Monday, 17 August 2009

You Ain't Seen Me... Right?

A friend of mine who is more adept at exploring the furthest reaches of the internets than I told me about Garfield minus Garfield a while back. I liked it a lot but have been a bit obsessed with eggs lately and kept forgetting to pass it on. Anyway, here I am, stooped low with humility and ready to share the love.

Despite a vague dislike of cats I was a little obsessed with Jim Davis' Garfield cartoons when I was 11. I had all the pocket books and would spend many a maths lesson drawing pictures of Odie the dog with huge pools of drool all around him. For a while there I even wanted my own rubber chicken just like the eponymous hero. It didn't happen. Pretty soon I grew bored of Garfield and never returned. It's interesting that it leaves me so cold now - it's not like I grew up really. I still love lots of other things that I was into when I was a kid, especially Peanuts.

Thanks then to the people behind Garfield Minus Garfield for reviving my interest with the simple yet inspired idea of reprinting Garfield comic strips with all traces of said cat removed. Panels have been redrawn to eliminate Garfield and his thought bubbles from scenes, switching focus to his dorky owner, Jon Arbuckle.

We are left with an altogether darker strip, something the creators describe as a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb. Jon is seen musing aloud, talking to himself or ranting in his empty home with only the walls for company. One sided conversations abound, with Jon seemingly at a loss how to operate in the modern world. The result is a cross between Brad Pitt's psychiatric patient Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys and Max Cannon's Red Meat strips.

Naturally enough it begs the question who else would benefit from a similar treatment. Not wishing to get all politically correct about cartoon strips - especially in a week where the BBC announced a neutered Dennis the Menace sans pea-shooter, catapult and everything that made him fun (latent homophobia aside) but a new version of Reg Smyth's cloth cap wearing Andy Capp, with wife Flo surgically removed, could be brilliant.

Imagine the pathos of a drunken Andy coming home from the pub night after night to an empty house with only himself for company. Did Flo finally leave him? Did she die? It might not be as funny but you'd get something that bridges truth and art in a way that the original hasn't done since the seventies. If that's all a bit serious why not redo Pokemon without any of the the irritating creatures - then we'd all be happy.

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