Garfield is one of the most popular comic strips in the world and in its 30-year run has spawned beloved animated specials and series, live-action and animated films, and tons of merchandise. However, the strip takes on a new life when the title character is removed in Garfield Minus Garfield. This collection of strips culled from the popular (and Jim Davis-approved) site garfieldminusgarfield.net is a fun example of addition by subtraction.
Fans (and non-fans) of Garfield have always found ways to tweak the strip. The Garfield Randomizer lets visitors create their own strips out of random panels. Images of strips with Garfield's thought bubbles removed or Garfield replaced by a silent, realistically-drawn cat have been circulating online for years. Dan Walsh, creator of Garfield Minus Garfield, went one step further by removing Garfield from the strip entirely.
Without Garfield's wisecracks, the focus is squarely on Jon, Garfield's perpetually single owner. While it's always been clear that Jon's a bit of a nerd, Garfield Minus Garfield really highlights Jon's lonely, strange, and sometimes sad life. The humor found in these modified strips comes from different places than your typical Garfield comic. Some strips have a dark, existential feel reminiscent of Stephan Pastis's Pearls Before Swine. Some have a randomness to them that let your imagination run wild. Some are hilarious simply because you immediately empathize with Jon's situation. There are also strips that feel more dramatic than funny.
Each page of Garfield Minus Garfield is arranged with the modified strip on top (in color) and the original strip on the bottom (in black and white). Seeing the modified and original strips together for the first time (only the modified strips are posted on the website) is quite an eyeopener. What you realize as you read them is that Garfield's appearance in the original strips actually hampers them. Garfield's thoughts make some of the strips seem mean-spirited and in others, he adds nothing to the proceedings but a punchline. Most of the strips in Garfield Minus Garfield come from the duller years of the comic and none of the original strips feature Odie or any other characters apart from Garfield and Jon. This is probably why removing Garfield works so well.