If Jon is so startled to see the pets in these clothes, one may question why he bought them tiny crazy outfits in the first place.

*When Garfield entered, for a split second I thought Lyman had come back.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Meauman's Chinese Theater

I'm going to get conceptual here for a moment.

Sometimes Garfield does gags where the premise is to describe something outlandish happening off-panel. This is most often just Garfield watching a weird movie on TV, recounting something horrible he did to the mailman, or Jon describing how his date went wrong earlier that evening. In the arts, we call this "weak" as a narrative technique, and in the case of jokes, the joke can only be as strong as your ability to write vivid and absurd images.

Since there is an animated feature called The Brave Little Toaster...
Since there are any number of singing household appliances and furniture in Academy Award winner Beauty and the Beast...
I see Jon saying he loves animation, but has he ever seen any? None of this sounds like particularly "weird" content for a cartoon.

Q: Is horror the proper reaction? Is the theater empty because the movie is bombing, or so the Paws team doesn't have to draw a crowd? Why did they leave Odie at home? Is this some kind of joke about the dancing animals in a conga line during the Garfield and Friends theme song?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Got All My Whiskers With Me

That's really sweet... and it's Jon's guileless enthusiasm when he realizes they are a family that gets me. I'd like to think in panel two that everyone simultaneously realizes what they mean to each other. The cutest part is how Garfield has to maintain his curmudgeonly facade, but acknowledges the relationship, even if he has to couch it in sarcasm.

Except... what is Odie doing? NO! Why does he have to ruin this moment?

That drawing of Odie is so gross, and directed to no one but the reader. I'm used to this kind of sassiness on G-field T-shirts and merch, but it doesn't usually encroach on the strip this blatantly. Plus, I don't like the head-on view of Odie, because it reminds me that his tongue is wider than his head.

In other news, today the back page of the paper features a photograph of the cursive letter M.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Flight of the Ph-odie-nix

Scott McCloud, eat your heart out. Garfield makes deconstructionist jokes about the relationships of time, sound, and image in comics, and links them to the historical model of silent film, with an eye to the special problems of the slapstick genre.

The Garfield staff researchers would have done well, however, to note the infrequency of sound effects title cards in silent film.

Panel 3 reveals that either the drop from the table is very short, or Odie's front leg is going totally Plastic Man.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gojira tai Mekagarfield

Things We Learned Today

1. Garfield watches enough movies that he has highly developed taste in genres.

2. Garfield loves kaiju eiga. He is probably most excited that Toho has decided Godzilla: Final Wars is not to be the final Godzilla film after all.

3. I wonder if Jim Davis wanted the parody to be of Rowe vs. Wade, instead of Brown vs. BOE, but didn't want to confuse U.S. Acres die-hards. I guess that's not a "thing we learned."

4. Jon subscribes to a paper which publishes large 1/6th-page blank rectangles.

5. When Jon finds something "interesting," his facial expression is the same as when he is "suicidally bored."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bip Bip Boop

Gag panel: It's supposed to look like the line that composes Garfield as a drawing is spelling out his name. It looks more like his long, thin, prehensile right ear can form words.

Note 1: Jon and Garfield both look off-model today. Jon's philtrum/ mouth assemblage is not correctly placed, and Garfield's body parts look like a disassembled jumble. I do like how Jon looks not just disappointed in the final panel, but weary.

Note 2: This entire Sunday strip's content could be reduced to the bottom tier. I suppose the first two rows are for "pacing." Though do check out the first panel of the story proper: Jon isn't even expecting this call to go well. There is no hope on that man's face as he dials.

Note 3: Jon knows he screwed up. Garfield cracks a joke about Jon physically transforming into a monkey out of horniness... but neither of them seems to understand the real problem with Jon's simile. It's not that Jon has compared himself to a filthy simian who wants to gorge himself on female fruit. The problem is that Jon thinks he needs a simile to convey to a woman the extent of his desperation.

