The first in a new series of all-aged graphic novel adaptations of the current French-produced Cartoon Network series, Garfield & Co: Fish to Fry (Papercutz) features three comic retellings of cartoons utilizing screen captures from the original computer generated animated art. The results proved decidedly mixed for this reader, though young viewers who primarily know the fat cat from his current cartoon series may not feel the same sense of cognitive dissonance as those who came to the character via his funkier pen-and-ink incarnation.
Still, transferring screen captures onto a page and adding word balloons doesn’t address all the storytelling needs that basic comic book art can. Animation expresses much of its characters’ emotions through movement and sound, after all; comics artists have to pull in other visual tools to suggest these missing elements (more dynamic panel composition, for instance). Placing screen captures on the page, no matter how interestingly you cut the panels, can’t help but flatten the players.
Art aside, the three six- to nine-page adaptations in Fish are amusing and make for good early reading materials, though most older readers will most likely find ‘em pretty disposable. The title piece, arguably the weakest, puts our feline Falstaff in a dream sequence after owner Jon’s girlfriend brings her pet fish over to the house: a dubious decision at best, which makes you wonder if the lady vet even likes her fish. The strongest entry (originally credited to long Garfield cartoon scribe Mark Evanier, though it’s unclear if he had a hand in the comic book version) concerns Garfield’s rivalry with the arrogantly cute kitten Nermal, who holds our hero’s teddy bear hostage so the cat’ll be nice to Nermal for a day. Of all the stories, “Nice to Nermal” works best because it’s most attuned to the foibles of its cast.
As a comic character, Garfield is primarily known by the sum of his deadly sins — gluttony, sloth, envy — which may be a key to the kitty’s enduring success over the years (that and the aggressive marketing of creator Jim Davis and his cohorts). Papercutz’s new series may not place Gar and company in their best format, but I suspect that plenty of fans will want to take a peek anyway.