Jim Davis has stated that he created Garfield with the sole intention of making money. He decided to create a strip that would be popular with the masses, in order to be commercially successful. The fact that he succeeded says one of two things, depending on how cynical one is. On the other hand, at least he was willing to admit it.Garfield's speech is completely internal, even in his animated version. Although it made animation much easier, fans wondered exactly how much Jon understood Garfield considering they couldn't actually hold a conversation. With that in mind, they started the trend of removing Garfield's dialogue— or even Garfield altogether— from the comics. What results is a surreal trip into the mind of a very disturbed and lonely man, which is often considered funnier than the original strip, even by Jim Davis himself. And going one step even further, Square Root of Minus Garfield proves that True Art Is Incomprehensible — and hilarious.Probably holds the distinction of being the comic strip that features the most tropes whilst notnaming any.The official website can be visited here, which also features a complete Garfield comic strip archive, as does GoComics.com.
Aborted Arc: Many storylines end like this, especially the ones where Garfield, Jon and Odie take a trip. They always go out of their way to make a strip or two preparing or heading to their destination, but by Sunday they're suddenly back home as if nothing happened. If the story spans more than one week, the Sunday strip will continue the storyline instead.
Acrofatic: For such a ball of lard, Garfield is surprisingly athletic when he wants to be, being able to run extremely fast and even beat up other animals and even people! Some readers have theorized that all those diets Garfield has endured over the years were partially successful.
Garfield: Aha! Could this be a telltale trail of teddy bear hair? Even if it isn't, that was a pretty nifty bit of alliteration.
Affectionate Parody: Jim Davis sometimes uses Jon's family to poke fun at his own Down on the Farm roots. Jon's father is depicted in one strip at being amazed by an indoor toilet, while in another he breaks Jon's sink after trying to pump the faucet.
Inverted in this one, in which Garfield is given a lasagna that's low calorie and one-third fat. He requests two more.
And Then What?: In one strip, Garfield is being chased by a dog and wonders what the dog would actually do if it catches him. So he turns around and surrenders to the dog, asking it what it's going to do now. The dog then starts a waltz with Garfield, with an irritated Garfield demanding that he gets to lead next time.
In another one, a mouse tells Garfield mice would rule the world some day. Garfield asked "Then what?" and the mouse said they'd then live in people's house and eat cheese. Garfield was unimpressed by the answer.
And This Is for...: Garfield clobbered Odie and said "That's for not being a cat." Later on, Garfield realized it was wrong on his part to Clobber Odie for not being a cat since it wasn't Odie's choice. Garfield then kicked Odie. "This is for being a dog."
This was lampshaded in two strips. In one, Jon asked Garfield where the cookies in a jar went. After getting no response, he said, "For a cat who walks on his hind legs, you don't speak much!"
In the other, Jon told him that cats walk on their hind legs. Garfield said, "I didn't know that," and then, to Jon's shock, started walking on his front legs.
Animal Jingoism: The traditional cats vs. dogs rivalry is played straight on many occasions between Garfield and Odie and all the other dogs he interacts with, but it's also repeatedly subverted. Garfield and Odie can get along perfectly well when they feel like it. One particular strip involves what looks like a large, angry barking dog chasing a terrified Garfield, but in the last panel they stop to catch their breath as a despondent Garfield tells the dog that they'll never catch the ice cream truck.
"What's new, Garfield?" "Well, King Kong is on the roof batting down airplanes. The entire planet is being ravaged by brain-eating aliens... but more important, my dish is empty."
"Birthdays bring you lots of things... Gray hair. Bad eyesight... Creaky joints. Ear hair, aches, pains, bad teeth... Sigh... And cake!"
Another one that occurs while Jon's watching a soap opera:
Jon: I have some bad news, Garfield. I ran out of your favorite cat food.
Garfield: I'll survive.
Jon: Odie chewed up your scratching post.
Garfield: Big deal.
Jon: And Frank left Marcia for Stephanie.
Garfield: (dramatic expression) HOW COULD HE?!
"Why do people expect us cats to eat mice? This mouse could be somebody's mother. This mouse could be a deacon in its little mouse church. And one of the fuzzy sucker's bones might get caught in my throat."
Author Appeal: There is a definite point in the comic's long run when you will notice that most of the (human) females begin to be consistently drawn with huge breasts, butts, and lips. Some strips, such as this one, draw women in a Non-Standard Character Design.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: They may give each other a hard time, but Jon and Garfield really do care for one another. Jon even went so far as to throw out a potential girlfriend (literally) when she told him she was allergic to cats and forced him to choose between her or Garfield. Garfield and Odie also qualify.
Babysitting Episode: Not quite babysitting, per se, but two different arcs had Garfield and Odie being pet-sat while Jon was out on a date with Liz. The first time, they were pet-sat by the horribly nearsighted Lillian while the second time had them under the care of the muscle-bound Greta.
