Garfield made its debut in newspapers on June 19, 1978. To celebrate his birthday, here is a look at the dark and fuzzy underbelly of America’s favorite comic strip cat.
- Garfield creator Jim Davis didn’t stumble into success – he very carefully made his own success. He’d wanted to be a cartoonist, but after majoring in art and business in college, he worked in advertising and noticed that the real money was in licensing the character for use in merchandise. The most marketable and licensed comic strip character at the time was Snoopy, a dog. Davis reasoned that there should be a loveable cat character, too.
- Garfield debuted in 41 newspapers in 1978. Today, it appears in 2,600 newspapers with a readership of 260 million. That means about 4 percent of the world’s population reads Garfield on a regular basis.
- But more in line with Davis’s aims, Garfield merchandise brings in $750 million to $1 billion a year.
- In 1981, Davis created a company called Paws specifically to handle the licensing of Garfield stuff. Three years into the comic’s run, Davis says he was spending about 15 percent of his time making the strip, and the other 85 percent handling the licensing. It’s a pattern still in place today—Davis offers up rough ideas or sketches and a team of cartoonists make them into the actual strips.
- One of the most famous pieces of Garfield merchandise is a stuffed version of the orange cat with suction cups on its legs, stuck in a car window. This was a massive fad in the mid-1980s. They were so popular that major cities reported thousands of car break-ins, with the suction-cup Garfield the only thing stolen.
- While Garfield may love lasagna most of all, there’s a Garfield Pizza Café in Malaysia.
- Why did Bill Murray voice Garfield in the 2004 Garfield movie? Confusion. He told Reddit in 2014 that he “looked at the screenplay and it said ‘Joel Cohen’ on it.” Murray thought that meant Joel Coen, one of the Coehn brothers responsible for Fargo and No Country For Old Men. Joel Cohen wrote Garfield, along with Daddy Day Camp and Monster Mash: The Movie.
- Garfield’s birthday is June 19, 1978. If he were a real cat, he’d be almost 37 years old…and about 18 years past his maximum lifespan.