The cartoon : more than a legend, a contemporary classic !

When and where did Garfield first appear? Was it an immediate hit? What inspired Jim Davis? … Here are the answers to all these questions.

Birth of a legend

In the mid 1970s, Jim Davis was production assistant on Tumbleweeds, a very popular cartoon in the US. In his spare time, he tried his hand at creating strips (cartoon boards with three frames). His first comic strips was named Gnorm Gnat. It was the story of the adventures of Gnorm, a sarcastic and philosophical insect, and his winged friends. Unfortunately, the series was not as successful as hoped and Jim Davis abandoned it.

He started to look for an idea for a cartoon American readers would enjoy. He realised that stories with dogs as heroes were very popular (Snoopy, Marmaduke, Belvedere…), but none had a cat as the main character.

He didn’t have to look far for inspiration. He remembered all the cats he had grown up with on the family farm, and created a fat, lazy, stubborn, sarcastic cat…Garfield, named after his grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis. And…that’s how a fat furry legend was born.

Initially, Garfield was simply a companion to Jon, a cartoon artist (and the real hero), but Jim Davis soon realised that Garfield always had the last word and the funniest lines, so he made him the main character.

On June 19, 1978, the Garfield comic strip made its début in 41 newspapers, notably in Boston, Dallas and Chicago. Newspapers in many countries traditionally run a daily cartoon strip, usually featuring one or several cartoon album characters.

Two months later, The Chicago Paper dropped the comic strip from its pages. The editors received indignant letters from more than 1300 readers demanding its return. The fans won and the strip was reinstated.  After that, the popularity of the comic soared. In 1982, Garfield appeared in 1000 publications.  In 1987, in 2000. Today, more than 2400 newspapers carry the strip and Guinness World Records declared it was “the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world.”  An estimated 200 million people read Garfield each day!

The success of the strip spawned a collection of the comic strips in book format. The first collection, “Garfield at Large” came out in 1980 and was an immediate best seller. Today, Garfield compilation books come out twice a year.  Book number 45, “Garfield: Large and In Charge” was recently released.

If you want to know more about Garfield, go to the official website Garfield.com !

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