Bad Date: Happens a lot to Jon until he and Liz become an official couple.
Bait and Switch: In this sunday story, a dog was approaching Garfield, giving the impression he'd maul the cat but then the dog instead invites Garfield for lunch. Garfield commented that "Things aren't always as they seem".
Beach Bury: Garfield once buried Odie◊ "up to his knees" (i.e., only his legs were sticking out of the sand).
Happens in another strip when Jon lets some kids bury Garfield. He actually finds it relaxing... at first.
Beach Episode: The cast frequently visit the beach. Bad things happen to Jon every time.
Beat Panel: Very often, which is surprising for a three-panel strip.
Be Careful What You Wish For: One strip has Garfield stranded up a tree. Garfield says to it "Stupid tree...May all your stupid branches fall off!" Needless to say, all the trees branches broke off and fell to the ground. Including the one he was on.
Birthday Hater: Garfield's birthday is celebrated every year, and he doesn't like it much, as it reminds him how old he is. He often has nightmares and weird hallucinations related to age. (He does like getting cake - and the attention - when the actual party comes, however.)
(Garfield leaves and returns with a potted plant. He drops it onto Odie with a crash.)
Garfield: Get well soon!
His repeated murder of spiders (which are sapient in this universe) also veers into this on occasion. After he kills one spider, its spouse comforts its child in a heartwrenching scene while Garfield looks on.
Garfield: I guess I should feel like a heel. But I don't. *STOMP*
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Generally averted, since Jim Davis has said that he tries to avoid US-centric references or puns, so that the strip can be easily translated. However, this was not always true in the early years.
The Spanish translation was pretty rocky at first:
In this strip, Garfield's dialogue was translated to something like "But at least I haven't broken a limb" even though he's clearly pointing to a branch — i.e., the "sturdy limb".
This one oddly changed "They say the pet alligators that are flushed into the sewers grow to huge proportions" to "They say there are huge crocodiles…" with no explanation as to how they would get down there.
The current Spanish translators (see here since it's no longer on the Garfield website) are generally quite skilled, to the point that they sometimes slip in their own puns. For instance, this strip went with a pun on "sleeping bag" that still works when translated back into English. They even localize some references properly, one of the most obvious being that cats are said to have seven lives instead of nine in most Spanish cultures. But even then, they're not infallible:
This onegot translated literally into Spanish ("Philomena Scott-Aphat-Ramsbottom" is rendered as "Filomena Escotia Afat de Ramsbottom"), but to be fair, it was a very rare exception to Jim Davis' "no wordplay" rule.
In this strip, "You sound like you're breaking up" was translated incorrectly as "Parece que estás rompiendo conmigo"; instead of poor cell phone reception, it was translated as if the two spiders are breaking up with each other, which makes no sense in the context of the joke. (They got it right in this strip just over a year later.)
In the Spanish version of this strip, they forgot to invert the words for "beef stew", thus killing the joke. Considering how well most of the other strips are translated, this one really stands out as a glaring error.
A couple of Hungarian bloopers: In this strip, the spider's line became "I can tell when I'm being fooled!". Which doesn't make the slightest of sense. In another strip, "my place" was translated litarally, as "én helyem" ("my spot"), when "nálam" ("at my place") would have been correct. Similarly, the expressions "Well, what do you know!" and "Okay, I'll bite" have also seen word-for-word translations ("Just what do you know!" and "Okay, I'll bite you"). Also, in one instance, the word "Egad" was left untranslated.
Jon: (puts rosemary in it) And a sprig of rosemary!
Garfield: Glop with a sprig of rosemary.
Brick Joke: The "X DOOOOOG!" running gag reappeared almost a year after his original week of chaos, which itself counts as a Brick Joke considering it was not the dog's first appearance. And of course Clive; see Not-So-Imaginary Friend below.
Garfield "kicking Odie into next week". Odie is absent from the comic for the next 6 days, and, sure enough, he comes crashing back down (Onto Garfield.) on the seventh day.
Canon Immigrant: Garfield's family first appeared in the specialGarfield on the Town. That special was later reworked into a 1984 storyline where they appeared in the comic.
Binky the Clown was first seen in Garfield's Halloween Adventure before appearing in a 1986 storyline about Garfield and Odie getting lost and joining the circus (although one earlier strip had Garfield wondering where the Binky the clown show was).
Cats Are Mean: Could probably be the Trope Namer. Not that the trope is deployed consistently, but Garfield's Comedic Sociopathy is probably one of the series' most frequent recurring aspects (although at times he also demonstrates the capacity for great kindness).
Childish Pillow Fight: In one strip, Jon challenges Garfield to a pillow fight. Garfield easily defeats him with a pillow stuffed with a giant chicken's feathers.
Christmas Episode: In the 2000s, Davis has taken to devoting the entire month of December to Christmas-themed strips.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lyman. once it became apparent that he was The Artifact (he was originally brought in to give Jon someone to talk to). Arguably one of the most iconic examples in the funny papers. Although he appeared◊ in a photograph in the newspaper Jon's reading three decades later.
