Derivative, Yet ….

Is the Main Character Missing? Maybe Not. (pdf)

When Dan Walsh, a 33-year-old technology manager in Dublin, started posting doctored versions of the comic strip “Garfield” on his blog in February, he thought he might amuse a few friends.

Instead, his site on Tumblr started receiving as many as 300,000 hits a day from the United States and beyond. More recently it has leveled off to 30,000 to 35,000 a day, which is not bad for a site whose content takes about five minutes to create.

Mr. Walsh does nothing to the panels except strip away Garfield and other characters — like Odie the dog and Nermal the kitten — to create a new, even lonelier atmosphere for Jon Arbuckle, the main human. Without the cutesy thought-bubbles of his lasagna-loving cat, Jon’s observations seem to teeter between existential crisis and deep despair.

[…] Jim Davis, the cartoonist who created “Garfield,” calls himself an occasional reader of the site, which he calls “fascinating.” He says he is flattered rather than peeved by the imitation.

[…] Mr. Davis, who has been drawing Garfield for 30 years, said that “Garfield Minus Garfield” has actually prompted him to take a different look at his own work. He compared Mr. Walsh’s efforts to the cerebral approach of Pogo, the comic strip by Walt Kelly.

“I think it’s the body of work that makes me laugh — the more you read of these strips, the funnier it gets,” Mr. Davis said. As for Garfield himself, “this makes a compelling argument that maybe he doesn’t need to be there. Less is more.”

The site:

And a much earlier article from the WaPo: When the Cat’s Away, Neurosis Is on Display (pdf)