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Garfield Minus Garfield by Dan Walsh

Essay and Interview by John Seven

“Garfield Minus Garfield” isn’t so much a creation as an uncreation — deconstruction — but who says Web comics can’t be that?
The idea here is simple — Dublin resident Dan Walsh takes “Garfield” strips and digitally fiddles with them so the rotund cat is no longer in the strip. With Garfield expunged from the proceedings, what we get are a series of absurd, bizarre single person ramblings by the strip’s resident human character, Jon Arbuckle. This noodling, as the Web site proudly proclaims, leads to “an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life.”

That really sums it up. Not that a comic strip about a guy who talks to his perpetually hungry cat displays a high level of mental health, but by stripping the dialog of the fantasy comedy figure, Walsh transforms Everyman into that guy on the street who talks to himself all the time and reveals normal life as a bit lonely and a bit psychotic.

The best part? “Garfield” creator Jim Davis loves it and says it helps him look at his strip a different way that he might not be able to without it. “Garfield Minus Garfield” is a valuable piece of pop art — and Dan Walsh has it all over Roy Lichtenstein, who labors by adding when he should be taking away.

Garfield Minus Garfield by Dan Walsh Garfield Minus Garfield by Dan Walsh Garfield Minus Garfield by Dan Walsh
Click a thumbnail to view comic.

Materials: Microsoft Paint

Interview with Dan Walsh:

Q: Why did you decide to do this?
A: The G-G idea had been floating around on message boards for a couple years before I started posting them, but as far I know I was the first person to create a site devoted to it. The idea just made me laugh out loud, so I started diving into the Garfield archives looking for suitable strips – the more depressing, the better. It’s a very addictive process, like scratching those lottery scratch cards a winning every time.

Q: What’s your process for each strip?
A: Once I’ve found a suitable strip I edit it using MS Paint (note – not Photoshop as is commonly reported!). MS Paint is perfect, I’ve tried lots of other programs but they tend to make the process harder. Mostly I clone the background of the image and paste it over Garfield – this works 90% of the time. Sometimes I have to redraw parts of Jon or the background, that can get a little time consuming.

Q: Does every strip make you laugh or do you get ones that don’t come together for you?
A: Most original Garfield strips just don’t work – you can remove Garfield but there’s no joke underneath. I’m careful about which strips I choose so generally they work straight off. Occasionally I’ll discard a strip if it’s just too difficult to rebuild with Garfield gone – that chair Jon sits in is a real tricky one.
It can also be difficult finding new material, I’ve gone through 6 months of Garfield strips sometimes and not found a single suitable strip.
Q: Have you tried this with any other comic strips?
A: I’ve looked around but there’s nothing that comes close to being as funny as the Garfield strips. It works because Garfield has never answered Jon in the first place – his replies are always thoughts. Also Jon comes out with the most astounding and depressing thoughts – it’s just normally Garfield is there to take the edge off. There’s no other strip that uses that dynamic.
Q: Are you ever afraid that Jim Davis will just wake up one day and stop including Garfield in his strips?
A: Sometimes that thought wakes me up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night…. But then again at least I might get a day off.

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