Almost all of the supporting cast (particularly Arlene, Nermal and Jon's family) hardly appear nowadays.
Clip Show: June 19, 1988◊, the 10th anniversary strip. This strip is also the last personal appearance of Lyman (look at the logo box).
Cloudcuckoolander: Irma, the eponymous diner waitress of Irma's Diner. Jon sometimes wanders into this as well, making comments such as "I think my toes are jealous of my fingers because they get to point at things."
Clutching Hand Trap: Happened to Garfield with a cookie jar in a 2002 strip, but he subverts it by breaking the cookie jar on Jon's head, instead of just simply letting go of the cookie that he wanted.
Not a cookie jar, but Jon got both of his hands stuck in pickle jars (as did his date) in another strip.
Garfield gets his hand caught in an olive jar in an early strip.
Cool Old Lady: Jon's grandma rides a motorcycle, knows martial arts, listens to heavy metal music... She has a far cooler life than the rest of the family combined.
Comedic Sociopathy: Especially in the earlier years, much of the humor comes from Garfield's abuse of almost everyone he meets, usually just for his own amusement. Jon, Odie, Nermal, spiders, dogs on chains and the mailman are frequent targets. Garfield is on the receiving end sometimes too.
Comic Book Adaptation: Garfield finally got a comic book in 2012 through BOOM Studio, written by Mark Evanier (who also wrote a lot of Garfield and Friends episodes). One of the covers was drawn by MAD stalwart Al Jaffee!
Comic Book Time: A weird zig-zagging. Garfield's birthday (and occasionally Jon's) is celebrated in every year, and he complains about getting old. However, none of the characters ever age physically.
One should also note that after the 25th anniversary, they stopped listing Garfield's age every year. Possibly because of the fact that a real cat typically only lives within half the time that Garfield's been around.
This was even lampshaded by Jim Davis with the title of a retrospective that was released at that time: Garfield at 25: In Dog Years, I'd Be Dead.
Contrived Coincidence: Jon gets his head caught in a wastebasket and his hands caught in pickle jars right before his date, then worries what to do because his date is coming at any moment. Turns out she had the same thing happen to her.
Cool Old Lady: Jon's grandma, who rides a motorcycle, boogies down on the piano, and is just an out-and-out badass grandma. (Ironically, her daughter is much more old-fashioned.)
Covered in Kisses: Once on a date, Liz commented that Garfield must've been a cute kitten. Jon replies that he was and whips out his wallet to show her a picture. Liz, at first, appears to be surprised that he keeps a picture of his cat as a kitten in his wallet. When Jon returns home, his face is covered in lipstick as he tells Garfield, "I owe you one."
Crossover: Marmaduke appeared at the beginning of a sunday Garfield strip. As Garfield realized the fence he was painting his name on was Marmaduke's, he apologized stating "wrong strip".
Jon made a drawing of a pig. Garfield made a better drawing, although his had wings. When Jon complained that pigs didn't have wings, Garfield said they would before Jon outdrew him. Also counts as a Shout-Out as that strip ended with Garfield calling Jon "Pablo".
The strip began using digital artwork in November 2011, and thus artwork is often reused and modified, pushing it into this trope.
Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: One logo box pictures Jon holding a single slice of pizza, and Garfield holding the entire rest of the unsliced pizza over his mouth.
A variant, one comic depicts Garfield trying to decide whether to leave one scoop of ice cream or two while he eats the rest.
Cute Kitten: Nermal, the world's cutest kitten. (Often qualifies as Cute Is Evil, as he can often be very mean to Garfeld. Also, in one strip it is revealed that Nermal is using coffee and cigarettes to purposely stunt his growth, and claimed to be a midget in another.)
Damned By A Fools Praise: Anything Jon likes is subject to this. Jon has ridiculously weird taste in things and tends to purchase things on impulse, then almost immediately forget he had those things upon obtaining them.
There's a comic strip where Garfield is watching an infomercial for something unknown but so bad that he can't help complaining endlessly. Jon walks by and tells Garfield he has three of the product.
Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone at some point, though Garfield is the most prominent. Special mention must be given to the bathroom scale ("You know those two pounds you lost last week? They are back with reinforcements"; "Let me put it this way... Have you ever considered a career as a river barge?").
Deconstruction: Of Zipperiffic, bizarrely enough. Jon wears a suit with an absurd amount of zippered pockets, then forgets which pocket he put his keys in. Cue Garfield giving an Oh Crap face and exclaiming, "This could take months!"
Depending on the Artist: Ever since the strip went to being in color every day, there's been little to no consistency on the palette of Jon's house, wardrobe, etc. This also applies to the older strips, which were colored retroactively with just as little regard for consistency.
This even seems to extend to the point of things sometimes being colored some shade that makes no sense whatsoever; for instance, the bushes outside of Jon's house are sometimes bizarre colors such as orange or pink.
