Throughout its illustrious history, Jim Davis’ iconic comic strip Garfield has captivated readers with its humorous blend of sarcasm, laziness, and love for lasagna. As with any long-running comic strip, it was inevitable things would change throughout the years. That said, some of those early details are so different from what people know of Garfield today.
Jim Davis has evolved the styles for both his art and writing. Garfield will likely continue, even when Jim Davis is long gone. These early details are important reminders of where this pop culture icon came from. From out-of-character quirks to bizarre art style choices, there is plenty of strangeness in early Garfield comics.
10 Everyman Cartoonist Jon
Before Jon became more of an oddball, he was significantly more grounded; so grounded in fact, that he could have been mistaken for cool. He doesn’t overreact to Garfield’s laziness and is often calm and collected. For all intents and purposes, he was portrayed as more of an everyman character.
As the Garfield comic started getting sillier, Jon’s original “cool” characterization slowly became the unlucky yet lovable goof he is today. The change in personality quickly made Jon Arbuckle one of the best characters in Garfield thanks to his relatable yet funny loneliness.
9 No Garfield
Some fans might not know that Garfield was originally called Jon. A lot of the strips from Garfield’s first year were recycled from Jon’s first comic strips, often redrawn in Davis’ newer style. One side effect of this recycling is that some comics don’t feature Garfield at all.
Instead, other characters would do or say something funny, while Jon acts as the comedic straight man. Once the Jon comic strips finally ran out, there was no reason that Garfield, the world’s most famous cat should be absent from any strip.
Before Liz became the other regular human character besides Jon, there was Jon’s roommate and friend, Lyman. He was just a regular guy who sometimes made jokes. As expected, Jim Davis slowly lost interest in including Lyman and slowly phased him out of the comic strip by April 1983.
When asked by a fan at a convention what happened to Lyman, Jim Davis jokingly responded “Don’t look in Jon’s basement” (according to Daily Garfield). Hilariously, the Garfield web game Scary Scavenger Hunt features Lyman returning, albeit chained up in the basement of a haunted mansion.
7 “Snoopy” Odie
It’s not just Garfield who got a facelift. Early on, Odie also looked very different. In particular, he had a bigger snout and two bendy, black ears. He also did not have his trademark large red tongue. Interestingly, Odie’s first appearance is a remake of a comic strip from Jon, the original incarnation of the Garfield comic.
Jim Davis stated that he redesigned Odie after realizing he was too much like Snoopy from Peanuts. From that point, Odie got brown ears, and a shorter snout, and also learned how to walk on two legs. His charming lack of intellect, however, remained the same. It’s also interesting to note that Jon isn’t Odie’s original owner. Lyman was.
6 Odie Talked Once
Most people assume Odie’s too much of an airhead to have any, well, thoughts. Most of the other animals have had speech bubbles or thoughts, but Odie never really had any. Well, except for that one time in the 1980s when Odie had a thought bubble simply stating “I’m hungry.”
Even the fact that Odie once had visible thoughts is jarring. While that’s not to say Odie’s not smart in short bursts, Garfield’s constant jabber made him the perfect foil to Odie’s stoicism. In the long run, keeping him a mute character made Odie more endearing if not much of a conversation starter.
5 Bizarre Proportions
It would be an understatement to say Jon Davis’ early art style was “different.” In many ways, it’s unrecognizable from what fans of Garfield know today. The proportions were odd, with Garfield’s massive jowls and Jon’s small eyes on a long face being particularly noticeable.
It wasn’t an ugly style by any means, but it was far from the caricatured “cuteness” that Jon Davis’ style would evolve to. As Garfield started gaining popularity, Jim Davis opted for a rounder, more kid-friendly style. Eventually, Garfield became the cartoony caricature he’s known as today.
4 Quadrupedal Garfield
In addition to being more obviously larger, Garfield was noticeably always on four feet. Instead of basically being a cat person, Garfield acted more like a typical cat. He would spend most of the early panels sitting on his butt, and sourly staring off into the distance.
Seeing Garfield walk around like a real cat is a bit unsettling. Since most modern media depict him walking around on two feet, the contrast of normalcy is suddenly weirder. Over time, Garfield learned how to walk on two legs and hasn’t returned to sitting on four legs since.
3 Topical Humor
A lot of Garfield’s earlier jokes centered around current events. References to stuff like the Mickey Mouse Club, college football, and other American holidays were commonplace. While they were good for a laugh at the time, Jim Davis realized the problem as his comic strip got more popular.
With an international audience now tuning in on his comics, Jim Davis made the decision to phase out the topical humor in favor of more universal jokes. This was to ensure that people overseas didn’t feel left out by the America-centric humor. Puns were similarly phased out for these reasons.
2 Breaking The Three-Panel Formula
While it’s not like it doesn’t happen sometimes, modern Garfield is very averse to breaking its three-panel formula. Most jokes are probably intended to be read in literally seconds. This wasn’t always the case. During the first year of Garfield’s run in 1978, the series had a lot of multi-panel strips.
As the process of creating Garfield was streamlined, the three-panel formula was rarely broken. This is likely for pragmatic reasons, but the rule does get broken from time to time, such as in the Halloween 1989 special, although that merely divided one panel to make it two.
1 Garfield Loves Mondays (Sometimes)
Shockingly, there was once a time when Garfield did not hate Mondays. In fact, he outright loved it. In this strip from May 28, 1979, Garfield proclaims his love of Monday mornings, on the basis that it means there’s no work to do. Obviously, that sentiment didn’t last very long for him.
That said, there was a Garfield strip where he stated his hatred of Mondays, on September 18, 1978. Perhaps Jim Davis thought that “I hate Mondays” was a far more marketable term for the blue-collar everyman than “I love Monday mornings.”
NEXT: 10 Creepiest Kids From Comics (That Aren’t Marvel Or DC)
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