Syndicated comics have made several of history's best cartoon characters a home brand. The American canon is filled with memories of buying Snoopy lunch boxes, parents reading Calvin & Hobbes to their kids, and the more mischievous children snickering over Pearls Before Swine at the back of their library. However, if there's one comic that has really designed itself as not only a home brand but a leading franchise within its own right, that would be Jim Davis' Garfield.
Starting syndication in 1978, Garfield has lead a decades-long tirade in invading coffee mugs, car windows, animated cartoons, animated movies, and, most of all, people's hearts. If you ever got sick and tired of that one coworker also joking about "Mondays," thank Garfield and all his laziness and sarcasm. For comic readers new and old, here are a few of the lesser-known facts about everyone's favorite lasagna eating, puppy dog kicking, Monday hating, orange cat.
10 Garfield is a pretty old cat
Garfield has entertained kids and families across different generations, so it's easy to forget or miss entirely how old the strip is exactly. When reading a Garfield strip, one never really thinks how old Garfield is, and that may be for good reason. Garfield has gone through a few stylistic and background changes over its run, where the art style has dramatically changed and his cast of friends have been put through the revolving door. It would make sense to say that every childhood has their own Garfield with their own recurring gags and relationships. However, it's important to note that it's all the same cat and the same strip nonetheless, one that has been in circulation, as of this writing, for over 41 years. In 50 years, prepare to see your own grandchildren still reading Garfield.
9 Garfield has the world record for most syndicated comic strip
Peanuts' Charles Schulz is one of the highest-earning dead celebrities. Superman is the best selling graphic novel of all time. Off in the East, One Piece holds the record for most copies published. Sitting alongside them is Garfield, munching on some lasagna, holding the Guinness World Record for being the most syndicated comic strip. For those who don't know, syndication refers to different news publication purchasing a comic's license and publishing it in their own papers. As of 2002, Garfield had officially reached more homes than any of its predecessors, having been syndicated in 2,570 papers and reaching more than 263 million readers around the world.
8 Garfield's owner, Jon Arbuckle, is a cartoonist
On the first-ever comic strip of Garfield, Jon Arbuckle is shown working on a drafting table, working on his own comic strip. In the rest of Garfield's entirety, he is never shown doing so again. While the animated series would more consistently draw reference to Jon's cartooning career and the movies would directly highlight it, Jim Davis directly omitted Jon's career through his strips due to the fact that he didn't want it to get too close to the industry. In so many words, he didn't want it to be meta. If anything, Davis included Jon's career early on so that people wouldn't be asking about it later in the series, as many other comics didn't really show their adults with jobs. At the very least, Jim Davis gave Jon a reason to hate Mondays.
7 Odie's original owner was Jon's ex-roommate, Lyman
There have been a variety of different incarnations as to how Odie reached the Arbuckle home. Some continuities have just made him a regular part of the house, the same as Garfield, while others say that Liz is the one who gave Odie to Jon. However, very early in the strip's history, one can find Odie's original owner and an ex-central character to the Garfield world, Lyman. Originally coming to Jon in desperate need of some help getting back on his feet, Lyman would play the role of Jon's green-shirted, wacky roommate. Much to Garfield's own dismay, this also meant Lyman's dog, Odie, would be moving in, thus beginning the decade's long rivalry. Lyman, however, would not be getting the same treatment, as he would later be silently phased out of the strip, never to be seen again.
6 Garfield the Cat is named after Jim Davis' grandfather
Cartoonists often like to put a little bit of their own lives within their strips. Peanuts' Little Red-Haired Girl was an actual girl in Charles Schulz' life. Calvin & Hobbes' Susie Derkins is named after Bill Watterson's wife's family dog. Following this small tradition, Jim Davis named his central character after his grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis, who, funny enough, was also named after the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield. Garfield is part of a long line of people (in this case, also animals) of keeping the Garfield name strong, as there are also probably people out there who have named their own pets and even kids after their favorite comic strip.
5 Garfield is part of a strange, shared universe with Ghostbusters
Bill Murray and Lorenzo Music have both had the honors of playing Garfield the Cat and Ghostbuster's Peter Venkman. Bill Murray played Peter Venkman within the Ghostbusters movies, as well as Garfield in the live-action animated movies. Lorenzo Music would play Garfield in the animated specials from 1982 to 1991 and Garfield and Friends from 1998 to 1994, as well as Peter Venkman in the animated series The Real Ghostbusters.
This strange relationship would later be jokingly pointed out in the Rick and Morty episode, "Rixty Minutes," where Rick Sanchez pointed out the same relationship in the alternate world of Gazorpazorp, expanding the Garfield universe to even stranger places.
4 Jim Davis no longer draws the comic strip
While it may be disheartening to some fans and even a little bit disillusioning, Jim Davis is no longer directly involved in the drawing and production of Garfield, though he still maintains final say on all of his strips. There are some arguments that his decreased level of involvement may have affected the quality and integrity within the strips, but it makes sense nonetheless for Davis to move away after decades of work. The world of cartooning is a little more strenuous than some may think; and if one had the opportunity to retire a little early while still making a ton of money, who could blame them? This just means that future fans can still look forward to having their own Garfield comics.
3 Professor Garfield is helping kids struggling with dyslexia
Despite Jim Davis' decreased involvement with the strip, he's still using the Garfield name and his home company, Paw, Incorporated, to make a difference in the world. One of the biggest examples of that would be his non-profit collaboration with his alma mater, Ball State University, to create professorgarfield.org, an edutainment site dedicated to providing kids struggling with dyslexia and their teachers a fun learning aid to help battle illiteracy. "Professor Garfield" would become the face of different cartoons and games that would actively help kids of different needs learn to read.
2 Garfield has a sister series (and a long lost sibling)
While Jim Davis' more famous strip is, of course, Garfield, he had worked on a couple of other comics in his career. His early one being Gnorm Gnat, an early example of Davis incorporating his career sarcasm into cartoons but one that would be rejected due to the foreseen unpopularity of bugs. Davis would find a little more success with Garfield's sister series, US Acres, a strip depicting the misadventures of farm animals. US Acres would later be removed from the press, finding new homes in Garfield and Friends (US Acres being the friends) and the Garfield website, where it continues to see publication.
1 Garfield is essentially immortal thanks to Garfield: His 9 Lives
"Garfield: His 9 Lives" is a spinoff comic book and cartoon special that depicted Garfield in different art styles across different generations in time (hence "His 9 Lives"). The book and special would go on to be infamous for including one of the scarier interpretations within their making, as well as a variety of other, more fun stylizations. However, the bigger takeaway from them would be their conclusion, where Odie and Garfield use up their final life and come face to face with God, who grants them another 9 lives due to a computer mishap in heaven. Garfield and Odie graciously oblige, and it is later revealed that God is also a cat who mischievously remarks, "We have to stick together, you know." Let it be official that within the Garfield canon that there is a cat god seemingly granting Garfield an infinite amount of lives.