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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Book Review: "Garfield Minus Garfield"
From the outset, Garfield Minus Garfield seems like an odd choice for a book. The year-old webcomic based around the concept of the complete removal of Garfield from Jon Arbuckle's life represents some of the most creative extremes of independent online thought. In fact, the practice dates back to message board collaboration (such as this) started years before Dan Walsh created a site around it and started getting famous.
In fact, I created this one long before Walsh's site debuted, during the "remove Garfield's dialogue" phase of the idea:
The concept of removing Garfield and his dialogue from the strip is, in a way, a sublime criticism of a fairly bland, obvious comic strip. "Garfield" has the makings of a fine comic within it, but all-too-often overdoes the punchline by giving Garfield some vapid one-liner. Removing him altogether improves the humor immeasurably, making it relevant and surreal, and drawing attention to Jon's neurosis and misery:
So one would wonder: what could be the appeal of a book based on a webcomic created by somebody who appropriated a great idea from a bunch of nobodies, a book which is published by the same group which publishes Garfield books and even gives Jim Davis a chance to participate in what should be a condemnation of his own work? Yes, one would wonder that.
But now I have the book, and it is glorious.
Whatever the genesis of the underlying idea, the one behind Garfield Minus Garfield is a great one, and having so many of these comics reproduced in book form is extremely satisfying. It's easy enough to ignore the original Garfield comics printed alongside the minus versions above (smaller and sans color) that they don't become distracting. I would have liked to see two columns of Garfield-free comics instead, as they're funnier without their context, but the book's appeal remains untainted.
And allowing Jim Davis twenty pages near the end to try his own minus comics serves as a wonderful condemnation of his own strip, even better than if he had rejected the idea and tried to have the site shut down. Because he completely misunderstands the point, ignoring the wonderous non sequiturs and darker punchlines the format provides by selecting strips that already have a fully-formed Jon joke. Jim Davis appears fully convinced that removing Garfield merely underscores Jon's loneliness, rather than improving the pacing and subtlety of the comic. Poor guy. But I recommend the book.
Garfield Minus Garfield
A full explanation of the concept with links
Dilbert mashups bring in the fun