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In Dog Years, I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25: 12/04/11

cover art

In Dog Years, I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25 by Jim Davis is a history of the Garfield comic strip as well as a biography of the man who created it, Jim Davis.

The Garfield comic strip debuted two months and a bit before my fifth birthday. At the time I was busy moving from my toddlerhood home to the house that would become my childhood home. My mother was also remarrying and I had fittings for the flower girl dress I would be wearing.

So by the time we were settled as a new family in our new house, Garfield was a part of our new evening routine. See back in those days there were two news papers, a morning and an evening edition. We always got the evening edition. I would sit on the floor after dinner and read the comics. My favorites were: Garfield, Spider-man, Beetle Bailey, Peanuts and For Better or Worse (which debuted a year later).

By the time I was ten, Garfield had transformed into his current shape (more or less). He was thinner, could stand up right, and had those ridiculously big feet. By that time as well, I was a complete and utter fanatic. I was otaku for Garfield. I had Garfield sheets, pillow cases, comforter, and towels. I made my own Garfield throw pillow. Later I even had a coffee mug (not that I drank coffee back then) and a telephone (which went with me to college).

So a couple months ago when I was in mid project chaos I spotted a copy of In Dog Years, I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25 by Jim Davis. Now if you're counting, Garfield turned 25 in 2003. But it was a new to me book and I've since become a fan of Garfield Minus Garfield, a strip now maintained by Dan Walsh, but a concept not created by him (as he notes in all his interviews). So Garfield, though out of sight, wasn't out of mind.

The book starts with the time line of Garfield's creation and how the cat has changed over the years. It talks about characters who have come and gone and what their original plans in the strip were and how those changed as the strip evolved. Later sections are devoted to the business behind the strip, the merchandizing and of course all those other fans out there.

The book being eight years old is an interesting time capsule of the Garfield comic strip. It's incomplete, of course, and the last chapter with its predictions for the future isn't spot on but it's eye opening. If anything the book suffers a bit too much from Garfield marketing. It really feels like a puff piece about the strip, which I suppose it is. It would be interesting to see the same history written by a neutral third party.

Three stars.

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