Boy, did I ever love me some Garfield, back in the day. Had tons of the books, read them out loud to my mom (and good lord, must that have been painful for the poor woman), even had a Garfield board game that was completely based on chance. Between the cards, the dice, and the instructions on the game-board spaces, you were at the mercy of the fates with absolutely no strategic choices ever. I feel like I’ve never stopped playing it.

Even as a youngster, though, I suspected hackery on Jim Davis’s part (my first clue being the seriously gi-normous staff photo in the back of one of the collections). And this Slate article is a really interesting account of Davis’s genius marketing of mediocrity. “The model for Garfield was Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, but not the funny Peanuts of that strip’s early years. Rather, Davis wanted to mimic the sunny, humorless monotony of Peanuts’ twilight years. ‘After 50 years, Snoopy was still laying in that dog house, and rather than getting old, it actually has the opposite effect,’ Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times last year during the press blitz for Garfield‘s 25th anniversary. ‘It says to all of us, some things in life can be counted on, they’re consistent.'”

But via the evidently awesome folks at the Dinosaur Comics forums, humanity has found a way to extract the strip’s hilariously bleak, early-Peanuts soul from its syrupy Snoopy-and-Woodstock bog:

Shut the damn cat up.

He can’t even really talk – those are thought bubbles we’ve been reading. What’s left is the “real world” of Jon’s lonely, bipolar excesses, and it’s beyond wonderful.

These come from this thread, plus a few from this page, which predates the thread. And I can’t thank the contributors enough.