Garfield was the original Grumpy Cat, proving decades before the internet that everyone loves a nihilistic feline. In all that time, both the Garfield canon and empire have had plenty of opportunities to get incredibly weird, and they’ve lapped it up as eagerly as our favorite tabby does a plate of lasagna.

He Started as a Cash Grab

First Garfield strip

(Jim Davis)

Jim Davis didn’t set out to make a bold, artistic, pro-mozzarella stance -- he was just trying to get syndicated. He noticed that strips about animals tended to do well, mostly because they have no pesky identities to potentially alienate anyone, but there weren’t very many about cats, so he figured he’d do a cat. Much like a good marinara sauce, “it’s essentially a formula.”

In an Alternate Universe, We’re Reading Gnorm Gnat

Gnorm Gnat

(Jim Davis)

Davis’s first stab at comic critters was a strip about a gnat that, amazingly, no one wanted to read. After a publicist told him “nobody can identify with bugs,” Davis mercilessly killed off his creature via disembodied foot. It was the red wedding of entomological comics.

Davis Was a Cat Lady

Jim Davis

(Ducky/Wikimedia Commons)

Davis certainly knew from cats. He grew up on a farm with 25 of the things, so he was particularly well-positioned to riff on their jerk nature. Ironically, he married a woman who was allergic to them, so he had to give up his cat lady ways.

Garfield is Infinitely Translatable

Next time you read a Garfield strip, notice that none of the humor comes from the language. There are no “rhyming gags, plays on words,” or even slang terms that might not track in every part of the world specifically so Garfield is a plausible character in “virtually any society where he may appear.” There aren’t even seasons (‘cause of those Aussies who ski in July) or holidays except Christmas because they’ll be damned if they’re giving up their giant cookie jokes.

Even though Garfield is supposed to live everywhere, they let it slip in 1988’s Happy Birthday, Garfield that he officially lives in Davis’s hometown of Muncie, Indiana. Hopefully, he’s friends with Garry Gergich.

He Was Born in an Italian Restaurant

Lasagna

(Karolina Kołodziejczak/Unsplash)

Like all good superheroes, Garfield has an origin story. He was born in an Italian restaurant and started eating up so much of their inventory that they were forced to rehome him before he ate them out of business. We have a similar story but with police instead of a pet shop.

Why Garfield Hates Mondays

"I Hate Mondays" pillow

(Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

It’s been theorized that his childhood in the Italian restaurant is why he hates Mondays, since many mom-and-pop restaurants close that day, cutting off his sweet lasagna supply, but Davis says, “Monday is just a reminder that his life is the same old, same old cycling again, and for some reason, even though his life is pretty much the same every day, on Mondays specifically, awful things tend to happen to him physically." And you thought only black cats were superstitious.

A Cat By Any Other Name

Surprisingly, there are only three countries -- Finland, Norway, and Sweden -- where Garfield is not known as Garfield, instead called “Karvinen,” “Pusur,” and “Gustaf,” respectively and in order of sexiness.

He’s Persian

Persian tabby

(PxHere)

Everyone knows Garfield is a tabby cat, but it turns out a number of different breeds can have “tabby” coloring. Cat experts agree that our fluffy striped friend is most likely a Persian tabby and also that handknit sweaters make the best gifts.

Those Garfield Window Toys Were a Mistake

Remember when everyone started sticking plush Garfields to their car windows in the late ‘80s? It confused everyone, including Jim Davis. The toys were supposed to have velcro feet so they could look like they were climbing curtains, but the factory accidentally used suction cups. Davis still thought people would stick them on their house windows, but it just so happened that car window decoration was having a major moment. Incidentally, so was cocaine.

B.B. King Sang About Him

B.B. King

(Tom Beetz/Wikimedia Commons)

In 1991, GRP Records released an album of jazz tributes to Garfield called Am I Cool or What? It sounds like the sort of thing you’d find at the sticky bottom of a Walmart discount bin, but it featured such luminaries as the Temptations, Pattie LaBelle, and B.B. King (his contribution was titled “Monday Morning Blues (Blues for Mr. G)”). It was possibly the most and least shockingly well-reviewed album.

The Garfield Statue Trail

Garfield statue

(way2go/Flickr)

A cluster of towns in Indiana desperately want you to take selfies with their many Garfield statues. Although most of them are just unadorned likenesses or gussied up in thoroughly uncontroversial ways, like “College-bound Garfield” or “Popcorn-Eating Garfield,” there are others he would almost certainly object to, like “Health and Fitness Garfield” and “British Redcoat Garfield.”

The Veterans Day Fiasco

Garfield generally shies away from politics, being a stupid cat and all. That’s why a strip about a spider who tells Garfield, “"If you squish me … they will hold an annual day of remembrance in my honor,” only to flash forward to a spider history lesson on “National Stupid Day,” was particularly shocking, considering it ran on Veterans Day in 2010. Davis later explained that the strip was written almost a year earlier, it was a huge coincidence, and he wasn’t taking the boldest stance of hating veterans.

He Should Be Dead

Garfield not only has an official birthday but a birth year, as his first birthday was celebrated in June 19, 1979’s strip. That means Garfield should be dead several times over, considering that time appears to pass at roughly the same speed in his universe as ours. What’s up with that? Well… 

He May Be Immortal

His Nine Lives

(Jim Davis)

The 1984 book and TV special Garfield: His Nine Lives show versions of Garfield that have existed throughout history, all the way back to the dawn of man, and end with the cat getting nine additional lives from God thanks to a celestial technical error. Oh, God is also a cat, by the way. In the Garfield universe, reincarnation is fact, God is a cat, and those aren’t even the most existentially troubling parts.

Top image: Michael Coghlan/Flickr

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