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The cartoon with a serious cattitude.

Byline: By Lisa Salmon

He's fat, lazy, selfish and rude and would much rather pig out than work out. So what is it that we love so much about Garfield? The appeal of the flabby tabby in the cartoon strips is neatly summed up by his creator, Jim Davis, who says we relate to Garfield because he is one of us: "He's a human in a cat suit."

And that appeal is enduring - for the creature who put the cat in catnap celebrates his 25th anniversary tomorrow.

Numerous celebrations have been organised in Garfield's US homeland to mark the quarter-century of the cat who is known for curt one-liners such as "Diet is `die' with a t", "I'll rise, but I won't shine" and "I'm not overweight, I'm undertall."

The long-lasting popularity of the cat who hates Mondays but loves lasagne is perhaps summed up in the title of his new book, Garfield at 25: In Dog Years I'd be Dead.

But he's far from dead, and is in fact the subject of the fastest-growing and most widely syndicated comic strip ever.

He first showed his fat face on June 19, 1978, appearing in 41 newspapers. Today, the strip is featured in over 2,570 newspapers and is read daily by 263 million people around the world.

It's not a bad career history for a cat with so many bad points - but then, his bad points are a big part of why we love him.

Jim Davis says: "Garfield is a lazy, fat, self-indulgent cat who thinks he's a human. He's wry and quick-witted and makes no apologies for himself. If he were a human, he'd be despicable. Somehow, though, he's loveable."

Jim, a father-of-three who has his own cat, Spunky - "he's nothing like Garfield, thank goodness" - believes his feline creation's strength lies in the fact he spends his life doing things that we'd all like to do more of the time.

"Everyone can relate to Garfield in some way, because most of the humour is about eating or sleeping: something we all do," he explains. "Also, he's a pet and most people can relate to the pet/owner relationship. It's funny.

"Look at what humans put up with - shredded furniture, broken lamps, chewed-up shoes. It's a comical situation. Pets get away with murder."

And so, of course, does Garfield, whose name and personality are loosely based on Jim's grandfather, James Garfield Davis.

The feline Garfield spends his life poking fun at his faithful, but very stupid, dog friend, Odie, and being kept in the manner to which he is accustomed by his decent but dull owner, the eternally exasperated Jon.

Jim says he has no particular plans to introduce more characters into Garfield's life - there are already several who make appearances from time to time, such as Jon's love-interest, Liz the vet, members of Jon's family like grandma, and Garfield's on-off girlfriend, Arlene.

Garfield himself has changed physically over the years, getting bigger eyes, a more rounded figure and longer legs.

However, his distinctive personality has not been touched by time.

"I think Garfield is more appealing graphically now than he was in 1978, and even though his looks changed, his personality did not," says Jim. "He's still fat, lazy, selfish, and interested in his own creature comforts."

Obsessed as he is with his own self-interest, catnapping and eating, one can't help feeling that Garfield might be just the tiniest bit impressed by the celebrations that will mark his 25th anniversary.

They include a three-day-long celebration in his hometown of Muncie, Indiana, a Caribbean cruise for 200 of his biggest fans, a book tour for Jim and even the production of a new Garfield movie.

The 20th Century Fox film, which is directed by Peter Hewitt and will star Jennifer Love Hewitt as Jon's love interest, Liz, is currently being filmed and is scheduled for release next year.

After 25 years of unprecedented success, what is Garfield's future likely to be?

Jim says: "I hope it goes on. I intend to teach my grandkids to draw Garfield as soon as they can hold on to a pencil." But he adds that for the next 25 years: "Garfield says he'd like to start taking it a little easier""
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 18, 2003
Words:708
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