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He wasn't there all along

  • Dec 19, 2008
Taking Garfield out of "Garfield" is a clever concept, and also a pretty insightful recognition that -- as with Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts," but on a much less profound level -- there's an awful lot of sadness at the heart of this strip. When you start from the premise that cats can't talk, and that therefore Jon never shares in Garfield's interior monologue or the (alleged) punchlines of the jokes, all you're left with is a man struggling with failure, rejection, and the occasional runaway electric toothbrush. It's kind of like The Book of Bunny Suicides. Funny, but also a disturbing.

But not to get too heavy. "Garfield" is still a comic strip, and there are a few laughs to be found here. What I am particularly impressed by, though, is not only Jim Davis' ability to see the joke, but also his willingness to run with it instead of sending in the intellectual-property attorneys with cease-and-desist orders. That raises him quite a bit in my estimation. Of course, in keeping with the spirit of the Big Orange Cat Empire, Davis is making a buck off this book -- it's his name in the byline, with Dan Walsh, the guy who had the insightful recognition in the first place, granted but a Foreword. Still, for "Garfield" fans who want to see the strip in a new, and perhaps unsettling, way, or for readers who enjoy a sort of meta-analysis of a long-running media presence, "Garfield Minus Garfield" has a surprising amount going for it.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #362
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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In an act that should qualify him for the brilliant editors hall of fame, Dan Walsh discovered that if all traces of Jim Davis's lazy, lasagna-scarfing cat were expunged from his own comic strip,Garfieldbecame a funnier, much darker series, about a desperately lonely, self-loathing man's existential despair. Walsh started posting his altered strips at garfieldminusgarfield.net. And in an act that definitely qualifies him for the good sport hall of fame, Davis not only didn't sue him but approved of the project. This collection of the best de-Garfielded strips prints Walsh's altered cartoons next to Davis's originals; Davis even throws in a couple dozen Garfield-minus-Garfield strips he's done himself. Interestingly, Davis's stabs at the concept are mostly just gags about Garfield's owner, Jon Arbuckle. The gist of Walsh's approach, on the other hand, is to completely alter Davis's jokes—a strip in which Garfield displays a single hair, announces this is all I'll be shedding today and marches off before Jon delivers a punch line, after Walsh gets through with it, becomes two panels of Jon silently glancing around before haplessly declaring, I dread tomorrow. If Samuel Beckett had been a strip cartoonist, he might've produced something like this.(Nov.)
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ISBN-10: 0345513878
ISBN-13: 978-0345513878
Author: Jim Davis
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Ballantine Books
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