With news spreading over the past week or so that the web comic Garfield Minus Garfield will be finding its way onto bookshelves this fall (with the blessing of Garfield creator Jim Davis, who calls the project “an inspired thing to do,”) I figured that I’d take this opportunity to look through the online archives of Garfield Minus Garfield as well as a thread at the Truth and Beauty Bombs Forum which examined several ways to significantly improve an otherwise bland comic.
First, a look at some Garfield Minus Garfield strips:
In the event that the premise of the modified strip is not already apparent, it is described on its official web site as “a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” It’s further explained that Garfield is removed from the comic, “in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle.” That’s pretty spot on, and as you can see, the results are pretty damn hilarious.
But this phenomenon didn’t begin in early 2008, when garfieldminusgarfield.net appears to have started its archiving of the modified strips.
In fact, a little more than two years earlier, a thread on the Truth and Beauty Bombs forum began with the observation of poster MackJ, who wrote the following:
I don’t think I’m the only person to think this up, but I hypothesize that if you remove all the text of Garfield’s speech, or thoughts, or whatever that is, that it become an oddly surrealist comic.
Along with several examples, including these:
Soon, others got in on the act:
Ultimately, the thread took on a life of its own, with various posters suggesting further modifications of the strip. Ideas ranged from switching the word bubbles of each character to replacing Jon with Conan the Barbarian (most of these can still be found in the thread).
Eventually, the “obvious next step,” as poster Squidd put it, was taken with the complete removal of Garfield from the strip, leaving Jon alone with his thoughts. The question posed was whether this arrangement was more amusing/pathetic than a guy talking to his cat.
Personally, I like both of the recontextualized strips. As one might expect, I discovered the long-standing Truth and Beauty Bombs thread prior to G-G, seeing as how it is its senior by a couple of years. And if I had to choose between the two, I tend to favor the strip that portrays John as a crazy “cat lady” type character more than the one that portrays him as a lonely, depressed man. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love that one too. Both strips are often times painfully funny, which is more than can be said for most of the original strips that have been altered.
Still, to answer Squidd’s question (many, many months after it was posed), in my opinion, a man talking to his cat is more pathetic than a man talking to nobody at all.
And to accentuate that point one final time, I submit the work of kachingo, who by making a few tweaks to this original strip, created the following masterpiece that really swings the “pathetic argument” in favor of the silent cat.: