The strip began in the Pendleton, Indiana Times in 1976 as Jon (Davis' second strip after Gnorm Gnat), which already featured the core cast: Jon, Garfield (looking quite different), Odie (then named "Spot") and his original owner, Jon's roommate Lyman (best known for disappearing with no explanation). Many if not most of the Jon strips were later redone when it was retooled into Garfield. Upon being syndicated nationwide in June 1978, Garfield had a rough start, being slow to be picked up by newspapers, and many predicting it would be a Short-Runner. However, the first book collection, Garfield At Large, shot to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, held the spot for nearly two years, and turned the strip into one of the most successful ever, generating much merchandise and multi-media projects including:
- Various animated specials
- Three Animated Series
- Garfield and Friends, which consists of Three Shorts, two of Garfield and one of U.S. Acres (Orson's Farm outside the U.S., based on another Jim Davis strip about farm animals)
- The Garfield Show, a CGI series which is basically the previous series without the U.S. Acres shorts - but with Arlene from the comic strips instead of Penelope from Garfield and Friends)
- Garfield Originals, a series consisting of dialogue-free shorts, each episode consisting of five brief vignettes related to the same theme depicting Garfield and the other characters partaking in comedic antics.
- Two live action Garfield movies (Garfield and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties), starring a computer-generated Garfield voiced by Bill Murray and remaining animals in live action. Breckin Meyer played Jon and Jennifer Love Hewitt played Liz.
- A trilogy of CGI movies (Garfield Gets Real, Garfield's Fun Fest, and Garfield's Pet Force).
- An upcoming franchise of CGI films from Alcon Entertainment, where Chris Pratt will voice Garfield.
- Also spawned Garfield: Caught in the Act, a platform video game released by Sega in 1995.
- Garfield: Saving Arlene, a 3D platformer released in 2005, and its sequel, Garfield: Lasagna World Tour.
- Some edutainment computer games.... the list goes on.
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 or two things, depending on how cynical one is. On the other hand, at least he bothers 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 quite a few people consider 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. It's also spawned Garfielf, an intentionally So Bad, It's Good fanmade video. And last, but not least, there's Lasagna Cat, a bizarre series of videos in which actors for Jon, Garfield, and Odie act out certain strips in the series' history, while also making music videos as "tributes" to Jim Davis.
Probably holds the distinction of being the comic strip that features the most tropes whilst not naming any, except maybe Hating on Monday.
The official website can be visited here, which now (as of 2020) links to the Nickelodeon homepage. A complete archive of every strip from 1978 until now can be found at GoComics.com. The website was far more sophisticated back in the 2000s decade offering card games, eCards you can send to someone for a special occasion, animated videos, "Leave a message" ringtones, Italian food recipes, original music and a more extensive shopping market. However, around the mid-2010s all these features were discontinued implying budget cuts were made to the website.
On August 6, 2019, Nickelodeon parent Viacom announced that it had acquired all global rights to the Garfield intellectual property (along with those of U.S. Acres) and that it would begin development on a new animated series for Nickelodeon. Davis retains the rights to produce the daily comic strips for the foreseeable future, though his involvement in future Garfield media is unknown. The title character would also go on to be announced as a DLC fighter for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl in December 2021.
Not to be confused with another orange cat from a comic strip, Heathcliff.
"Garfield": Oh boy, let’s get this over with so I can eat my lasagna: