Back in June we celebrated the birthday of America’s most apathetic cartoon feline. Today is the birthday of that feline’s creator, Jim Davis. This Tuesday also happens to be National Lasagna Day – yes, it’s a real thing, because every delicious food now has its own holiday apparently – which just seems far too perfect to simply be a coincidence. Now, National Lasagna Day wasn’t yet a thing when Garfield strolled into the funny pages of newspapers in 1978 to remind us all just how truly terrible Mondays are, but there’s undoubtedly no better mascot for the celebration of lasagna.
So in honor of Jim Davis and his orange lasagna-loving cat, I’ve pulled a few interesting facts about how Davis got started in cartooning and his inspiration for how Garfield came to be.
He planned to be farmer before becoming a cartoonist. Given that he had a comic strip about farm life called U.S. Acres, it’s not at all surprising that Jim Davis knows a few things about agriculture. His father was a farmer in Indiana and Davis planned on following in his footsteps as a boy, but couldn’t work in the fields long because of severe asthma. He discovered his love of drawing during those days that he was stuck in bed.
“I loved farming but just couldn’t do it. I kept having asthma attacks. Being asthmatic, I spent a lot of time inside. TV wasn’t as prevalent in the 1950s, so my mom would shove paper and pencil in my hand to entertain me.”
1. His first job was an assistant on The Tumbleweeds comic strip. After graduating from Ball State University in Indiana, Davis landed his first professional job in illustration as an assistant on the western-themed comic strip the Tumbleweeds. Davis learned the ins and outs of putting together a daily strip during his stint on the strip from 1969-78 while also launching his own comic strip, Gnorm Gnat.
2. Davis had Gnorm killed because people don’t like bugs. Gnorm Gnat ran for several years in Indiana’s The Pendleton Times, but failed to catch on. After failing to sell the comic strip to other newspapers Davis took the advice of one editor who told him, “Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs—nobody can relate to bugs” to heart and ended the strip with Gnorm being stepped.
3. He once owned 25 cats. He only has one cat currently (Nermal) but at one time counted as many as 25 cats living on his farm when he was a child.