The strip's title character. Most of the time, he's a fat, lazy, cynical cat, with Jon being the main victim of his constant sarcasm. Many of the strip's gags revolve around his constant eating and/or sleeping, as well as offering plenty of sarcasm towards Jon and abuse towards Odie.
Acrofatic: For a cat who is supposedly morbidly obese, Garfield is surprisingly athletic when he wants to be. Subtly lampshaded in an early strip when Garfield ran so fast that he went straight up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the opposite wall! Jon noted that "I know cats are fast, but that's ridiculous."
Another strip shows Garfield voluntarily jogging, of all things. He tells the reader that even he can run when he has the proper motivation, and in the last panel we see that he's chasing an ice cream truck.
Anthropomorphic Shift: In the early days of the strip, he looked more like a normal housecat. By 1984, his body had become more humanoid in shape.
Aside Glance: The most common user of this trope within the strip.
Big Eater: Blatantly. It's pointed out he only stops eating when there's nothing left in the house. A character from a dream sequence said it best:
"There's not in enough food in the world to feed this cat!"
Birthday Hater: Garfield hates birthdays, mainly because they remind him of how old he is. (Considering the strip has been around for two or three regular cat lifespans, he may have a point.) When the actual party comes, however, he usually softens up.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Despite his general cynical attitude, Garfield loves his mother very much. He also loves Jon's mother quite a bit too, due in no small part to the amount of food she makes at family gatherings.
Even Garfield Has Standards: Garfield doesn't have a problem hunting animals for food, which is fairly normal for cats, but he was upset with Jon's parents for turning his pet chicken to soup because she was family.
Expressive Ears: His ears tuck back whenever he's displeased, annoyed, or in a bad mood in general.
Extreme Omnivore: Occasionally. Non-food things he has eaten include his own food dish (accidentally while shoveling down his food super-fast), the TV remote (to prevent Jon from taking it), Jon's wallet ("Genuine cowhide."), and an unknown object Jon was carrying on a plate ("I hope that was food!")
Flanderization: Inverted. Garfield started out very lazy and sarcastic. By the late eighties he was still that, but he had also developed a more playful attitude. Over time though, he's gradually shifted back into his more cynical self.
Furry Denial: He constantly forgets that he's a cat. One time, he forgot to such an extent that he shaved.
Furry Reminder: On the other hand, he often does feline things, like licking himself, eating birds, playing with balls of yarn, etc.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although he constantly abuses both Jon and Odie, he does seem to love them both deep down. His softer side is most prominent around Christmastime. This is much more common with his animated versions, due to Adaptation Expansion and longer screentime allowing him to show more depths.
He Has Standards: Common in cats, Garfield doesn't have much problems hunting birds for food, but he was disgusted that Jon's family had turn his pet chicken, Nadine, into soup. His reason, she was family that's why.
Karma Houdini: A extreme example - he can bully Jon, Odie, and Nermal (verbally and physically) and NEVER receive any punishment whatsoever. Every rule has its exceptions, though, and sometimes◊ karma◊ does◊get◊ him◊.
Not so much in The Garfield Show, where Jon tends to suspect Garfield of wrongdoing when something bad happens... and he's often right.
Also invoked at the end of Garfield's Halloween Adventure:
Garfield: Odie, I'm about to do something that's really out of character for me. But seeing that you saved my my life about 10 bazillion times tonight, I'm going to give you something that's very close to me. Something that really represents who I am. Here's your half of the Halloween candy.
Stout Strength: For being an overweight house cat, Garfield can be amazingly strong when he's motivated enough. He once smashed an ice cream truck after the noise kept him from sleeping. On another occasion, when he and Jon started poking each other with sticks, he tore an entire tree up by the roots and brought it into the house to try and poke Jon. He eventually tired out and the tree squished him, but the fact that Garfield was able to do it in the first place is an amazing feat by itself.
Other strips have Garfield subvert it by flexing his fat so that he looks like he has huge muscles. Jon is stunned at the sight, while Arlene simply waits and watches to see how long Garfield can hold that pose.
Talking Animal: Subverted; his speech is represented through thought bubbles, a-la Snoopy. Due to the Rule of Funny, Jon can understand him only if Jon's understanding is necessary for the punchline.
Trademark Favorite Food: Lasagna. However, it's rarely mentioned nowadays and seems to have been replaced with pizza.
Lasagna is utilized in excess in both animated series however.
Jim Davis admitted once he wished he made pizza Garfield's favorite as it's easier to draw.
Your Mom: In one strip, when Garfield stands on the talking scale:
Scale: Let me put it this way... Have you ever considered a career as a river barge?
Garfield: Your mother was a blender!
Scale: That hurt.
In another strip (as well as Garfield Goes Hollywood), when he does his act on the fence, he tells his audience: "All your mothers wear army boots!"
Yet another strip, Jon tries to train Garfield to be an "attack cat", and makes a dummy from him to practice. When he orders "Attack!", Garfield tells the dummy: "Your mother wears combat boots!"
Jonathan Q. "Jon" Arbuckle
Garfield's owner and the most prominent human in the strip. For most of the strip, he was a simple enough bachelor who cared for Garfield, but eventually grew to be portrayed as a total loser. His personality hit a watershed in the late 2000s when he and Liz finally became the Official Couple.
Jon: You wouldn't believe my day, Garfield. First, I tripped and fell down six flights of stairs. When I landed, I got my head stuck in a bucket of pork chops. Then, a roaming pack of hungry wolves mistook me for lunch... and chased me into an open elevator shaft, which wouldn't have been so bad had it not been for the rabid shaft badgers.
