Garfield: Fish to Fry and The Curse of the Cat People (Papercutz)

Screencaps from the latest animated incarnation of comicdom’s best known tubby tabby get transformed into a pair of comic books that can be summed up in two little words.


32 pgs. full color; $7.99
(W: Peter Berts, Mark Evanier, Baptiste Heidrich, Julien Monthiel, Julien Magnat, Mathilde Maraninchi, Antonin Poiree, Christophe Poujol; A: Ellipsanime, Dargaud Media; Adapted by Cedric Michiels)
Don’t bother.* | Gabe Bullard
*That’s the whole review, but I want to explain myself. When I volunteered to review new Garfield books, I promised myself I wouldn’t pan them. As a fan of newspaper comics, I always thought criticisms of Garfield missed the point. No matter how it began, Garfield is a commercial enterprise. Everything about Garfield, from the comic strip to those suction-cup window toys, has been designed to make money. It’s the complete melding of art and commerce, and when those two concepts are combined, commerce doesn’t always win. The 1984 book Garfield: His Nine Lives was ostensibly meant as a companion piece to make money off the popularity of the newspaper strip, but the book has real merit. Jim Davis and the other writers and artists behind it deserve credit for not taking the safest possible route, despite the fact that the safest possible route has always been a direct path to the bank for Garfield. Further, the week of comic strips where Garfield nearly died is truly bizarre. (Bonus question: If those strips are taken as canon, does that mean every subsequent Garfield adventure has been a bizarre dream had by a dying cat?)
But these new Garfield books cross a line. They’re too much. They’re just a jumble of laziness and poor translation. First, the translation: The Garfield Show is a CGI television program developed in France. It was later imported to America, where it’s overseen by supervising producer Mark Evanier, who worked on the Garfield and Friends cartoon show. The new books from Papercutz are replications of the French cartoon. By replications, I mean they’re collections of single CGI frames, laid out in panels and covered in word balloons. So it’s double translated, first from French to English, then from television to print. But the latter translation is the most troubling. It’s not even a translation. It’s a copy and paste. The people who made these books don’t seem to realize they’re working with two different visual lexicons. There are moments where nothing makes sense because we can’t see movement or hear vocal inflections. Plus, the CGI looks creepy when it’s standing still. Jon Arbuckle’s bulging eyes look dead and soulless. In the last few years, CGI technology has advanced far enough for even the most low-budget animation to look at least a little lively. But that’s not the case with individual frames. Everything just hangs there like bad photos. Papercutz and Paws Inc. have forced television into print and the final product retains the magic of neither. One form doesn’t work as something else. Garfield has always been about making money off of a single idea, but this latest attempt is the laziest yet. I guess I broke my promise on this one.
Click here to read The Garfield Show comics, courtesy of Papercutz.

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