Ethan Switch - Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Armistice Day commemorates the signing of the armistice to end World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. We know it as Remembrance Day here in Australia. Veterans Day in the United States. And we remember the fallen as part of National Stupid Day in the world of Garfield's spider folk. The latter designation due cause for a kerfuffle in 2010 when the comic strip ran into a wall of churned material at the wrong date.
Garfield delivers the news
The punch line here rides on the nudge to disrupt the idea that the comic strip is a studio production and no longer a single creator done work.
Imbroglio at the gates
The unfortunate timing of the strip's content brings up much in the way of arms and controversy. Or at least reports of reports of purported reaction.
John Raughter, a spokesman for the Indianapolis-based American Legion, looked at the strip and Davis' statement after the cartoon was brought to his attention by a reporter. He said an apology wasn't necessary. "We have no reason to doubt his explanation of what happened," Raughter said.
Never mind having to dig through a letters column for any actual quoted outrage on the matter. And a civilian at that.
This cartoon is a horrible insult to all of the brave men and women who fought for our freedoms. For Jim Davis to call it National Stupid Day and mock soldiers by comparing them to spiders is inexcusable.
Maybe Mr. Davis' excuse is that he didn't intend to associate it with Veterans Day. That is no excuse. If he is so ignorant about the men and women who fought for his freedom, he doesn't deserve to be paid to be published. Please remove this strip from the comics page.
And readers, and people who are read to, did cry foul of the ill-timed strip. Or at least themselves pointed out why veterans should be insulted and what the date of 11/11 actually holds for a nation that only knows about a day of note when their banks are closed. Or that Garfield is still in print.
The footprint lays waste with the apology that comes right on its heels. The actual outcries from groups and quoted individuals, merely cat dander.
At first it's just a comic strip that falls flat for the insensitivity and inability to read a calendar. Looking closer, a sly method to bring a wayward creation back to roost under its creator's hand.
The creator and his ghosts
It's 1978 and Jim Davis creates a lardy lasagna-loving cat to build a franchise on. The years wear on, Jon Arbuckle loses more of his face and dignity, and the property bankrolls itself to make a tidy sum and name for Davis. The merchandise, animated series, movies and all sorts of Garfield plasters itself to more than car windows. The fat cat becomes an industry unto itself.
And the daily strip? Still by Jim Davis. Or so the signature would have you believe.
Garfield as a hull for ghost artists and gag writers is nothing new. The notion starts as far back as 1981. Even earlier if you can throw a date on the corkboard of strings and pins. There, after running to the hilt on merchandising, licensing and creative au jus, Davis put himself out to pasture. Now, the milking of boy cat teats of his greatest and most lucrative creation lies in the hands of others to make butter.
The years go on and the offhand remarks of Garfield being ghosted continue as accepted. Especially after the 1996 article, "Taking Care of the Cat: A look inside Paws, Inc., And at the People Who Bring You Garfield". A profile of the parent company published in issue 9 of Cartoonist and Comic Artists Magazine.
Jim oversees the direction of his characters and company, making decisions and dreaming ideas, while his employees execute his plans. His one constant involvement is with the comic strip as its main creative force. He co-writes and roughs each episode before passing it along to a team of assistants who produce the finished version
Dead will rise to schedule
Lead times vary, and it's the buffer between the final touch and seeing it in print. Build up enough bank and you can skirt away on a vacation or much needed respite while the inventory takes your place at the desk.
Regarding today's Garfield comic strip, it was written almost a year ago and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today—of all days.
All's good if you know how to line it up properly. And here's where Davis goofed. Or at least as Davis would cop to in the scheme of things.
Distance. We love distance. Until it takes us too far from ownership. And then we want to snuggle it up, and hug it and kiss it and love it forever (and never use it up). And how do you take ownership of a wandering property in one fell swoop? Kick the dead and stand on the graves.
Gaffe goes good
The day arrives. The strip drops. The rumbles begin and shackles rankled.
Let fly the whispers of outrage and disgust. Stepping it up, Jim Davis is front and centre to pick up the pieces of publicity and calm the storming teacup. Davis, a cunning man with a cunning plan lays out a deft blow against the notion that he has long since passed on the creative duties and responsibilities of the daily strip. To ghosts, to other artists and certainly to other writers.
Staging a gaffe such as calling out Veterans Day as a pointless celebration of in military conquest/defeat, there couldn't be anyone else to push the blame on lest the opportunity to seize the corpse withers in the flash of spectacle.
When it hit the fan, Davis put the sword to his lack of calendar planning. Not seeing or remembering the significance of the date is a careful sharp shot.
Dear Friends, Fans, and Veterans:
In what has to be the worst timing ever, the strip that runs in today's paper seems to be making a statement about Veterans Day. It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance.
Regarding today's Garfield comic strip, it was written almost a year ago and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today — of all days. I do not use a calendar that lists holidays and other notable days, so when this strip was put in the queue, I had no idea it would run on Veteran's Day. What are the odds? You can bet I'll have a calendar that lists EVERYTHING by my side in the future.
My brother Dave served in Vietnam. My son James is a Marine who has had two tours of duty, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. You'd have to go a long way to find someone who was more proud and grateful for what our Veterans have done for all of us.
Please accept my sincere apologies for any offense today's Garfield may have created. It was unintentional and regrettable.
When the paediatrician staples your kid's toe to the chair, it's to divert their attention away from the vaccination shot. Same thing when you shiv someone on their left to pick their wallet from the right. The distraction pulls your attention away from where the magic happens. It's all over with sleight of hand and shooting the audience with skin and sparkle.
Generating and then claiming responsibility for the faux pas resorbs the ownership and creative facade of the creator still creating.
Not being able to see 11-11 as Veterans Day suggests less an oversight on Jim Davis' part and more a wilful plan to misdirect from all the speculation and theories of Garfield no longer being drawn or written by its creator.
Deception well-played. It's a cluey misdirection that brings both a flutter of attention to the strip, the practises of churning them out and a creator back to once again own his creation.
By Ethan Switch
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