Desert Skull: In one sequence, Jon brings home one of these, which Garfield then puts on Odie, while Jon talks to his mother about it.
Diet Episode: There are numerous strips about Garfield being put on a diet by Jon (or occasionally Liz).
Doom It Yourself: This occurred in one strip when Jon and Doc tried setting up some Christmas lights when Jon visited the family farm for the holidays. They ended up both getting entangled in the lights:
Jon's Dad: What am I going to do with you two? Garfield: Why don't you plug them in?
And in another strip, Jon walks in, a bruised and disheveled mess:
Jon: I got the Christmas lights up.
Garfield: I know. I saw it on the news.
The Door Slams You: Has occurred to Garfield at least once. Not surprisingly, on a Monday.
Dripping Disturbance: Garfield faces this occasionally. First he turns the shower head upside down to stop the dripping, only for it to keep dripping even upside-down, then he notices it as one of the sounds commonly heard at night and then he stops the faucet from dripping by using Jon's toe.
Exposed Animal Bellybutton: Played straight with Garfield on more than one occasion, but subverted in one strip. Garfield notices a black spot on his belly in the mirror and remarks "I didn't know I had a belly button". Said spot turns out to be a bug, which promptly flies away.
Also played straight with some animal characters who appeared in some strips of this comic, especially bigger ones.
Eye Poke: One strip features a televised face-slapping tournament that ends with one of these from one of the athletes.
Filler: The first collection, Garfield At Large, ends with a single-panel filler strip of Garfield walking into the sunset. The follow-up, Garfield Gains Weight, begins with a single-panel filler strip of Garfield sitting atop the television and looking into the screen, much to the annoyance of Jon, Odie, and Lyman.
Flanderization: While certain character and story elements were present in the strip almost from the very beginning (Garfield's love of lasagna, for example), the early strips might come as a surprise to readers born after 1980 or so. When the strip was starting out, many things were different: Jon wasn't overtly a nerd, although he did have trouble getting dates; Odie was stupid, but not to the extreme degree he was later portrayed; and Garfield himself was less a cool-as-ice Deadpan Snarker than a genuinely mean-spirited (and at times sadistic) misanthrope. (The mean streak remains, of course, although the outright sadism has now softened into Comedic Sociopathy.) Also, the stories were originally slightly more based in reality; the madcap surreality that the strip has become famous for didn't truly get under way until the mid-1980s.
Fluffy the Terrible: This strip featured Fluffy the Fierce. Sure, he was not much taller than any cat that'd fit the name Fluffy but he was described as a legendary ratter. Until he met Matt-the-Rat, that is.
Flushing Toilet, Screaming Shower: Garfield once turned on the hot water in the sink to show Odie that all the pipes were connected. Of course, Jon's shower went ice cold.
Follow the Leader: Jim Davis developed a book format for the first Garfield compilation, which featured very wide pages to accommodate the three-panel strip horizontally as it appeared in the paper, as opposed to being vertically stacked like most comic strip trade books of the day. This wide-page format came to be known as the "Garfield format". Many other comic strips soon followed suit with their own books, including The Far Side and FoxTrot. Ironically, since 2001, Garfield itself no longer uses the Garfield format for its compilations, and the earlier "Garfield format" compilations have been republished in a more standard style.
Suzy: Hi, this is Suzy. I'm not at home, but please leave a message at the tone... Unless you're Jon Arbuckle, in which case the machine will automatically hung up. ...Beep!
Jon: This is, uh, Ed Smith. (machine hangs up)
Garfield: Just amazing.
A 2008 strip had Liz listening to Jon's answering machine message, commenting on it being 'funny'. Jon was being pounded by Garfield while he recorded the message.
Funny Robot: More like a "funny AI system", but Garfield constantly has to endure fat jokes directed at him by his wise-guy talking bathroom scale. (Although he has bribed it on more than one occasion to get Jon to take him off a diet.)
Gonna Need More X: In the September 15, 2007 Garfield comic, Garfield's normal Running Gag about crushing spiders with newspapers was interrupted when Jon saw a spider with a hard hat walk by, chuckling to itself. Garfield followed it saying, "I'm gonna need a bigger newspaper".
Good Angel, Bad Angel: Until he ate them. Also a variant with them arguing over whether or not he should eat a pie. Garfield says he'd be thinner if the good angel were quicker witted to the bad one's retorts.
A Good, Old-Fashioned Paint Watching: Occasionally used to show how boring a life Jon's family has on the countryside, since the most mundane things excite them (watching the washing machine instead of the TV ("Here comes the red sock again!"), counting every brick in the wall of the house, taking a trip to see the new water tower, going to the airport to watch the planes take off etc.)
There's an actual in-universe TV show called Watching Paint Dry.
Graceful Loser: Liz's Date in the arc where she and Jon finally become an item.
