Garfield – Jim Davis

This was the comic strip that started it all for me.

First ever Garfield comic strip

My earliest memory of comics is being obsessed with these Garfield pocket books. They had brightly coloured covers, and Garfield grinning ear to ear on them. So much nostalgia in these books.

My paperback Garfield book collection circa 1993.

I had every one of the books pictured here, plus a few others I’m sure. Unfortunately, I don’t still have them today. I’m a little jealous of this collection.

My parents were big readers. They had a huge collection of books in our home. They were also great lovers of second-hand bookshops. Anytime we visited a new town, there would be time dedicated to scouring a bookshop. Garfield was my salvation for these potentially quite boring trips. It was probably also my first experience of having a collection. I’m sure these little books were a marketing masterstroke. I wanted them ALL! Long before Pokemon.

Jim Davis surrounded by merchandise

Jim Davis is a great businessman, who built a huge empire around Garfield.

He gets criticism for handing off the art and writing duties for the strip. A comic strip is such a personal expression of one individual, I can see how this might undermine that singular vision. However, he’s been making the strip for decades. It grew to be so much more than when it started.

No-one criticises Walt Disney for being the man behind a huge empire. He was certainly not the sole artist. I think it’s a double standard that is unfair.

Jim Davis still has a great involvement with the day to day creation of everything Garfield.

My first ever attempts at comics were definitely Garfield rip-offs.

I think this is a pretty common story amongst cartoonists my age. I wish I could thank Jim Davis for setting me on this path. There’s a small chance he could read this, so from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU JIM!

My first ever attempt at comics strips

Garfield is an exercise in simplicity and subtraction. Jim Davis has a limit on how many words he puts in one strip. This distillation of ideas makes for a potent creation, and is ideal for early readers.

Garfield comic strip

I discovered recently that you can read every single strip, archived by the date they were first published. I’m sure this is not officially sanctioned by the Paws estate, but it is nice.  

For me, it provided an interesting case study. I’ve been providing my work free to read online, with the idea that it actually helps rather than hinders book sales. I read about a year’s worth of Garfield for free on my tablet. And now I’ve looked up book collections and have bought one. Even though it is all there for free to read online, I’d still rather have it in book form.

Whilst that may be a shifting opinion, it still proves true for me at the moment.

Jim Davis at the drawing desk
Jim Davis at the drawing board

I would highly recommend checking out the 1 hr + interview with Jim Davis via the Stripped Documentary. I got the STRIPPED SUPER AWESOME DELUXE EDITION, which has every interview and behind the scenes extra available. I backed it on Kickstarter and it remains a constant source of inspiration.