How to Read Garfield

Hi Mom & Dad,

When I chose this week's topic, I thought it'd be fun (well, interesting) to explore an alternative approach to something otherwise considered mundane. But then, as I was writing it, I realized how depressing it is. I apologize in advance for ruining your morning.

Every good kid goes through a stage where they're consumed by the funny pages, diving for the page at the back of the sports section, or in the middle of the classifieds, reading three-paneled strips they think understand. I would always run to one of you and shove the funnies in your face, humbly bragging that I understood something intended for grownups, cackling my best fake laugh as you read the strip and pretended to be equally amused. "That Cathy," you'd say. "Always up to something."

Garfield was not one of my favorites. Jokes about Mondays and binge eating didn't really resonate with me when I was eight, though I did enjoy the strips where he warred with spiders or played jokes on poor Odie, the dimwitted dog.

By the end of 1989, Jim Davis, Garfield's creator, had been writing the comic for 11 years. In the week leading up to Halloween that year, he published a six-day-long series portraying Garfield as having awoken to an unfamiliar reality, disoriented, alone, and starving, his home in shambles. Like anyone who's toiled over the same project for a decade, it's likely Davis became bored and decided to change the tempo a bit... or perhaps he finally decided to reveal Garfield's true reality, the dark side of the normally light-hearted comic.

Note: The following copyrighted images are displayed as part of a commentary on a subject for which words alone are not adequate. They are intentionally shown here in low resolution. For easier viewing, links to hi-res versions are provided.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

This was the Sunday strip that ran the next day. As you can see, things returned to “normal.”

Copyright 1989 Paws Inc. Click here for a higher resolution version.

No one knows conclusively how the brain reacts as death's grip tightens, but many who have had near-death experiences claim that time seemed to come to a halt and their lives flashed before their eyes, years of loving memories crammed into an instant. It has been theorized that, when Garfield debuted in 1978, we were not reading a funny comic about a lazy cat in an ideal suburban setting, but rather a depressing look into the hallucinations of an abandoned, dying orange cat, his resources depleted, hours or minutes from death. Over a series of six strips, he awakens briefly, only to become distraught upon realizing the hopelessness of his plight, and to suffer a nervous breakdown. Scared and desperate, he grasps at his only comfort, utter denial, and mercifully descends back into an idylic hallucinogenic state, where his mind will remain until his heart ceases to beat due to starvation or hypothermia.

As of today (August 22, 2015), Garfield may still be alone, huddled in a corner, shivering and severely malnourished, his mind filled with vivid memories of better times, or the lucid dreams of his deepest desires. When Jim Davis publishes the final Garfield strip, it will, perhaps, be Garfield's final hallucination, one last warm thought before he finally succumbs to eternal silence.

Sorry to be a downer.

Your loving son,
Bran

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