A mass robbery has just come to light. The perpetrator is popular cartoonist Jim Davis, and the victim is everyone alive. For long ago in the 1980s, we as a society, we who work so hard for so little, were this close to a campy Cujo-style “splattercore” horror film adaptation of the comic strip Garfield.
Okay, maybe not that close. Recently on Twitter, artist and writer Rob Sheridan (known for his many collaborations with Nine Inch Nails) shared a fictional poster of a supposed unproduced horror film, “Garfield: First Blood.” According to a hilarious follow-up blog post, part of Sheridan’s narrative art series, the film would have been pitched in 1984 as the next “killer pet” sensation, after Stephen King’s Cujo.
Sheridan’s alter ego, “Ron Sharleton” (gotta love that pun), a “grindhouse auteur” fresh off set of “Cannibal Quarterback 2,” was tapped to direct the film. In this alternate timeline, Sharleton went as far producing a proof-of-concept trailer in which Garfield kills his rival, the dog Odie, in a fit of rage and experiences his first taste of blood. The trailer culminates in Garfield running his owner’s love interest, Liz Wilson, through a meat grinder, baking her into a lasagna, and serving it to Jon.
While the whole post is a campy bit of fun, it also offers a thought-provoking take on the ethos of cartoon, which Jim Davis has staunchly described as apolitical. Where most readers see a comical, lazy cat who is always operating at a low-level annoyance, Sheridan/Sharleton sees a complete rejection of society’s expectations.
“You have this cat who is filled with contempt,” he says. “He looks at the world around him with radical skepticism and scowls at the prison of tedium mankind calls ‘society,’ and he responds with this very self-indulgent nihilism: Be lazy, be a glutton, don’t participate in anything because it’s all bullshit.
“Garfield looks at Jon waking up early on a Monday and putting on his tie to go to a job he hates, and he sees a pathetic fool. It’s all such a powerful rejection of the Reagan Wall Street capitalist disease that has poisoned the 80s. ‘Work hard, climb the ladder, buy a boat!’ Garfield says fuck that, stay home, eat lasagna, accept no master.”
While the 1980s Garfield horror movie pitch may have never existed, it’s not so inconceivable that it could these days. We are, after all, living in a post The Mean One and Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey world. You might even argue that Sheridan’s take on Garfield is even more relevant now than it ever would have been back then. In this age of corrupt politicians scapegoating queer minorities, give us the nihilist cat. Give us Garfield: Second Blood and Third Blood and The Final Chapter and Garfield Lives Again and Garfield vs Hobbes.