• Jim Davis loves Garfield Minus Garfield, even collaborating with the creator to publish a book.
  • The parody works by playing off the themes of Garfield and showing a different narrative.
  • Davis distinguishes between loving parody and theft of content, supporting the fan-created spinoff.

Even Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, approves of the spinoff phenomenon that is Garfield Minus Garfield. A webcomic created by Dan Walsh, Garfield Minus Garfield has managed to entertain the internet by adding a twist that manages to somehow make Garfield even darker (yet equally hilarious) than Jim Davis intended it to be. However, as it literally erases Davis’ existing work, he technically has every right to sue.

Thankfully, Jim Davis makes it clear in a YouTube interview with Heritage Auctions that he is a fan of Garfield Minus Garfield. In fact, he likes it so much that not only is he not suing, but he worked with Walsh to publish a book!

Jim Davis’ approval for such a unique spin on his original material showcases just how easily a piece of art can transcend into something new that can be just as effective despite being completely different. Garfield Minus Garfield manages to subvert the expectations of what Garfield offers while still embodying its spirit.

Jim Davis Loves Garfield Minus Garfield

He Has No Plans of Suing

When asked if there has been any satirized version of Garfield that has surprised or even startled him over the years, Jim Davis is quick to name-drop Garfield Minus Garfield as the most “gratifying” use of satire to come out of the Garfield name. Davis visibly takes a gleeful delight in the thought of how these comic strips help to illustrate all the more just how desperate and lonely the character of Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, is. Davis even jokes that the website that hosts Garfield Minus Garfield has more viewers than the official Garfield website.

Jim Davis then recalls his lawyers approaching him about whether he should take legal action against Walsh, to which he just laughed at them, responding, This is funny stuff… plus, it’s thought-provoking, and [the Garfield Minus Garfield creator is] a fan. That’s different. It’s not cruel. It’s not rude. It’s a fan.” Instead, Davis and his team opted to go to the web strip’s creator for a publishing contract. Together, Davis and Dan Walsh published Garfield Minus Garfield in book form.

What is Garfield Minus Garfield?

Why Does it Work?

Garfield Minus Garfield header photo

What’s old is new again through
Garfield Minus Garfield.

The concept of Garfield Minus Garfield is as self-explanatory as it gets. Debuting online in 2008 and running all the way until 2020, creator Dan Walsh took classic, pre-existing panels from Jim Davis’ Garfield series, and digitally removed the title character from each strip’s panel. The result, depending on perspective, is either an incredibly haunting portrait of a man in the middle of melancholic despair, or something just plain funny. Maybe it’s both, with the answer lying somewhere in the middle.

That’s exactly why Davis cites this as being so funny. The lack of Garfield makes Jon appear all the more desperate and lonely than he already is. If anything, it almost works as a role reversal. Garfield is usually the one who drones on and complains (usually about Mondays) but seeing Jon speak with no one else in the room or no one else to respond to him makes him the depressed one, drastically changing the usual narrative. What’s old is new again through Garfield Minus Garfield.

The Difference Between Loving Parody vs. Malicious Stealing

Why Jim Davis Not Suing is Important

Jon Tries Talking to Garfield

This more recent parody still manages to capture the themes of
and what makes it funny, even in altering the original material.

Jim Davis deciding not to sue Dan Walsh over Garfield Minus Garfield is not a fact that should be overlooked, especially considering his reasoning. So many other creators and companies (i.e. Disney, as Davis points out) would have gone the other route, but not Davis. It goes beyond Garfield Minus Garfield just being funny, and more in how he distinguishes between what is loving parody and what is the theft of content. The key word that Davis uses for Walsh is fan. “It’s a fan,” he says.

Typically, in art, it’s hard to find the thin line between the intent being loving or malicious. That intent becomes easier to conceptualize when it is evident there is an attempt made to capture the spirit of the original material while also paying respect to it. That’s exactly how Garfield Minus Garfield is presented. Davis’ co-signing is a testament to that. It’s also the same reason why so many Garfield fans have gravitated toward Garfield Minus Garfield. This more recent parody still manages to capture the themes of Garfield and what makes it funny, even in altering the original material.

Garfield Minus Garfield maintains the existential dread that has made many Garfield tales so great, but the terror is far more overt. Take, for example, Garfield‘s darkest comic where the disappearance of Jon and Odie forces Garfield to confront such feelings of terrifying loneliness head-on. Now, those feelings are ever-prevalent in Jon throughout Walsh’s modifications. Garfield Minus Garfield isn’t a shallow interpretation or even a carbon copy of Jim Davis’ works. It manages to strengthen the material it’s satirizing, or at least present it in a new way that maintains the original mission statement. That is what separates it from something worth suing.

Garfield Transcends Garfield Minus Garfield, Which Transcends Garfield

A Parody Becomes Official Merchandise

Garfield Minus Garfield, Jon says: "it's a shame that I don't have anybody else to hang out with."

Arguably the most fascinating thing about all of this is the merchandising aspect to this situation. As much as Garfield Minus Garfield transcends the original concept of Garfield, Garfield transcends Garfield Minus Garfield by twisting that property in a new way. What was originally a Garfield parody has now become a piece of Garfield merchandise through the publication of Garfield Minus Garfield as a book. That’s why Davis collaborating with Walsh instead of deciding to sue him made for the perfect compromise.

Turning Garfield Minus Garfield into a book featuring snippets that are newly created by Jim Davis officially places Garfield Minus Garfield into the lore of Garfield. It’s more than just a fan-made parody now, it’s practically bonus content or a spiritual sequel with Jim Davis’ involvement. In fact, one can argue that this collaboration places Garfield Minus Garfield under that highly exclusive umbrella of additional syndication. The fact that a parody can fall under the same category opens the door to larger conversations regarding fan creations alongside major studio properties. For now, though, the fact that Garfield creator Jim Davis has embraced Garfield Minus Garfield is a testament to the genius of Walsh’s webcomic.

Source: Heritage Auctions via YouTube


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