Greasy Spoon: Irma's Diner. You have two kinds of coffee (regular and decaf), pickle brine as a choice of beverage, and a five-pound "he-man" burger. Jon has found dry-cleaning slips and false eyelashes in his food. Irma thinks that letting cheese age means keeping it in the back of her truck, and her idea of a "special treat" is a scoop of mashed potatoes in an ice cream cone. Garfield once found a hoof in a burger there.
If you order a burger, you just get a hamburger patty plopped down on the counter in front of you. If you want a bun, you have to order the Deluxe Burger.
Garfield: Go for it, Jon. Get the Super Deluxe and get a plate, too.
Grounded Forever: In the book Garfield's Big Book Of Super School Excuses, one excuse for "Why I Can't Go Out With You" is "I'm grounded until college".
I Am Big Boned: Garfield does it sometimes, a few with the trope name (the page image is the response of his sarcastic bathroom scale).
In January 29th, 1979, Garfield literally claimed to be big boned. Jon called Garfield "disgustingly, slovenly, sloppy fat" and Garfield said Jon obviously had "disgustingly, slovenly, sloppy fat" confused with "big boned".
Inconsistent Dub: The Spanish translation usually keeps the characters' names the same, but it has waffled more than once on translating the names of both Doc (Boy) and Pooky (to "Chico Doc" and "Puky", respectively).
Inflationary Dialogue: Garfield didn't believe when his grandfather stated "You kids have it good these days. I remember when I had to walk six miles every day just to chase rats." When Garfield said he didn't buy that, his grandfather asked "Would you believe across the street to spook a chicken?"
Jon: The coffee's strong today. (it reaches out of the cup and slaps Garfield round the face) Garfield: Not just strong, but mean!
Laborious Laziness: Garfield is prone to this sort of thing. In the comic that provides the page quote, the lazy cat nails the TV to the ceiling above his cat bed so he can watch it without getting up. Think about how much effort it would've taken to hoist that television up there and then keep it in place while he nailed it there, and then think about how much effort it would've taken simply to get up and walk over to where the TV was.
In one early strip◊, Jon sets a hamburger and a glass of milk nearby the chimney, saying, "And here's something for jolly old Saint Nick." Garfield then rises from a present under the tree and begins eating it, saying, "Ho Ho Ho."
One strip◊ shows Jon about to have some milk and cookies lying out. He then gets caught in a net booby trap, and Garfield comes over and angrily comments, "Hey! You're not Santa!"
In another strip◊, Garfield leaves out a T-bone steak and a pot of coffee for Santa, because "A big fat guy who's driving all night doesn't want milk and cookies."
The Christmas-themed book Seasons Eatings has a list of top 10 things Garfield would do if he replaced Santa. Among them is "Order kids to leave out a T-bone steak and curly fries for him instead of milk and cookies."
The 12-12-2012 strip had Garfield emailing his wish list to Santa and promising to leave out plenty of cookies for him. Jon claims "You can't bribe Santa!", but at the North Pole the big guy is revealed to be excited about the promise...
Lethal Chef: Jon is like this at times. In one early strip, Garfield says that "The only time he knows my dinner is ready is when it sets off the smoke alarm." There are other strips where he turns bacon into "bacon flambé" and otherwise proves a bad cook.
Irma, or whoever cooks at her diner, is far worse, at times giving this Trope the potential to be literal. She once claimed that the chef was out sick with anthrax. There was also this tamer exchange:
Limited Wardrobe: Jon almost always wore a "powder blue oxford shirt", as one strip put it. Averted nowadays both by the colorists being unable to make up their minds, and Jim and co. occasionally drawing Jon in a different style of shirt.
Jon once scolded Garfield for burying Odie in sand at the beach. Garfield defended himself by pointing out that "I only buried him up to his knees." Which would be fine....if he hadn't been buried upside-down.
"Ah, it says here carrots are on my diet. And his is a carrot cake. A loophole!"
Jon tried to teach Garfield self-control. He left a box of kitty treats in the room Garfield was in, telling him not to take the kitty treats. He left the room, then reentered a short while later. Garfield took everything except the box.
Even more audacious when Garfield was on another diet and Jon told him "You may have a salad." Garfield promptly helped himself to some pork chops, and when Jon called him out he claimed that no one had ever told him that pork chops were not a salad!
And once again: "This salad needs something. I think I'll garnish it. With a ham!" *wham*
Taken Up to Eleven in one strip where Jon put Garfield on a diet, saying he could eat anything he could sip through a straw. Garfield promptly sucked an entire chicken through said straw. ("Well, back to the drawing board," said Jon.
General on TV: Holy bovines, Corporal! There's a giant monster invading the city! Soldier on TV: That's not a monster, sir. General: What are you talking about? Call out the artillery! Soldier: It's just a bad actor in a rubber suit. General: Oh, it is not! It's a monster! Soldier: Come on... I can see the zipper. General: Egad! A zipper monster! That's the worst kind! Soldier: And that's not a real city. General:Insolence! I'll have you court-martialed!! Soldier: These are just tiny little model buildings. Garfield: General Cordwood seems to have buried himself in the part. Soldier: See? General: PUT MY HOUSE DOWN!!
