A retrospective on the once popular spin-off webcomic ‘Garfield Minus Garfield’
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
You’ve heard of Jim Davis’ Garfield comics, now get ready for the spin-off version, Garfield Minus Garfield—a webcomic created by Dan Walsh. Walsh is a musician, artist, and technology manager from Dublin, Ireland. The webcomic is also sold as a book on Amazon.
The comic was especially popular in 2008. However, upon rediscovering it about two years ago, I’ve decided now may be the perfect time to introduce it to the new world. On the Garfield Minus Garfield website, there is a brief explanation behind the webcomic reading, “Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”
Frankly, there are a lot of existential and depressing comics of poor Jon. With COVID-19 and the resulting isolation, there is a great concern for everyone’s deteriorating mental health. So, with a community of sadness, I come to you with Jon, who may just be the saddest of us all—but at least we are not alone. The Garfield Minus Garfield comic even got the attention of original Garfield creator Jim Davis, who finds them fascinating. “Some of them really work, and some of them work better,” Davis said in a telephone interview with the New York Times.
Although many can surely relate to Jon’s depressive statements such as, “My life isn’t turning out how I planned. I wanted to accomplish something,” and “Do you ever get the feeling nobody cares about you?” and “I dread tomorrow,” there is still joy to be found in these odd comics.
A mix of anti-humour, deadpan comedy, and alternative; it is difficult to distinguish why exactly these comics are funny. Perhaps it is because they are all different in their comedic approach. The dark comedy present in the more depressive comics is relatively easy to distinguish. However, there is additional surreal and prop comedy in the lighter and almost nonsensical comics.
I believe the presence of the empty panels and the panels with no dialogue serve to give either a larger emphasis on the dialogue and expressions, or to give the reader more time to digest the joke. Both uses are powerful and not commonly used because it can be perceived as wasting valuable space—but that’s what Garfield Minus Garfield is all about. The absurdity of Jon, alone, embracing his depressive and schizophrenic tendencies is emphasized by the emptiness that may represent the unseen weight of Jon’s thoughts. Overall, there’s both humour and darkness to be found in these comics which can look pretty light at first glance. There’s also such little information in them that you could derive your own interpretation easily. However, they are quite a joy to read, regardless.