Note 4: Jon is lying. He just had a date yesterday.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Radio Filled the Arbuckle Star

Lest you saucier Garfield readers think for a moment that Jon is being euphemistic in panel two, there is no double-entendre listing under "bug zapper" in any slang dictionary.

Thankfully, though Jon made it far enough into a date that he could attempt a kiss, there is no ultimate change in the romantic status quo. Jon's situation is so familiar that at this point, we not only need no jokes about his plaid jacket and polka dot tie, but no character need even acknowledge the outfit.

Dental Hijinks: The urban legend of dental equipment picking up radio waves is a little hackneyed even for Garfield: kid's book author Daniel Manus Pinkwater used it in Fat Men from Space, and Lucille Ball used to claim that signals on her fillings helped apprehend Japanese spies in California. It is cool how the radio fillings are just the middle link in an increasingly absurd plot... though as in the best Garfield, the on-page action is a man talking to his cat at the table.

Hawai'iana: In slight cultural faux pas, Jon has mistaken a dance for a type of music. The musical song and chant of the hula is a mele. Garfield, meanwhile, upon hearing that his owner is endowed with this strange power, is inspired to eat. The slight zoom-in for panel 3 is most certainly just to fit longer word balloons into the panel, but is jarring and forces us to consider Garfield's gross overreaction, and his logic which goes: music from teeth -> late night feast.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Trout Fishing in A-Meow-ica

Don't worry, not every Garfield ends in cold-blooded murder. Some end with a live animal inside a character.

The last two days have featured Garfield interacting with another talking animal. On first glance, today's strip makes more sense than yesterday's joke which relied on a dog being illiterate, but a cat being able to read. Here, Garfield gives the set-up ("There's a great big world out there")... but since it's not his own punchline ("Your stomach IS fat!"), I can't figure out what he was trying to tell the fish in the first place.

Nor do I know why if Jon continues to insist on buying fish, he not only refuses to put them in aquariums of the proper size, with rocks in the bottom, but puts them on the same table where Garfield's meals are eaten.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dog Sign Afternoon

That's some crazy ugly dog drawing, and the head is stolen from Wile E. Coyote. The size of the sign is a bit curious as well. Assuming Garfield is cat-sized, the sign is about 9 inches high... however, prior evidence has indicated that Garfield may be upwards of 3 1/2 feet tall. But...

For real, Garfield's arms are becoming like tiny vestigial Tyrannosaurus forelimbs. In panel 3, his arms and hands combined are smaller than one of his eyeballs.

Unanswerable Questions: If the dog's not vicious, why did his owners put up a sign? Though he cannot read the specifics, does the dog even know the sign is about him? Some of the other cats, spiders and mice can read, but not this dog. Odie's thoughts cannot be understood, but this stupid dog's can. So which animals in the Garfield universe are granted the powers of reading and/or telepathy? And why?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesdays with Jonnie

Arbuckle behavioral studies 101

Jon takes pleasure in the small triumphs and joys of life, and that's something I like about him. His zero-to-sixty ebullition in one panel, is comedy technique that I have no name for besides "Why are you acting that way, if you know the turn?" In this case, why is Jon acting sad when recounting the story, if he knows that it's Wednesday?

Anyway, this is followed by an expression of contentment that I find particularly hilarious. It's not like the day of the week had any particular bearing on Jon's planned activities. Indeed, I assume he sits at the table happily reflecting on his triumph for several hours.

Garfield, meanwhile, thinks in boldface for the punchline, perhaps to be heard over the cacophony of the fourth wall shattering.

Synchronicty: This morning I thought it was Thursday. But it turned out to be Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Sound and the Purry

How did Garfield make Jon so angry? We are usually privy to the orange fellow's antics, and Jon will respond with an infuriated "GARFIELD!" in comical block letters. This does not seem to be a reaction to a shredded drapery or eaten fern. What could one possibly ask of a cat that would warrant this rage, forward-slanting attack posture, and the response "do what I say!"?