Meaningful Name: In a very early strip, Odie had an "accident" inside the house and is punished by Lyman. Garfield snarks that they should have called him "Spot" instead. (That was going to be the name of Odie, but it was changed due to there being a dog called that in the comic strip Boner's Ark.)
Meet Your Early Installment Weirdness: The page image comes from a 2003 arc in which (then-current) Garfield meets up with his 1978 self. Much lampshading ensued. The arc ends with Jon and Odie having similar experiences.
Megaton Punch: Garfield has done this to Odie and Nermal, socking - or, more often, kicking both (figuratively) to the moon.
A 1981 strip had nothing but Garfield sleeping for all three panels, no doubt leaving many readers outright baffled when it first appeared in papers. It makes much more sense when read in the books, where the next day's strip completes the gag.
Milestone Celebration: Every June 19 (the date the strip debuted) celebrates Garfield's 'birthday'. It's the only comic to celebrate its anniversary every year.
Mushroom Samba: One censored comic which only appears as a rough sketch in the 25th anniversary book, features a half asleep Garfield as he watches a periscope emerge from his water dish, followed by a tentacle. Garfield then smiles and says, "Man, that was some gooooooood catnip!"
No Fourth Wall: The fourth wall came crashing down on the first day and never went back up:
Jon: Our only thought is to entertain you.
Garfield: Feed me.
One time (in the 1980s) Jon decided Garfield should go on a diet because his weight was causing the comic strip box to dip where he walked.
The fourth wall is sometimes AWOL in-universe as well:
Woman on TV: Come closer... closer... (Jon moves closer to the TV) Woman on TV: Uh... that's close enough, dork boy. Garfield: Et tu, TV?
Another time, a television host yelled at a sleeping Garfield to turn the set off after signing off for the night.
Noir Episode: Babes and Bullets, one of the segments in Garfield: His 9 Lives. Wasn't included in the animated version but was adapted into a stand-alone TV special the following year.
Parodied in a Sunday Strip — the atmosphere is quickly ruined when Odie appears in a clown suit, and Garfield says "I was this close to making my big dramatic debut."
No More for Me: In this strip, Garfield pours his coffee right back into the pot upon witnessing a spider he just stomped being taken away by an ambulance.
No Mouth: Garfield's teddy bear Pooky had one, but as per Art Evolution he lost it (10-6-1981◊ and 2-7-1982◊ being the last strips to depict him with a mouth). Since then, at least two◊ strips◊ relied on the fact that Pooky had no mouth.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Nermal has been around since the strip's second year, but is still referred to as the "World's Cutest Kitten." Garfield sometimes inquires how he stays the same, and at various points we've learned that he's a midget who's had anti-aging therapy and had extensive plastic surgeries◊. The coffee and cigarettes help too.
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In July 2006, after 27 years of constant failures, Jon finally managed to get together with Liz. They're in a relationship since then.
Overly-Long Gag: Many Sunday strips are padded out to the maximum seven panels, when they could just as easily work in three.
Overly-Long Scream: Jon does one in a 1992 strip that takes up the top of every single panel. In the last panel, we see it's because he had enough Christmas lights to decorate the entire outside and inside of the house, but ran out of cord inches before he could plug it in.
Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: Happens to Jon in one strip after Liz tells him whatever he decides to get her will be just perfect.
Pie in the Face: The "Splut!" pies, which make that noise when they hit Garfield.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Those who have been around long enough will know that Jon is supposedly a cartoonist. It was mentioned in the first strip, and his drawing board was seen in some early strips. The only times it's been mentioned after that is the storyline in 1984, where Jon goes to a cartoonists' convention and Liz describing Jon to her parents in the May 2, 2010 strip. That's right; his job went unmentioned in the strip for twenty-six years.
In the TV series his job is a focus of several episodes. And one of the comic book stories involve him trying to come up with a new comic book idea.
Pounds Are Animal Prisons: A 1981 story arc had Garfield being sent to the city pound, which was portrayed this way. (He escapes when Fluffy, another cat there, smashes him through the wall) It was even parodied in one of the strips:
(the gate slams)
Garfield: How did I get into this fix? One minute I'm free as a bird, then I'm in the city pound. Where did I go wrong? I'm just a number here, I've almost forgotten what it's like on the outside. It's not right to cage a wild animal!These four walls are closing in on me! I can't take it anymore!
Cat: You've only been here two minutes.
Garfield: I know, but this is my first shot at a prison scene.
Precision F-Strike: Davis got a lot of letters for having Garfield say "sucked" in a 1990 strip; this was the only time that word ever appeared in it.
Precious Puppy: Odie. In Kaboom Garfield #14, Odie was even called adorable twice.
