Saturday, January 28, 2006

Is Garfield the new Nancy?

This Garfield Randomizer (pointed out by Tom Spurgeon) is yet another step in the dada-ization of Jim Davis' most popular creation.

Random Created Non-Garfield Strip, 2006

Just like Ted Mills' far more terrifying Farfield ("The strip's Beckettian terror is fully realized", by replacing the lead character with a real, non-speaking cat), which at the time made me contemporaneously scream of angst and of joy, the randomizer takes the strips and somehow gives them new significance simply by exposing their underlying emptiness.

"Farfield", Ted Mills, 2004

These games reminded me in a way of Scott McCloud's classic Five Card Nancy game, with some obvious differences.

Five Card Nancy - Example (2004-2006)

While each Nancy strip is a perfect object, with each of its parts representing a complete and absolute idea and their recombination thus still comprehensible as a comic -and a good one at that-,
While Five Card Nancy's rules explicitly require panels from Ernie Bushmiller's artistic peak ("Only prime Ernie Bushmiller Nancy strips will do, say from 1946 onward" -S. McCloud),

Jim Davis' Garfield has become, over the years, in its progressive multiplication of merchandising variations and general ubiquity, a completely superfluous comic strip which in no moment requires a meaning to be inserted into its total nor its parts.
Jim Davis' Garfield has been apocryphal for the past fifteen or so years, produced as it is by a team of ghost-writers and ghost-pencillers.

Could this be a sign of how popular culture has evolved over the past fifty-or-so years? I can only wonder.
It's interesting, however, that Garfield is the specific target of constant decontestualizing manouvres: artistic, satyrical or otherwise. As culturally irrelevant as it may have become, it suddenly acquires interest as an idea of non-art.

Which makes it even more appropriate that i... Well, that's a story for another day.
Stay tuned.

Disclaimer: i grew up with early Garfield strips, and still find them not-so-bad. They're not Peanuts, but they're still readable. Nothing against them. And the cartoons weren't bad either.