A sly cat is about to join the imaginative dog at KABOOM!, BOOM! Studios’ kid-friendly imprint. Following on the publisher’s recent success with “Peanuts,” based on the beloved Charles Schulz comic strip and authorized by the artist’s estate, this May BOOM! will launch “Garfield,” an ongoing series starring cartoonist Jim Davis’ famous feline. The series comes with impeccable pedigree, as well — Mark Evanier, who was heavily involved in both “Garfield” cartoon series, is on board to write, while “Garfield” comic strip artist Gary Barker handles the illustrations.
“Garfield” debuted as a daily strip in 1978, introducing the world to a fat, orange cat whose primary interests include napping, eating full trays of lasagna and commenting upon the quirks of his hapless owner Jon Arbuckle and the blissfully ignorant dog Odie. The comic has gone on to become the most-syndicated newspaper strip in the world and the strips have been collected in a variety of formats. The original series, beginning with “Garfield at Large” and numbered in the subtitle, has now reached its 53rd volume.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Mark Evanier about the upcoming “Garfield” series from KABOOM!, the character’s unique humor, and more.
CBR News: Mark, this is far from your first time writing Garfield — you wrote most of the first cartoon series and are a producer for the current one. For both the comics and cartoons, what does it take to translate the three- or four-panel humor of “Garfield” into a longer story?
Mark Evanier: More hard disk space. That’s really it. I find the character enormously funny, and the more pages I have to work with, the more we can do with him. On the old “Garfield & Friends” show, a Garfield cartoon was around 7 minutes. On the current “Garfield Show,” a cartoon is 11 minutes. For the forthcoming season, we did some four-parters which therefore run 44 minutes. I never really felt a difference.
I understand Jim Davis hand-chose you for this project, based on that previous “Garfield” work. What has your working relationship with him been like?
Couldn’t be better. Along with being a fine cartoonist, Jim’s a good manager of his awesome little empire. He knows when to leave people alone and when to intervene. I’ve worked for a lot of people who couldn’t tell the difference.
You have a long career writing comedy for both television and comics, including, of course, your ongoing collaboration with Sergio Aragones on “Groo.” What, in particular, about Garfield do you feel has made him such an enduring character?
Garfield embodies qualities that we all see in so many people around us — and too often in ourselves. He’s lazy. He overeats. He’s enormously self-obsessed. Everyone either identifies with him or with all the other folks in his world who have to put up with him.
As far as story goes, will each of the issues be self-contained, or will you be building some longer story arcs?
At the moment, we’re planning on two self-contained stories per issue.
Is there anything you can tell us about what Garfield will be getting up to in the first issue or first couple issues?
If I knew, I’d tell you, but I literally start writing #1 as soon as I finish this interview. I have a hunch it’ll have something to do with eating lasagna or sleeping. Or both. Most likely, both.
The artist on the comic is Gary Barker, who also illustrates the “Garfield” strip. How does having him on board help in launching a series like this?
Well, you couldn’t have a better guy at the drawing board. I’ve known Gary for years and we’ve always wanted to work together on something.
Does his particular style and understanding of Garfield influence how you write your stories?
Sure. You know, writing for Garfield at all is like writing for a star comedian. I’ve written for a few and it’s a challenge to produce something worthy of them. So there’s that factor in writing for Garfield to which you add the comfort level of knowing we have a terrific artist. I’ve worked in comics with a lot of terrific artists, too. Working with Gary on “Garfield,” I have the best of both worlds. In fact, it’s a little intimidating.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the new “Garfield” comic?
Just that buying it will bring about world peace, fix the U.S. economy and cure male pattern baldness. But no, I don’t want to engage in any sort of hard sell.