Produce Pelting: Happens frequently to Garfield when he's singing on the fence. He once had a watermelon thrown at him.
A watermelon? Psh. Remember Booga-Booga's wonderful scout troop? Only bloody currency is GIANT STONE WHEELS.
November 19, 1982, as the result of Garfield hating the toaster.
August 21, 1994, as the result of Jon "fixing" the toaster...
October 28, 2003 gives us a toaster that hates Jon. And it turns out to be possessed by an evil spirit.
Inverted on August 10, 1986, where Jon turns the toaster upside-down to prevent Garfield from stealing the toast. The toaster becomes projectile and smacks Garfield in the head.
Prophecy Twist: This strip: Garfield read this from a fortune cookie fortune: "Today you will be whisked away to a large white building where all you have to do is lie in bed all day as lots of people pay attention to you and bring you food". As Garfield said it sounded "too good to be true", he failed to notice he was about to fall from the table.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: In the August 4th 2013 comic, Garfield does this to Liz for a snack...and she does it right back at him. Garfield's response? He gives HIS food to her and tells Jon "She's good."
Raised by Wolves: In a week long Garfield storyline Jon fell in love with a woman in a rec center who had been raised by wolves, as it turns out she had only been in civilization for a week and she had tendencies like scratching her head with her foot, messily devouring her food, trying to bite off her foot when her shoe was too tight, and howling at the moon.
Garfield once met a cat (Ed) who was raised by squirrels. Before they met, Ed didn't know the meaning of "ground". And neither his "mother" did. Ed has the habit of storing birds for winter. When the tree branch where Ed and Garfield were stiing on fell, Ed had the first chance to walk "sideways". Odie was the first dog Ed ever met and Garfield explained to him cats were supposed to fear dogs albeit Garfield doesn't remember why.
Remember the New Guy: Jon's aunt Gussie. Also most of Garfield's family, who appeared only in one week of strips and Here Comes Garfield without ever being mentioned again (except for his mom, who showed up in one other strip).
Repeat After Me: Garfield uses Odie as a ventriloquist's dummy to make this exchange: "Say hello to the people, dummy." "Hello to the people, dummy."
Retcon: Two big ones. Odie was originally Lyman's dog, and Nermal was originally Jon's parents' kitten. Now the former is treated as if he were Jon's all along, and the latter is just a neighborhood cat who wanders in to torment Garfield.
Rule of Three: After finding the Italian restaurant where he was born: "It's all gone! Where's the pasta? The people? The pasta? The excitement? The pasta?"
Also: "Decorations, presents, caroling, presents, mistletoe and presents. Six things I love about Christmas."
Running Gag: Kicking Odie, Mondays, spiders, Spluts. Although the Spluts haven't appeared since the mid-1990s. Later years have 'beware of dog' signs.
At least in the 1980s, Garfield would hide in a fern and the first two panels would appear the same, delivering a different punchline every time.
Jon: Garfield, I know you're in my fern. I can see your tail. What do you have to say for yourself?
Also, a number of 1980s strips had Jon saying some variation of "I wouldn't say you're fat Garfield, but...", followed by an extremely insulting joke about Garfield's fatness. Garfield usually attacked Jon in some way after that.
In the final strip that had the gag, it was Subverted. Jon says the line, but Garfield stuffs his food bowl in Jon's mouth before Jon can finish the insult and Garfield says "Then don't."
Scared of What's Behind You: One Sunday strip featured Garfield going to a zoo, getting into a lion cage, and roleplaying his fantasy of what it would be like if he were a wild animal. At one point he takes a swipe at some patrons, and congratulates himself when they're scared. He does this not noticing the gigantic lion now sitting behind him... currently supplies the page image.
Self-Deprecation: In-Universe in this strip: A TV show's host loves hosting it because it means not having to watch it. Garfield wished to be the host.
After laying dominant for twenty-four years, Jon's cartoonist job was used to deliver one, with a strip where both of Liz's parents hyperventilate in a paper bag after Liz tells them about it.
Stout Strength: Subverted by Garfield. In one strip, while Jon is flexing in front of the mirror and complementing himself on his muscles, Garfield immediately flexes what looks like his own immensely powerful muscles. Jon stares at him in shock as Garfield walks away, explaining that he simply "flexed his fat".
Garfield did it again in another strip when he ran into Arlene. She continued to stand and watch in amusement, as Garfield struggled to keep up his flexing:
Garfield: Uh...don't you have somewhere you gotta be?
Arlene: And miss seeing how long you can hold that pose?
Played straight in another strip where Jon and Garfield begin poking each other with sticks and ordering each other to do things. The sticks keep getting bigger until Garfield finally uproots an entire tree and brings it into the kitchen to try and poke Jon with, until he finally tires out and the tree squishes him.
Strip Archive: Every single strip ever is available to read for free on their website. Also, a website allows you to search every single strip (the interface is in Estonian, but the search and transcripts are English.)
