Monthly Archives: November 2013

Some Favorite Cats in Comic Strips

Comic strips first began in the 19th century in North America. They were part of the newspaper wars between Pulitzer and Hearst newspapers. As children, we used to wait in eager anticipation for the Sunday comics. They were in color and there were  snippets from all of our favorite comic book characters. Early comic strips were in black and white and several featured unforgettable felines.

One of the earliest cats to appear in a comic strip was Krazy Kat who first appeared in 1913 in a Hearst publication, the New York Evening Journal. Krazy Kat was created by George Herriman and was set in Herriman’s vacation home of Coconino County, Arizona. Krazy Kat was a naive, carefree, simpleminded cat of undetermined gender, referred to as “he” and “she” at different times. He/she was often seen singing and dancing about. Krazy Kat had an unrequited love for a mouse named Ignatz. Ignatz had given Krazy Kat his/her name and was constantly trying to throw bricks at the cat’s head. The crazy thing about this was that Krazy thought this meant that Ignatz was demonstrating his love by throwing bricks at him/her. Krazy called him “my l’il ainjul”. The dialect of the comic strip was a combination of English, French, Spanish, Yiddish and others.

The other main character was Offissa Bull Pupp who was always trying to stop Ignatz from throwing the bricks, and lock him in the county jail. It was a bitter rivalry that Krazy Kat in her guileless ways, was totally unaware of. Krazy assumed they were always playing a game of tag. “Ever times I see them two playing games togedda, Ignatz seems to be it.” The comic strip was last published in 1944.

Another famous cat was Felix the Cat. His name possibly came from the Latin “felis” (cat) and “felix” (lucky). Felix was a big screen cat before he became a comic strip in 1923. He was created as a comic strip by Otto Messmer.  Felix’s start on the big screen came in 1919 in “Feline Follies”.  He appeared as a cunning, communicative, big-eyed black cat who walked upright, always on the prowl for his own food and basic needs. At the time, people embraced him because they were tired of the silent stars. His thoughts could be read in bubbles on the screen.  He was full of curiosity and ready to help those in need. One of his film cartoons showed him pulling the beard and tufts of white hair off of a sleeping black man so he could exchange the “cotton” for a chicken dinner. He has the dinner but in the end, thoughtfully puts the “cotton” hair back on the man. (Unlike the personality of the next comic strip cat to be mentioned). Felix also had a television series in 1958 about Felix’s Magic Bag of Tricks and in the mid 1990’s, Tales of Felix the Cat. Otto Messmer’s Felix with his nephews Inky and Winky continue in various media to this day.

And then there’s Garfield. This orange, fuzzy tabby cat of Maine coon origin was born in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant; hence his love of pasta and lasagna. Garfield was created in 1978 by Jim Davis and was named after Jim’s grandfather, an obstinate old man. Garfield is owned by Jon Arbuckle and lives in a home with a dog named Odie. The original Garfield had a fourth character named Lyman who was Odie’s original owner. The reason for having Lyman was so that Jon could have someone to talk to. Later on, Davis realized he could give Garfield a non-verbal voice and Lyman was written out. That was when Jon adopted Odie.

Garfield lives in Muncie, Indiana, which is the home of Jim Davis. Garfield is a very lazy, pessimistic, sarcastic, scornful, obnoxious character with a compulsive eating habit. He hates Mondays, diets, and makes a point of tormenting Odie or being snide to Jon about his appearance or getting a date. (Though, now Jon is happily involved with Garfield’s veterinarian, Liz.) Garfield has a rare soft spot for his teddy bear Pooky and of course food and sleep.

Over the years since Garfield was first created, he has undergone some significant physical changes, unlike the other two comic strip characters mentioned before. He was originally quite overweight, had very squinty eyes and walked on all four legs. He also did not communicate his thoughts in a bubble. Now his body is slimmed down, his eyes are open wide and he walks on two legs. This helps him to see things such as food on the table and to be able to reach higher. And of course, make his sarcastic remarks.

Garfield was syndicated in roughly 2,580 newspapers and journals as of 2007.  It held the Guinness World Record for the most widely syndicated comic strip. It’s broad appeal among the population of fans is its lack of social or political satire. It is still going strong as a comic strip, film, and television entertainment.


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