Garfield's response - telling Jon he is delusional - is intended as a sass-back for thinking anyone is Garfield's boss... but isn't Jon more deeply delusional, if he thinks cats need a good bossing around? It is, however, very sweet that Garfield says Jon is "cute," even if it's in a sarcastic put-down. I assume the Garfield fanfic forums are lighting up now with J/G slash stories with titles like "Who's the Boss?," "So Cute, So Delusional," and "Pat Pat Pat, Pat it Again."

And yes, I love the Zen stillness of the middle panel. But I always do.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Love Mondays!

Panel One: Direct address much, cat who is supposedly thinking? If that's not Garfield's sign, whose is it? Someone else in the neighborhood has a nasty cat that is worse than Garfield?

Panel Two: I will buy the excuse that Garfield almost always takes place on a straight line before a blank background, because of Jon's Spartan interior decoration. But this strip must take place in an open field.

Panel Three:
a. "Intimidation by association" isn't really far enough in meaning from "guilt by association" to be a "pun" or a "parody."

b. Garfield promptly does physically threaten someone, and has a 30-year history of prior assaults. It is less intimidation by association than "intimidation by intimidation."

c. That man is only a head taller than a cat.

d. Robert Crumb cameo?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Little Arbuckle in Slumberland

It used to be a more frequent running gag, Garfield's insistence on sleeping in Jon's bed, usually on Jon's chest as he slept, like some obese orange incubus. Other times, though, Garfield loves sleeping in a box with a blanket over his face, which are totally opposite conditions for slumber. Maybe that is too close to real-life, observable cat behavior for Garfield at this point.

This strip could easily be pared down to three panels: 1) Jon walking into bedroom, 2) THUD!, 3) pets rule the bed! But to achieve that inimitable laconic Garfield timing, the joke is stretched into a seven-panel Sunday strip... even though that means the first panel is an empty doorway. I deem this all-time Most Haunting Sunday Strip Upper-Tier!

After much scrutiny, my guess is that previously unseen painting is a desert rock formation landscape. After much scrutiny, I cannot explain why Garfield takes up 1/3 of Jon's bed when perpendicularly sprawled across it.

And thus, did Easter pass with no notice in the Arbuckle household.

Discussion Question: Gag panel: to whom do these toys belong? Clue: Except for Pooky, they are not pet toys.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

MacGarfield Park is Melting in the Dark

... And now we're back in the park. As long as the week was going to end back in the park with Jon pestering women, why did he go home for a few days (hours?) in between? I guess to drop off Garfield. What is the weather like in Indiana that in the same week one woman can wear an evening dress on a power walk but another has to wear a turtleneck sweater and Capris?

... And O.M.G., she's reading Jon's yearbook!

As always, I like Jon's chipperness regarding the dating scene. Jon's depression seems to center around his home-life, and the generalized existential wasteland of the Garfield universe. When Arbuckle's around the ladies, he's like Wile E. Coyote. Does J.A. really think he has E.S.P? Unclear! Please please please let Garfield spiral off into a Dead Zone-derived plot about how Jon has ESP but can foresee only violence and destruction. I'm sure it would be a tonic to his problems if Jon could have a vision of Garfield's death.

Also: Is panel 3 the biggest word balloon in Garfield history? Must research. The terseness of Jon's pickup line ("I HAVE ESP") contrasts well with Blonde Lady's rant, and both draw welcome attention to Garfield's stubborn refusal to use periods at the end of sentences.

Also, also: What percentage of Garfields do not feature Garfield at all? We all must research.

Friday, April 14, 2006

At Play in the Garfields of the Lord

Jon went on a date and we didn't get to see it. Too bad. Jon's dates going wrong are always good strips, because we get to see that in the Garfield world, everyone is nuts. It's easy to forget when we don't see another human for months at a time.

