Today is the birthday of our favorite lasagna-lovin’ orange cat, Garfield! In celebration of this, we asked Garfield creator Jim Davis a few questions about Garfield, Garfield on Zazzle, and the universe in general. See below for the interview and be sure to check out the Zazzle Garfield store for all your Garfield t-shirts, Garfield mugs, Garfield keychains, Garfield mousepads, and more!
Zazzle: How did you get the idea for Garfield?
Jim Davis: My mom dropped me on my head when I was a baby, and that set the wheels in motion for me to become a cartoonist. Seriously, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist from the time I was a kid, and I was lucky enough to serve as an assistant to Tumbleweeds creator Tom Ryan. While working with Tom, I developed several of my own strips, one about a bug named Gnorm Gnat. I thought Gnorm was strong enough to be syndicated so I started sending my work to syndicates across the country. Comic’s editors at the syndicates thought there was something there, but bugs? Who can relate to bugs? So I took a long look at the comics pages and noticed there were a lot of dogs doing quite well. There was Snoopy, Belvedere, and Marmaduke – but no cats! So I took my memories of all the cats I remembered from my childhood home – on a country farm it’s not unusual to have dozens of cats – and I combined those traits with those of my grandfather, James Garfield Davis, and Voila! Garfield was born.
Zazzle: What is your favorite thing about drawing Garfield?
Jim Davis: He still makes me laugh. In my mind’s eye, I conjure him up and see what he’s up to. I’ll create a situation and see how he reacts. That’s how I come up with most of the comic strip ideas. I guess that’s the best thing about drawing Garfield — he still surprises me.
Zazzle: Is Jon based on anyone you know and why is he so unlucky when he dates?
Jim Davis: Jon is me more than any other character in the strip. I was a dork in college; I had trouble dating; I’m wishy-washy; I’m basically just a simple guy.
Zazzle: What impact has technology and the internet had on the strip?
Jim Davis: I love technology and computers and of course, the Internet. Great tools. As far as the strip goes, we still draw and ink it by hand. The only change is that we color it in the computer, and send it electronically rather than by a freight service. In terms of the humor of the strip, Garfield is also a big fan of the Internet. It’s the essence of laziness in a way — everything comes to you and you don’t have to get out of your chair.
Zazzle: What does having a Zazzle store mean for fans of the strip?
Jim Davis: The Garfield Comics and More Store on Zazzle is the first time we’ve offered affordable products that can be customized and personalized using the comic strip and comic art as the theme. I think secretly we’d all be happy to see our names show up in a comic strip, so the Garfield Comics and more store offers something totally unique and special to the Garfield fan.
Zazzle: What is your favorite feature from Zazzle in the Garfield store?
Jim Davis: Putting someone’s name in the strip. I’ve been dropping names of my friend and family into the strip as an inside joke for years. People just go crazy when they see their name in the newspaper. I get a big kick out of it — now, thanks to Zazzle’s personalization services, anyone can add a name.