Not everything out of Jim Davis's head makes sense. There were several Garfield strips I found confusing as a kid, and they're just as confusing now. The first one came from the very first week. From that alone, it was established that:

Garfield is a sarcastic lazy glutton;
Jon is a cartoonist (for now);
Garfield hates to eat mice except if they're rubber;
Happiness is a warm television set;
and Jon eats cat meat. Wait, WHA??

What else could a Catburger be? There are very few things that Garfield won't eat and if "catburger" was slang for something more acceptable, he wouldn't be making that face. It's nothing other than a slab of cooked CAT. Jim Davis wrote it, he signed it, and he was not surrounded with fifty co-workers yet to share the blame. It's CANON, folks. This was a fact hammered down in the very first week: Jon eats cats.

What kind of righteous American EATS CATS? In FRONT OF a cat? Worse yet, it looks like Jon's just having the patty; I see no buns there. He prefers his cats without carbs.

This is the strip that introduces Odie. Garfield's reaction instantly baffled me and it still does. When I read "Oh Lawsey, Lawsey, Lawsey," and had no idea what or who a Lawsey was, I figured "oh well, I'm sure I'll know what this means when I get older." Well, now I'm older. And I still don't know what a Lawsey is.

Did Garfield just say he loves Mondays? I chalked this up to being written before his hatred of Mondays was a theme, but further research into the books proved me wrong. Garf said "I hate Mondays" at least five times before this strip was written.

What is a "hassock"? And given the context it's being put in, do I even want to know?

Another strip used the word "hassock" and revealed it's a rural term for "ottoman." Garfield is just giving this girl permission to scratch his own furniture, which, given how territorial cats are, is pretty generous of him. Or he could just actually be into masochism.

....Or maybe this strip means something else.

"Guido and Fluffy." "Guido and Fluffy." "Guido and Fluffy." No, I've never heard of it. Have you heard of a TV show called "Guido and Fluffy"? Was it one of those mixed-race cop programs with a funky 70's theme song?

Apparently it was really bad, because Guido is so offended about being reminded of the similarity, he's threatening to murder Garfield over it.

What's the punchline? Was this a Kaufmanesque joke on the newspaper readers instead? Garfield often speaks of doing nothing but sleeping, but you never see him in the act.

Actually it makes a LOT more sense in the book collection: the Tuesday strip shows Garfield waking up and thinking "You know it's Monday when you wake up and it's Tuesday." It was a two-parter, but nothing in Strip 1 indicated that. What a baffling thing that must have been to wake up to.

Bizarre indeed, especially since this is something no old woman has ever actually said. There is no such thing as a machine powered by wood. Wood isn't like coal -- it doesn't generate energy! What does Davis know that I don't? Or what does he think he knows that he got wrong? He reused this "wood-burning cats" line for the Garfield Christmas special, and reused it again in a later book's gag page by showing a "Wood-burning Dog." He thought it was a riot, but I don't get it.

This is another one I thought would make more sense once I got to college. It doesn't.

Now I'm more convinced than ever Davis made all those quotes up. I can't identify the people he's mentioning due to the generic last names like "Holmes" and "James." Plus, the observations make no sense. "Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum." Er, if you say so, Davis--I mean, Holmes.

For a strip that most people consider anti-intellectual fluff, Garfield pondered the meaning of life a lot in the early years. I think he nailed it when he said, "Life is like a Porsche. It goes too fast, but that's okay, because you can't afford it anyway."

I get what Davis was trying to do with this one, but....it tries too hard and falls flat. The sudden change in speech is too abrupt and different, and it flies against the other five Aunt Gussie strips that ran before this one. In addition, I'm not sure what Denny's Pogo Pit is. My first thought was that it's a bar, but then again, they don't give dancing lessons at a bar. What is Denny's Pogo Pit for and why is it called that? Do people go there to read Pogo strips? Do they come to bounce on Pogo sticks? What?

You know what the problem is this time? GARFIELD ISN'T A TALKING CAT.

Sure, there are times when Jon can oddly hear his thoughts because logic has to be stretched to reach a punchline, but most of the time, Garfield can't be heard. Since he can't talk there's no irony here, and thus, no joke. Oh well.

I've never heard of bones "knitting" outside of Garfield, but he said it several times in the strip and again on the TV special "Garfield in Paradise." What does it mean when bones "knit"? The act of knitting would be very hard with bones. I can't picture it.

And of course, we can't leave without discussing these.

I first saw this sequence in the papers and I thought it was great. Many, many years later, when it became hip to read Garfield with a cynical attitude toward it, this story gained sudden popularity, because it suggested that in 1989 Garfield fell through a wormhole in his sleep and wound up in the future, where he remains to this day.

An entire cyber-movement centered around the belief that every Garfield strip since October 29, 1989 actually takes place in the beat-up house, and inside Garfield's imagination, while he slowly starves to death lonely and alone. Instantly, a strip that held no appeal to emos suddenly became a must-read for them.

When Jim Davis heard this rumor he laughed his head off, and said on the record the sequence was in Garfield's head, not the reality, and that's what the incoherent "imagination paragraph" was about at the end. The thing itself suggests otherwise, though. In retrospect he didn't make it clear enough what's going on. He said one Halloween for a change of pace he wanted to actually scare people, and being alone is a big part of fear.

Davis has never denied Jon eats cat meat, though.

 

ATTENTION

I've gotten enough E-mails about this page that I feel I have to spell it out: this is a page that poses QUESTIONS, not one that gives ANSWERS. You have made it all too clear to me by now that Holmes and James are people, that the Pogo is a kind of punk dance and that "Lawsey" is a rustic substitute for "Lordy." That's all well and good but none of it is funny.

RETURN TO THE MAIN PAGE

Don't get me wrong about Garfield. The strip may be notorious for the commercial crassness that surrounded it, but looking through the old books again, I got a surprising amount of jollies. These old chestnuts still have it, and so does the cat's brilliant TV show. After the 18,005th lasagna joke it gets irritating, sure, but there was a time when it all was fresher. If you ever disagree, it means that you are wrong.