By now, you may have come across a real gem of a Web site — Garfield Minus Garfield. The premise: show Garfield cartoons without any of the talking animals. The result: A creepy bachelor talking to himself, which is a necessary and oft-ignored background element for the Garfield mythos. As the site puts it:
“Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.”
I’m kind of jazzed that this stuff is sweeping around the Internet — this whole piece is really brilliant, and I don’t have to belabor it so much as just point you in the right direction and ask you to leave a comment in the forums.
But as great as “Garfield Minus Garfield” is, I don’t think it holds a candle to Lasagna Cat, which I dare to say is the best use of the Internet as a medium I’ve seen since homestarrunner.com perfected the flash cartoon. Video after the jump.
The premise: Shoot an individual Garfield comic strip, frame for frame. Be very faithful – treat the comic like a storyboard. Then make a brief music video inspired by the video you’ve just made.
Notice how the background color and swash is adjusted to match the frames of the comic. That’s attention to detail, friends. The result: You-tube videos that are kooky, offbeat, viral, watchable and also bring artistic merit and compelling ideas along for the ride.
What is it about Garfield that invites these projects? I say it’s discovering verfremdungseffekt — making the familiar strange. Garfield is very familiar to all of us who grew up with him, but apparently we weren’t reading the strips very closely, because they’re really not that funny at all, and they’re kind of disturbing, too boot (not even mentioning the by now sort-of-famous Is Garfield Dead? week of creepy strips).
This isn’t that surprising, because most newspaper comic strips are joyless and weird, catering as they do more to our desperate fear of change than to precepts of humor and to the maddening challenge of, as the lasagna cat site puts, it, “the burden of making the entire world laugh everyday” (not to mention a large readership among senior citizens). And a crushing burden it is. Just actually try to read The Family Circus sometime.
But to become critical observers of Garfield and understand, we first need to make Garfield strange — we need to get past the cute, familiar talking cat and dog that makes this into consumable entertainment. Both above explorations of Garfield do this, although I admire more the exploration that keeps the strip intact and envokes the alienation effect by switching the medium with uncharacteristic precision before embarking on deconstructive montage a little more than the alienation that just explodes the narrative from the get-go to get at one of the characters. Although I kinda don’t want to pick one — they’re both great.
But yeah, why does the ‘net suddenly care about these? I think people like Garfield and remember him fondly and are legitimately surprised when they’re shown how weird it can get.
Okay, I’ve got to show one more (I could watch these videos all night, if there were more of them) — this is one of my favorites:
Please, please go to the Website or Youtube channel and give these a try — even if you don’t like these two, the variation in style is so broad — there is so much awesome stuff in these videos — that I can almost guarantee you’ll find something you like.
I don’t often come out with full-on endorsements on Overthinking It. I tend to be more critical and snarky than that. But Lasagna Cat definitely gets my stamp of “Actually Good” approval.