Jon is an obscure comic strip by Jim Davis made for an local Indiana weekly newspaper named Pendleton Times from 1976 and 1978, between Gnorm Gnat and Garfield, being a prototypical version of the latter.
In a set-up that sounds very familiar in hindsight, the comic is about a cartoonist named Jon Arbuckle and his fat cat Garfield, who are occasionally joined by Jon's friend Lyman and his dog, Odi— sorry, "Spot". Its humor and jokes are near identical to Garfield's, down to the lasagna jokes, but the art-style is different. Many of the strips were even later redone in Garfield. Also notable for the comic, is that, due to the fact it was focused on Jon, there are several strips where the famous cat is entirely absent. However, the strip shifted focus from Jon to Garfield mostly due to pressure from comic syndicators to rework his cat as the star as they felt the cat had better lines than his human.
Not to be confused with the Garfield fan-comic Jon by Gale Gilligan.
The entire series can be viewed in PDF format here.
Jon provides examples of:
- Art Evolution:
- Unlike his original design, March 1978 strips depict Garfield with thick tabby stripes.
- Jon's design also starts out being quite a bit different, although he began to approach the look he would have in the Garfield strip proper by October 1976.
- Ascended Extra: Garfield was a minor player in early strips, although his role would be greatly expanded by 1977, the strip being renamed late that year. This was apparently at the behest of Jim Davis' editor, who pointed out that Garfield got all the best punchlines.
- Early Installment Character Design Difference:
- Garfield's cheeks are much bigger than normal. He's also a solid, instead of a tabby, except for his striped tail. Starting in summer 1977, Garfield's fluffy jowls were smoothed out.
- Spot's first design resembled a chihuahua, although on October 21, 1976 it abruptly changed to Odie's first design.
- Liz looks like a completely different person, having blonde hair, no makeup, and a very innocent look that treats Jon with curiosity and fear. She's also initially identified as "that girl." After only two appearances like this, she reappears with her familiar black hair and more importantly her extreme deadpan demeanor.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The comic isn't based around Garfield, so some strips focus on Jon and his life without any appearances or even references to Garfield. Many strips from Jon were remade as Garfield strips only now Garfield would be present and usually deliver a punchline. Ironically, a common criticism of the modern Garfield comic is how strange it is that Jon takes Garfield to places a pet wouldn't be welcome such as restaurants... while in Jon, Garfield is only ever shown at the house where he lives and Jon goes to places like restaurants alone.
- Odie is named "Spot". This explains the joke in Garfield when Garfield snarks "They should have named him 'Spot'" (referencing Odie's Potty Failure), which was originally "So that's why they call him 'Spot'" and had to be changed when it was recycled for the later strip.
- The doctor is a goofy Herr Doktor type named Dr. Gustav Stitch, and he doesn't check up on Garfield but on Jon. He seems to be a remake of a recurring mad doctor character from Gnorm Gnat, Dr. Rosenwurm, but Davis quickly drops the character entirely.
- In one comic, Garfield threatens to punch Spot for no reason than just because he doesn't like him. This would be abnormally violent even for Garfield.
- In Liz's first appearances, she's silent and somewhat scared of Jon's aggressive advances. This quickly morphs to her developing a sarcastic attitude that's always more than capable of putting Jon in his place. She's also not a vet in this strip, instead she's a new waitress at Irma's diner who has to put up with Jon as a regular customer instead.
- Jon's pursuit of Liz is less "dumb awkward dork" and more "creepy stalker." He even starts following Liz around town to try and force interactions and when he dives into a burger booth to get her to talk to him she actually looks scared of him.
- Several jokes involved Garfield lusting over female celebrities of the time, including a joke where Lyman points out to Jon the irony of a cat watching the The Mickey Mouse Club... only for Garfield's thought bubble to reveal he's interested in Annette Funicello. This particular gag was reused in the syndicated series, minus Lyman, but similar gags that namedropped Farah Fawcett were cut, making it a bit of an outlier.
- Garfield's teddy bear Pooky was originally named "Huggy".
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The June 17, 1976 strip saw Garfield answering a letter, and other strips may have had this as well.
- Hypocritical Humor: In one strip, Garfield reads a letter that involves violent methods of curing a cat's cold. He is disturbed and calls out the owner, before saying that the real way to cure the cold is to put a lit cherry bomb up the cat's nose.
- Look Behind You: In the March 24, 1977 strip, Lyman distracts Jon during a tennis game by telling him that Farah Fawcett in the nude is behind him.Jon: I should have seen right through it when he said "in the nude".
- Shout-Out: One strip has Garfield thinking about the movie Rocky. Then he decides to pose like a boxer.
- This Is My Human: In the first strip, Garfield describes Jon as "my cartoonist".
- Trademark Favorite Food: Garfield loves lasagna.