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EXCLUSIVE: Nickel Visits Garfield's Many Incarnations In "9 Lives"

They say cats have nine lives, and in Garfield's case, this fact has been officially documented. The orange feline's creator Jim Davis chronicled the previous incarnations in 1984 with an illustrated book called "Garfield: His 9 Lives." The collection, which featured the likes of Cave Cat, Sam Spayed and Space Cat, proved so popular that it became the source material for not one, but two animated specials: The first, hour-long special, that shared its name with the book, and the half-hour "Garfield Babes and Bullets," which focused on Sam Spayed. Now, thanks to the ongoing KaBOOM! series, the stories continue, beginning with "Garfield" #33 and stretching on through #36.

Series writer Scott Nickel will handle the four part look at Garfield's past, along with regular artist Andy Hirsch and a creative roster that includes Roger Langridge, Frazer Irving, David DeGrand, Kari Smith, Yehudi Mercado, Brittney Williams and Genevieve FT.

CBR News spoke with Nickel about the special issue, breaking down who will draw each segment while taking an first look at sketches from many of the artists. Nickel also discussed the process of working with so many talented people and where the idea came from to once again explore Garfield's many lives.

CBR News: How does it feel to be picking up this Garfield story and taking it in new directions?

Scott Nickel: We've been stretching the character a bit in the back-up stories with various guest artists, but taking Garfield through his nine lives has really allowed us to play with the fat cat's reality -- just as Jim Davis did in the original book and TV special in the 1980s. 

How did you decide to return to "His 9 Lives?" What made this the right idea to come back around to?

Team BOOM! actually suggested it. We'd done "Pet Force," and were looking for another special storyline for Garfield. It's a perfect fit for the comic book. I'd like to thank Rebecca Taylor and Chris Rosa for all their hard work putting this together, and Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon for going along with the insanity. We couldn't ask for better creative partners.

What was the process like, gathering this impressive roster of artists?

Chris Rosa has an amazing super power: finding excellent artists. He contacted the individual creators, and I'm thrilled at the incredible talent he's brought to the party. Each artist is also providing a variant cover and they're awesome!

Can you tell readers which artists will be working on the various incarnations?

I'd worked with David DeGrand on the "Lasagna Monster" stories and thought he'd be perfect for "Cave Cat." Andy Hirsch was a big fan of "Sam Spayed" and asked to draw that story. Brittney Williams' retro superhero [style] made her the natural choice for "Super-Cat." "Pirate Cat" and "Lab Cat" seemed tailor-made for Roger Langridge and Frazer Irving, respectively. Genevieve FT has drawn several Garfield stories, so we were thrilled to get her for "Space Cat," and rising stars Kari Smith and Yuri Mercado took on "King Cat" and "Cowboy Cat."

You're working with so many different artists on these issues. Did you tailor your scripts for each one individually, or did your approach remain fairly consistent?

I was working pretty far ahead on the scripts so we'd have everything ready for the artists once we'd nailed down the roster. On some of the stories, I knew who the artist was going to be, and on others I wasn't sure as we hadn't finalized everything. But I did try to write to each artist's strengths when I could. Fortunately, the talent we've assembled can handle any zany thing we throw at them.

Can you give us a breakdown of which versions of Garfield will appear in which issues?

Sure. The lives are presented chronologically: in Issue #33 we have Cave Cat and King Cat. Next, Pirate Cat and Cowboy Cat in #34, Super-Cat and Sam Spayed in #35 and Lab Cat and Space Cat in #36. Garfield's current incarnation is his eighth life, and he introduces each story with a one-page set-up, drawn by series artist, Dandy Andy Hirsch.

What can you tell us about the stories in the kick-off issue, "Garfield" #33?

The first issue of the arc chronicles Garfield's first two lives. In the beginning, there was Cave Cat, a prehistoric kitty who loves to eat and sleep... and sleep... and sleep. We also introduce Cave Jon and Cave Vito, who invents lasagna and pizza. Shenanigans ensue when Big Bob shows up, a giant green dinosaur who looks a lot like Odie.

Garfield's second life is a big step up from living in a cave. As Gar-Ho-Tep, the fat cat is the new ruler of ancient Egypt when his master, the Pharaoh, dies unexpectedly. In between gorging on lasagna pyramids and tuna sphinxes, Gar-Ho-Tep must battle the evil Vizier, who uses a sacred scarab to summon powerful dark forces against King Cat.

Were there aspects of these other versions of Garfield you were able to get into that aren't as accessible for the modern day feline?

No matter what life he's living, Garfield is always Garfield -- feisty, fun-loving and full of mischief. But we were able to stretch the character quite a bit, especially in Lab Cat. Jim Davis gave us a great blueprint with the original "9 Lives" of just how far out we could go, and I hope fans will enjoy seeing the various incarnations that take Garfield from the Stone Age to the stars. 

To see the return of the fat cat's past selves, check out "Garfield" #33 on Jan. 7 from writer Scott Nickel, artists Andy Hirsch, David DeGrand, Kari Smith and BOOM! Studios.

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