The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Garfield!

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Today is Garfield's 31st birthday! He may not be your favorite comic strip "“ or mine "“ but you have to give the guy props for lasting a lot longer than most cats. And with what his cholesterol level must be, that's no easy feat! To honor the ill-tempered tabby, here are a few facts about how he came to be.

garfield1. Garfield is named after President James A. Garfield, in a roundabout way. He gets his name from Jim Davis' grandpa, James Garfield Davis, who in turn was named for the president. Davis says he took some of Garfield's characteristics from his grandpa as well - namely his curmudgeonly attitude.

2. Why a cat? Because Jim Davis grew up loving the comic strips with dogs in them - Marmaduke, Snoopy and Belvedere - but noticed that there weren't really any strips with cats in them. He had grown up on a farm with at least 25 cats and knew that they had very dry personalities that would be perfectly suited to a comic strip. Garfield was supposed to be the sidekick to a cartoonist named Jon Arbuckle, but Garfield quickly stole the show... and Davis let him. Davis himself owns two dogs and one cat. The cat isn't Garfield (it's Spunky), but you might be pleased to know that one of the dogs is named Pooky.

3. Garfield comes by his love for lasagna honestly: he was born in an Italian restaurant named Mama Leoni's. He weighed five pounds, six ounces. The owner of the restaurant wanted to keep Garfield, but the orange tabby was eating so much that there was no food to serve to the customers. Garfield was sold to a pet store, which is where Jon Arbuckle came in.

4. Contrary to popular belief, Garfield doesn't eat everything. He's been shown to hate grapefruit, raisins, snails, fruitcake and most vegetables.

davis5. Garfield, Jon and Odie live in Muncie, Indiana. This was a mystery for many years, but a big piece to the puzzle was unraveled after a Garfield T.V. special showed Jon driving a car with Indiana license plates. In the 1987 special Garfield Goes Hollywood, the gang went on a Star Search-like show, where the announcer told the crowd they were from Muncie, Indiana. Of course, none of this should come as a surprise - Jim Davis grew up in Indiana and still lives there. Muncie is the headquarters of Paws, Inc., Davis' company that was formed to handle the licensing of Garfield and ownership of the strip.

6. Odie started out life as a character in a television commercial, or at least his name did - the commercial featured a guy named "Odie the Village Idiot." When Davis created the Garfield strip, Garfield's target of abuse was named Spot. Davis asked veteran cartoonist Mort Walker to take a look at his rough strips, and Mort mentioned that he already had a dog named Spot in his own syndicated series. Not wanting to duplicate Walker's name, Davis decided to bring back his old village idiot pal.

7. Garfield isn't the only character named after one of Davis' relatives - Jon's backwoods brother, Doc Boy, is named after Jim's brother, Dave "Doc" Davis. "Doc isn't nearly as goofy as his cartoon namesake," Jim Davis has said. "He's goofier."

8. Those of you who have been reading the strip since the beginning might remember a character named Lyman. He was Jon's roommate and Odie's former owner. He randomly disappeared from the strip with no explanation given, although Davis later explained that his original purpose was to give Jon someone to express thoughts to. As Garfield became more and more human, Lyman was no longer needed. Davis was once asked what had happened to Lyman, he mischievously replied, "Don't look in Jon's closet."

gnorm9. Before Garfield, there was Gnorm. Gnorm Gnat was Davis' first strip, published only in the Pendleton, Indiana, newspaper. He liked writing it and thought bugs were funny, but the syndicate he tried to sell the strip to differed, saying, "Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs- nobody can relate to bugs!" There was also a bug with buck teeth and hat whose name was Lyman - sound familiar? Davis ended the strip by having a giant foot come out of the sky and squish poor Gnorm.

10. Jon Arbuckle shares the same birthday (minus the year) as his creator. That's July 28, if you're keeping track. Jon was born in 1950 and Davis was born in 1945. Jon looks pretty good for being nearly 60, don't you think?

And of course, there's Garfield Minus Garfield, which we have featured on the _floss before, and other crazy Garfield variants, both by Mr. Chris Higgins. So, are you a Garfield fan or not? I can't say that it really makes me laugh out loud, but I read the strip every day anyway. I wish U.S. Acres was still around.

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June 19, 2009 - 7:35am
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