Sunday, April 6, 2008

Some Comic Relief...

Garfield is a strange creature.

And no, I am not talking about the cat himself, although it would be a little strange to see a bright orange cat (particularly one that's supposed to be overweight) walking around while speaking with you telepathically.

I'm talking about the comic itself, or at least it's popularity and tremendous money-making ability.

I'll admit, when I was but a lad, I was an Garfield reader. You could even describe me as avid. Every single day, I would eat breakfast, reading my comics, starting with Garfield.

I look back on those days, and I am ashamed.

Now, it's not just Garfield. If you take a good, hard look at it, about 95% of traditional comics are just plain awful, using tired gags and puns (God, puns!) instead of taking us further. Really, there's only a few print comics that I consider - at a mature age - to be good. The first is Calvin & Hobbes, which just goes beyond the realm of humor and into that of imagination and even social issues. The second would be Pearls Before Swine, which mixes simplistic drawings with occasionally dark humor (somewhat like a certain comic we all know and love). The third would be The Far Side for, well, obvious reasons.

With those - and a few more - exceptions, the rest is just drivel. (And in case you think I'm warming up to the webcomic crowd, keep this in mind: there are less than 10 different webcomics that I pay attention to on a regular basis. There are 3568 webcomics registered on the TopWebcomics database [where you can vote on comics daily]. That's about 0.28%. And that's just considering the number of comics registered. There are a sickeningly large amount more out there, and they're all horrid.)

...Where was I?

Right - Garfield! So, yeah, if you look at the collection of comics on the official website, you can see what I mean. The jokes are really lame, and often repetitive. Yes, you could say that a comic that's been around for 30 years is bound to repeat jokes. However, it almost seems repetitive on a monthly (or, to be fair, yearly) basis. Not a good sign. And apparently, the drawings aren't even done by Jim Davis himself. It's just a bunch of people that were hired to create the strip, so that Davis can take care of the merchandising. Sweet deal.

You: "So, Andrew, you're just going to sit here complaining about Garfield?"

Oh, of course not; that's just the introduction. I am actually here to give you some Garfield-based humor!

You: "Zuh?"

You see, there is humor to be found in the humorless. This was the whole idea behind the cult-hit TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and it's spiritual successor (of which I am a loyal follower) Rifftrax. (I may talk about them later.) In the comic world, this kind of heckling can be found in things like the Comics Curmudgeon. While not exclusively about Garfield, the Curmudgeon looks at exactly what is wrong with a number of American newspaper comics, and does so in a way that somehow makes them tolerably funny.

But there's even more when it comes to Garfield. By manipulating certain things about it, you can create something new and perhaps even great. It's almost like a Garfield-based culture, primarily made up of people who follow Garfield mainly because they dislike it. There are three examples I'll present.

The first is the Garfield Comic Randomizer. It was created by someone who noted that you can create a comic just as coherent and funny as a normal Garfield strip just by taking three completely random panels and slapping them together. Sometimes (and particularly because you can lock panels to keep them from randomizing) you can create some comics that are genuinely funny for some sick reason. Here's an example of one I made.In this, you can see that Garfield's wonderfully-planned day has just fallen apart because of his inability to keep his guilt at bay, caused primarily by an abusive relationship with his owner (my interpretation). This had me silent laughing for a minute or so. It just worked so perfectly (if you can make any good ones, be sure to post it in the comments).

The second thing I'll show is Garfield Minus Garfield. This was based on an observation that when you remove Garfield from the strip completely, leaving only Jon, it takes on an entirely new level, appearing to be a strip about, and I quote, "a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."

Here's a few samples, which makes you wonder why we don't have a comic devoted to a schizophrenic main character.

Similar to this idea is that of Realfield, in which the cartoon Garfield is replaced by a realistic-looking (and silent) cat. Unfortunately, there's only a few of those.

Finally, we have Lasagna Cat, which features videos. (In fact, it might be easiest just to go straight to their Youtube page.) Each video is comprised of three parts. The first part is a live-action reenactment of some Garfield strip (reinforcing the point of how lame they are, despite the canned-in laughter). The second part simply shows said strip. Finally, the third part is a music video (or, rather, a "tribute" to Jim Davis) which will usually feature parts of the previous clip shown to some real song. The production values are surprisingly good. And while there is a scant 27 episodes, there are definitely some gems amongst them. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The rest are definitely worth checking out, as well.

And that's about that. Really, I hope you'll forgive me for enjoying Garfield when I was but a lad (because you know you did too, people under 40!). Perhaps by the time my children are reading comics, they will be reading those which use intelligent humor, and which have lofty themes and ideas...

...or that are about schizophrenia. S'all good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that with the Realfield comic, I know a lot of cat owners that are like John.

-Comrade Chavez