The Cat’s in the Bag.

Go, Garfield, go, Garfield, go….

As written, the comic strip Garfield—cartoonist Jim Davis’ look at the travails of an eponymous cat and its owner—is kind of like the funny pages equivalent of tourists: In the background, not bothering anybody, always there, and quietly looked down upon by people who think they’re much smarter.

So, perhaps it’s appropriate that it took a foreigner, Dan Walsh—and a Dubliner yet!—to turn Garfield from wallpaper into something truly hip: a darkly ironic reflection on “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life.” Walsh did it, not by rewriting dialogue but, via one genius move: He completely stripped the cat and his unfunny thought balloons out of every panel.

Dumb cat.

The hilarious result, Garfield Minus Garfield, leaves the feline’s patron/sidekick, Jon, seemingly on the verge of a breakdown. With no one against which to bounce his reactions, his pinings and outbursts, now absent of context, read as though the ravings of a total lunatic.

“I do find the original strip funny,” said Walsh in a Washington Post piece,

but not as funny as Garfield Minus Garfield (because that’s my taste). It’s a completely different comic once Garfield has been removed. It suddenly becomes more surreal and dark, more ‘Monty Python’ than ‘Dick Van Dyke,’ more ‘South Park’ than ‘The Simpsons.’ “

What makes Walsh’s riff even more cool, though, is that, in an age where fans mashup intellectual properties on the net without pause, only to be typically threatened with a lawsuit by Faceless Mega Corporation, Davis, Garfield’s creator, totally gets it.

The cartoonist calls the work “an inspired thing to do” and wishes to thank Walsh for enabling him to see another side of “Garfield.” “Some of the strips were slappers: ‘Oh, I could have left that out.’ It would have been funnier,” Davis says.


Davis has no plans to cut the cat but understands the beauty in what Walsh does.

Bloggers such as Walsh “see the futility in making everything turn out right every day,” Davis says. But a little darkness “makes the positives even sweeter.”

Jim Davis, man…you’re all right! And your cat has still got to go.


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Tallulah Bankhead on 07.09.08 at 2:42 am

I love this. I think it’s closer to the truth of most people’s daily lives.

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