I'm sure Garfield's remark is supposed to be sarcastic and/or rude, but it's also kind of equivocal; at least this Karen person was courteous. Jon looks angry or disappointed that he will not be seeing more of this woman (his expression changes are subtle but register a progression), but she sounds potentially codependent, so it's probably for the best.

The New Century cat design is getting more grotesque. Those massive clodhoppers are fucking insane, yes, but when did Garfield's arms (why bother calling them "front legs"?) become one inch long?!

In other curious news, I am concerned about Jon's lumpy back-fat. It's getting out of hand.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Q: As Mr. Blue asks in Reservoir Dogs, "how many 'please's is that?"
A: 15!

Thank God the phone is back to a reasonable lavender shade. However, now I'm concerned about the length of Garfield's forearms, which seem to change as needed for the gag. I'm pretty sure Davis swiped this way of drawing people leaning on surfaces, chin resting in hand, from the Peanuts strips where the kids hang out on a bridge. The difference being that children have elbows.

Cat anatomy lapses aside, note the mastery of comics temporality. The punchline is logically a few beats after the second panel. Jon and the woman have both hung up their phones in an unseen moment, but the rhythm of the joke shall not be abated! Garfield obeys no clocks.

Discussion questions: Does Jon ask Garfield to spot him when calling for dates, or does Garfield just enjoy watching the spectacle of Jon's failure? Because Garfield doesn't look like he's enjoying himself.

Can anyone read Jon's expression during the phone call? I call it "horror"! Were I not a Garfield fan, I might think Jon is making some observation about the strip as a whole: if you keep repeating the same thing ad nauseum, maybe someone will like you.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Creature from the Black Lasagna

Jon dated The Creature from the Black Lagoon in high school. Perhaps he went to Gravedale High.

I'm not sure what this does to the reality of Garfield. There are pirate ghosts in the Halloween TV special, but I don't think that's canonical. Note to self: scour Garfield archives for other monsters. I guess it's not much weirder than his extended date with a woman raised by wolves. Or that he has a cat which stands on its hind legs and reads his yearbook with him. It's kind of sweet that Garfield is showing enough interest in Jon's adolescence to consent to looking at the book.

Jon's way of telling this story is confusing but enhances the punchline. He switches from wistful to disgust and disappointment in the space of .001 seconds. Also perfectly timed today is Garfield's reaction, his eyes popping open in panel 2, warning us that crazy shit is about to go down, as Jon placidly yammers on.

Also: Jon's yearbook is printed in color? We had no such yearbook budget at North High School, Des Moines.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Looks 10, Jon 0

I didn't realize the "Hitting on Girls in the Park" was going to be a running story this week. Also "excess of motion lines" will appear in today's strip.

Again, Jon's utter denial when it comes to rejection by women seems less "dumb" to me than "dangerously delusional." Based on Arbuckle's recoil surprise-take in panel 2, some part of him must know he's being insulted. Meanwhile, Garfield is ashamed because Jon can't get laid. Is Jon trying to maintain his cool in front of his cat?

I fully understand why any red-blooded American man would take a chance with this dish. I had no idea public parks were frequented Veronica Lodge lookalikes who go for walks in matching heels, evening dress and big plastic purple earrings. Good cripes, please investigate her crotch definition! That dress is not only impossibly form-fitting, but some colorist's erotic imagination went nutzo, and it's also very verrry shiny. Especially on the boobs... and ass... and... it's like she swaddled her lady-parts in SaranWrap.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Yellow Sky on Monday

Jon has a zit on his forehead? I've always kind of wondered how Jon is supposed to look within the Garfield reality, because every other character is drawn just as weird. It's a game rule that Jon is dorky-looking, just like Liz is pretty and Garfield is fat - even though Liz is definitely not pretty and Garfield isn't any proportionally fatter than most other characters.

Garfield is apparently three feet tall, however, his height rising up well above Jon's waist.

Is Seinfeld the source of this kind of comedy, where the minute nuances of social interactions are dissected and their varients labled, categorized and endlessly sweated-over? Since George Costanza is just a Garfield rip-off anyway, it's good to see some give and take. Garfield should lead the way in American humor, not follow!