The Cartoonist Who Doesn't Draw Anything: Although Jon is ostensibly a cartoonist, he's rarely seen doing anything besides occasionally go out on dates and sit around the house being just as bored as his pets.
Good thing, since his dates with other women also used to end in tragedy.
Ironically, there were at least two instances of dates that Jon had before he and Liz finally hooked up where the girl genuinely liked him, but Jon never followed through because he couldn't cope with the quirks of his date (Bertha and Kimmy).
The Noseless: He doesn't have a nose so much as he has a very long philtrum.
Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Jon doesn't seem to have any kind of job that we can see, and yet he somehow manages to make enough money to not only live in a suburban neighborhood but also keep Garfield fed, which is an amazing feat by itself.
Polka Dork: He loves polka and plays the accordion.
Straw Loser: Jon was Flanderized into this, becoming possibly the biggest loser in the world so that Garfield, with his laziness, gluttony, and general lack of doing anything in the comic other than just laying there can seem cool by making wisecracks at his expense. It's pretty sad when you're a Straw Loser to a cat. (Although lately, Liz the Veterinarian has apparently gone and fallen in love with him and they've started dating, which, apparently, takes some of the points off his Loser Scale.)
Took a Level in Dumbass: In the early years of the strip, he was a fairly normal person. By the mid-90's, he's become a total moron who finds interest in mundane activities, mistakes sudoku for crosswords, and mistakes an upside down restaurant menu for French. His animated versions dial it back somewhat, though are still pretty clueless.
Throw the Dog a Bone: After many years of bad dates and pining for Liz, in 2006, Jim Davis has Jon and Liz become an item. Liz finally admits to Jon that she loves him and she becomes his long-term girlfriend.
"That's not a dog, that's a tongue with eyeballs and feet."Introduced in the strip's first year as Lyman's pet dog (see below), but later Retconned to be Jon's dog. He's pretty much portrayed as wide-eyed, drooling and dumb.
Kindhearted Simpleton: When his much smaller brain doesn't obscure things, he's shown a very loyal and forgiving treatment towards Garfield and Jon. That's not to say he doesn't take the odd opportunity to get revenge however...
Obfuscating Stupidity: Sometimes done for laughs. For instance, one strip shows him waiting for Jon and Garfield to leave the house and then watching a TV series on Mozart with a copy of War and Peace at the side. Another arc showed him to be good at sudoku. There's another one involve him looking like he accidentally locked himself in the car, while him, Jon and Garfield is on a picnic, but turns out he actually locked them out so he could eat the food himself, while forcing Jon and Garfield to wait outside while it was raining.
In one 1980's strip, Jon sees a smug Odie beating a disgusted Garfield in 5-card draw poker.
Jon: I don't believe it.
Garfield: Neither do I. Odie drew to an inside straight.
Usually avoided in the animated series, particularly in The Garfield Show where it's a solid fact he's as stupid as he looks.
On the other hand, both his animated counterparts have broader showings of intelligence, just they don't hide the fact per se. His The Garfield Show incarnation in particular has more human like sentience and walks and acts anthropomorphically much more often.
The self-proclaimed "world's cutest kitten". Initially a kitten owned by Jon's mom, Nermal also had his origin blatantly retconned. He's now just a neighborhood cat who wanders into Garfield's house at random times.
Comic Book Time / Not Allowed to Grow Up: Parodied. Nermal has been a kitten since the strip's second year. In several strips, Garfield has asked Nermal how he stays young, and Nermal has revealed that he's a midget who uses extensive anti-aging therapy and deliberately stunts his own growth.
Commuting on a Bus: Since the '90s, Nermal has a tendency to disappear from the strip for a long period of time then return.
Jon's roommate, who appeared two months into the strip. He was initially Odie's owner, and was intended to provide the role of someone that Jon could talk to, until Garfield took over in that role. As a result, Lyman totally disappeared from the strip.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Such a prominent example that the trope could easily have been named "The Lyman". He appeared less and less in the strip between 1981 and 1982 (and not at all in the Here Comes Garfield special), finally vanishing completely after April 1983. According to Jim Davis, he joined the Peace Corps and was never heard from again.
Finally averted in 2012, when Lyman returned from a 24-year absence in an episode of The Garfield Show entitled "Long Lost Lyman". It was explained that the character had taken a job as a wildlife photographer and had gotten lost searching for a mythical creature.
For decades, Jim Davis's standard response to questions about Lyman's whereabouts was, quote: "Don't look in Jon's basement!"
This was lampshaded in the first Haunted House game on the Garfield.com site, where venturing down into the basement reveals a dungeon... and Lyman chained up in a dingy cell.
Demoted to Extra: Prior to being written out, he was a major for the first two years, before being demoted to a minor character through the remainder he appeared.
Women Are Wiser: Though considering the men she's compared to are John, Garfield, and Odie, that's an unbelievably low bar to jump over.
Garfield's on-again-off-again girlfriend. She first appeared in the strip in 1981, and has shown up occasionally over the decades. Most of her appearances involve Garfield trying to win her love (and failing miserably), or her trying to woo him, but Garfield being too full of himself to notice. She is distinguished from the other lady-cats Garfield has chatted up by her plain (though pink) coat, large lips, and gap-toothed smile.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Before her reappearance in 2008, she could've been this as she didn't appear in the strip for nine years.