On the 19th June 1978, the Garfield comic strip was first published. It has since grown to hold the Guinness World Record for the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip, being printed in just under 2,600 newspapers around the world.
Garfield was created by Jim Davis, a cartoonist who began working for an advertising agency before developing his own comic strip. Having failed to gain a syndication deal with his first comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, about a group of insects, he turned to his experience of growing up on a farm with 25 cats to develop the Garfield strip.
Part of Garfield’s broad international appeal is that it focuses on ordinary household situations without turning to political or social commentary. Garfield’s pessimistic and often cruel treatment of his owner, Jon, and pet dog, Odie, is also a popular feature of the cartoons.
The popularity of Garfield has led it to become much more than simply a comic strip. Paws, Inc., the company founded by Jim Davis in 1981 to manage the Garfield brand, generated merchandise revenue of $15 million in its first year. Subsequent growth of Garfield to include television series, video games, and even two motion pictures, has led to merchandise sales of up to $1 billion by the early 2000s.
Davis continues to work on Garfield as a writer and continues to draw rough sketches of new comic strips, although his primary role is to supervise production of the cartoons by a large team of 50 artists who are responsible for inking and colouring the completed frames.