The saddest part is that a girl was probably flirting with Jon and he immediately freaks out, thinking she hates him. Now why would Jon be confused about people sending mixed messages of affection and judgment? Does he know someone who treats him that way? Hmm...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Garfield Dinner Theater

Did the colorist do this? Is the newspaper version messed up too? Somebody fouled today's on-line Sunday Garfield, probably when they did that ugly purple gradient effect in the background. Garfield and Jon are covered with little dots. Even Jim Davis' signature is illegible!

As for the strip itself... I generally like when Garfield breaks the fourth wall (it does this subtly in almost daily - see row 3, panel 1), or gets meta-strippy. Garfield is such a self-absorbed character anyway, it feels natural that it would lead to self-awareness about his reality.

I can usually tell what Jim Davis intends as the joke, and what I am inferring from having read too many Garfields, but today I'm a little stumped. I so want the joke to be that Garfield has spent so long acting like a human being that when reminded that he should act like a cat, he is totally unable to comply. Garfield tries to act like a cat and say "meow" but can't do it, feels shame, and acts with violence.

Also Arbuckle does a great slow burn today, and his frozen-handed pose in the last panel is even funnier than the food bowl smashed into his bug eyes.

The title panel gag shows Garfield picking out his costume for the madrigal dinner, finally deciding to be a jester with a big "D" on his hat. The gag makes no sense, but then they usually do not. Besides, according to some Pez dispensers I have, Garfield most likes to wear a baseball cap or aviator goggles.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What's Garfield's Pantone Number?

Jon got a new mauve telephone, and there wasn't even a strip about it. And he bought a shirt the same color as Garfield's whisker pads.

There's a lot to dislike about having some hacks in upstate New York color everyone's comics. Doubtless, orders from PAWS are that everyone's fur and hair must be consistent, but after that - hey, if the table is pink yesterday and lavender today, who's gonna complain?

I think the monotonous limbo of the Garfield universe would be enhanced if colors were consistent in that undefined room with its unrealistic table. A cool thing about the Garfield and Friends show was how Jon's shirt was always the same blue (yes, VERY cool). That is, assuming the dailies should be colored at all. I was flipping through my trade paperbacks and remembering how ghostly the comic is in black and white, and how exciting the color-explosion was on Sundays. Now they'll just put Jon in a muzzle-color shirt - even though it's obviously drawn as the same shirt he always wears - just to keep things interesting. But a mauve phone? Things like this prevent one from decorating one's house like Jon's. By "one" I mean "me."

Synchronicity: My sister's name is Becky. I ran across a Calling For a Date Garfield yesterday where Jon called "Linda," my girlfriend's name. Somewhere in the deep tunnels of Calling For a Date episodes, Jon must have phoned every woman I know.

I am unclear in this strip if Jon is aware of what happened in his conversation with Becky. Jon is unswayed by rejection in the phone call strips, even though Garfield can deflate his confidence with no more than a withering look. That speaks volumes to how much value Jon puts in his cat's approval.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Arbuckle House Party

Summary: Jon wants to have a party. With his cat. The cat doesn't want to have a party. And Jon is embarrassed and ashamed.

Thematic discussion questions: Why does Garfield need to shame a man for the mere consideration of pursuing momentary happiness? Is Garfield such a pleasure to have at social events that Jon's plans are immediately dashed if the life-of-the-party won't participate? Is Garfield ever a pleasure to have anywhere? It is the habit of Garfield characters to break the fourth-wall with a sidelong "get me out of this strip" gaze - but why does Garfield assume even the reader hates parties?

Notes: At some point, Paws, Inc. started drawing Garfield's hind paws as large as his 26-pound torso.

So today's strip features some of my favorite things about Garfield, namely the slow physical change of characters over decades, Arbuckle in despair, and Garfield overstepping the bounds of his normal rudeness and greeting cruelty head-on.