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Ladies and gentlemen, Garfield and friends!

Garfield snacks with his good friend, Pookie.

Everyone's favorite fat cat, Garfield has, in his lifetime, gone from simple cartoon strip to global phenomenon. Everyone knows Garfield, he's as recognizable as Santa Claus or Superman, and it's possible to find his face on almost any item imaginable. So it seemed only fitting that this installment of the "Ode to a Comic Strip" series should be dedicated to The Mighty Fat One.

Garfield was created by cartoonist Jim Davis in the 1970s and was first published in 1978. Since then, the comic strip has become the Guiness Book of World Records holder of the "most syndicated comic strip" title with the strip being published in more than 2,000 newspapers, successfully achieving Davis' original goal to "come up with a good, marketable character."

When Jim Davis was first cartooning, he had a strip known as Gnorm Gnat which was met with little success. Even though people found Davis' art and writing very good and very funny, they found they couldn't relate very well to a bug. Enter Garfield, whom Davis has said is named for his grandfather, who also served as the model for Garfield's personality. Originally a more common-appearing house cat, Garfield soon evolved into the cat we know today when he began to walk on his hind legs and "slimmed down" a bit.

The three main characters today are, of course, Garfield, Jon Arbuckle (Garfield's hopelessly geeky owner) and Odie the dog. Originally there was a fourth main character, Lyman, who was Odie's first owner and who existed to give Jon someone to talk to until Davis realized that Garfield and Jon could still communicate even though Garfield didn't talk. Lyman soon disappeared. Also appearing are Nermal, the self-proclaimed "cutest kitten in the world;" Dr. Liz Wilson, Garfield's vet and long-time object of Jon's (until recently) unrequited affection; and Arlene, Garfield's favorite girlfriend.

While often a "gag-a-day" type strip, Garfield does sometimes have one to two week spans where there will be a continuing story or a group of related strips. For example, if you've been following Garfield this week in the Burlington Free Press or any other local paper, you'll notice that the story of the week this week involves Jon trying to figure out the game of Sudoku.

Garfield is huge in more ways than one. He's a multi-media sensation earning up to $1 million in merchandising every year. His face and those of the supporting cast have appeared on more products than is possible to list. He's everywhere, an American icon. Everyone has a fond Garfield related memory whether it's watching the hit series Garfield and Friends as a child, or reading the strips daily or owning a Garfield toy. And really, who amongst us doesn't have a little Garfield in them? Who hasn't woken up on a Monday morning after a great weekend and uttered some of Garfield's favorite words "I hate Mondays."? He's one of the most relatable characters in all of Comicdom. So, if you haven't checked out a Garfield strip lately, go out and pick up a paper and have yourself a laugh.


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