Jon: Be careful there, Garfield. Hanging on the drapes can be very painful. 'CAUSE I'M GONNA BREAK YOUR LEGS IF YOU DON'T GET OFF THEM THIS INSTANT!
He also does it again in this one:
Jon: Some dirty, rotten, low-down, slimy, filthy, disgusting, gluttonous, hog STOLE MY SUPPER!
Supreme Chef: Jon's mother, especially when it comes to baking pies and preparing potatoes. She once prepared a meal with eight kinds of potatoes (her personal best). In fact, eating is one of the two things Garfield actually likes to do at the farm. (The other is leaving.)
This occured two other times: This comic◊ where Garfield angrily cusses after a leg cramp forces him to get out of bed, and this one◊ where a woman on a knitting TV show cusses after dropping a stitch. Garfield lampshades it in the latter instance by commenting "Grandma's a colorful old gal".
There Was a Door: Tired of the mess Garfield and Odie were making, Jon opened the door and told them to go outside. They jumped through the window. Berating his pets, Jon told them to use the door next time. Unfortunately, since it was closed then, they broke it while reentering.
There's one strip in which Jon calls Garfield to dinner. Garfield comes bounding up to Jon from off panel. Jon says, "I appreciate your promptness, Garfield...." and finishes in the last panel, "... but next time, OPEN THE DOOR!", revealing that Garfield broke through the (closed) door. Could be justified in that Garfield is a cat and can't work a doorknob, but....
There's also one where he comes through the pet door, but gets stuck inside because he's too fat and thus rips the normal door from its hinges anyway. Also, he repeatedly kicked Nermal out the front door without opening it first.
And there's another wherein he smashes the front door down and says, "When I want in, I want in NOW!"
Happens in yet another strip◊ when Jon yells "FIRE!" to test his pets' fire drill knowledge. Both run straight through the wall — or, rather, we assume they did, thanks to the hole.
This Is My Human: Garfield refers to Jon as "his cartoonist" in the very first strip and considers himself to be superior to Jon in every way imaginable (and thus treats Jon accordingly).
This Is No Time to Panic: This comic strip. Jon Arbuckle was desperate about his age because he found a gray hair. Garfield told him not to panic. When Jon said it was in his ear, Garfield replied "Okay, panic".
Trademark Favorite Food: Garfield eats everything except raisins and spinach, but he prefers lasagna. He's also very fond of pizza, to the point that he considers the pizza delivery boy his best friend.
Trivially Obvious: In this strip, Jon says: "Odie, you're such a good boy! And Garfield, you're such a... such a... cat."
Uncatty Resemblance: Jon and Garfield commented on this trope, with pets who look increasingly (and more absurdly) like their owners. This culminated with some guy who looked like a man in a bird suit and his pet canary. Another strip had Jon sitting down to eat dinner with Garfield, which they both began gobbling up in perfect sync. The strip ends with Jon realizing he has to get away from Garfield when they eat.
Unnamed Parent: Jon's parents. Also, Garfield's mother, who appeared in a series of strips in 1984.
Unsound Effect: For a rather unconventional example, whenever a hammer is being used, the sound effect is usually "hammer" instead of "bang." Others include "unscrew" for the top of a saltshaker being unscrewed, and "plug" for Christmas lights being plugged in.
These◊ two◊ early strips use "Leap!" to indicate Garfield jumping off a table.
What Happened to the Mouse?: One strip has a blind date of Jon's named Gwen, who dresses as absurdly as he does on dates and finds him cute. Garfield even says "God made two of them!" Although she would have been a good recurring character, perhaps as a Distaff Counterpart of Jon, she was never mentioned again.
Garfield: What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?
Arlene: But this is a nice place.
Garfield: Like I said... What's a girl like YOU doing in a place like THIS?
When I Was Your Age: When he was Jon's age, Jon's Dad was already married and had a kid. Jon's reply ("Yeh, me") prompted him to state it was a good argument but he still thought Jon should get married.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Garfield's town is never specified, except on animated special Garfield Goes Hollywood it's Muncie, Indiana (Jim Davis' residence since 1963 and Paws, Inc.'s HQ).
William Telling: The protagonist being the glutton that he is misses intentionally so that he can eat the apple afterwards.
Written Sound Effect: "SPLUT!" is the sound that a pie makes when it hits Garfield's face, although some other foods go "SPLOT!" instead. "Dingle" is also used for Odie's toy balls with bells in them. Also, "GOOSH!" is quite commonly used for wet splats.
Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: In one strip, Garfield pretends to be The Igor, wandering around saying "A brain! I need a brain for my master!" He pauses to take a look at Odie, and then moves on, repeating "A brain! I need a brain for my master!"
Odie was chasing cars and Garfield tried to caution him against it because he could get clobbered. Realizing he said "clobbered", Garfield then told Odie a Buick said "unkind things" about Odie's mother.