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No. 1218: Garfield Retelling Clarified

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Garfield Retelling Clarified

First | Previous | 2012-09-18 | Next | Latest

Strip by: DanielBT

Okay, this is going to sound complicated, so bear with me here.

You know about Garfield, right? Fat tabby cat, loves sleeping and lasagna, hates spiders and Mondays? Of course you do. Unless you've been living in a cave, you must've seen some of the merchandise while going past a store or something.

Well, the comic strip'd been going on autopilot for so long that it'd become something of a joke itself. It no longer reached the same lofty heights it once did at the peak of its popularity. What someone found out was that if Garfield's thought balloons were removed, you would have a lonely man talking to his cat. Somebody took the concept further and removed Garfield completely so you were left with a crazy man talking into empty air. This led to the foundation of Garfield Minus Garfield, a website that although it thrived on plagiarism, still received the support of Jim Davis, Garfield's creator.

Got all that?

Later, a website on mezzacotta, which hosted various comics, such as Comments on a Postcard and Lightning Made of Owls, started hosting various remixed Garfield comics three times a week. This was something different from a similar experiment involving a Garfield generator which selected three Garfield strips at random to create an entirely new strip. These strips were simple Photoshop manipulations that didn't rely on shocking profanity strips commonly found on SomethingAwful forums. It took its cue from the aforementioned Garfield Minus Garfield site and took the mantle of Square Root of Minus Garfield.

Their early strips were modest at first, with variations of the Minus theme, or mathematical theories. Eventually, the number of contributions became so large that they increased their output to 7 days a week, but that's not important right now.

One of their first submissions was a retelling of a Garfield comic where Jon was in his striped jammies at the breakfast table with bugged-out eyes, a glowing head, pointy stuck-up hair with faint flumes of smoke drifting off of them, and in the punchline panel, Jon mentioned that "I think the toaster has a short", to which Garfield snarkily responded, "So now all of a sudden you're an electrician?"

Pretty sub-standard fare right? Only, this mainly text-dependant description started telling the joke, leaving out the major details of Jon's facial expression until the very end, when it would've made more sense to mention it from the start. The end result was a bad joke told badly that was funny because of how lousy the execution was.

You with me so far? Good. Because this is where things start to get tricky.

A later contribution started describing the previous text-dependant description in a similar way of giving redundant information, such as what comics were, and paid more attention on making note of how the previous text description had separate descending paragraphs making an elaborate visual pattern across the page, giving the empty space some use. He also goes into some confusion on how the comic could've been better explained, since it was being written on a computer, and needed some proofreading or editing, which is kinda ironic if you think about it. This text was saying how confusing and misleading the former description was, when the later longer description of said description was just as amusingly confounding.

It then went into a digression of President Garfield, some trepidation over Jon's relationship with Garfield, and being unsure of whether the punchline was some kind of private joke that only electricians could understand. This is understandable, given the numerous Dilbert comics involving office politics that only people in the workplace can really appreciate that the rest of the populace don't comprehend or find funny.

Now, pay attention because this is where things start getting complicated.

At the end of the previous re-retelling, written by Xyzzy, a challenge was issued to try to describe his already long description. This wouldn't happen until two years later. In a freak coincidence, two separate contributors decided to take him up on the sadistic challenge, with two completely different results.

The first re-re-retelling started with a hesitant description of the basic nature of the Internet for anybody who wouldn't be aware of such a thing, which would've come in handy when it was still in its infancy in the 1970s. He then went further into wary comments about the familiar nature of comics, and wondering if anybody was aware that these things existed. Having placed this shaky foundation down, he then tried to interweave the two concepts together in a way that would make sense for anyone encountering such a thing blindly, because webcomics is such a foreign notion that defies explanation.

He then focused on describing the guy's writing the description of the former re-retelling, saying that it wasn't very clear, oftentimes losing his train of thought, very much in an ADHD manner. He even mistook President Garfield for being an electrician, which goes to show how confusing these retellings were getting, and how much information was getting lost in the transaction. It's very much like a Telephone game, only longer. No wonder he needed to take a break at the end - that wall of infotext datadump would severely drain me too.

The second re-re-retelling focused on Xyzzy's mistaken analysis of the comic itself, and even went so far as to decry Xyzzy for getting certain facts wrong, and got into over-analysis mode of the number of panels in a typical Garfield strip. (With various exceptions, the general average is usually three panels for the dailies) Further criticism went to Xyzzy's lack of familiarity with Garfield, and insulted him for making obvious spelling mistakes, which he attributed to his computer spell-checking programs.

Only after the penultimate paragraph does the actual comic itself get described and the mundane events that transpired actually get described does the re-re-reteller bring out the big guns and starts laying it out on Xyzzy for calling Garfield a "dude" and Jon an electrician. Then the assumption of the strip being aimed at electricians; and Xyzzy's neighbour belonging in that profession is brought up. Even though the end is mentioned, there's still one last sentence to come.

On a final note, he dramatically... dares... anybody... to... describe... his!

Phew!

You understand all that? Good. Explain it to me.

The author writes:

Rather than make another text-heavy "comic" that would've gone on for ages, I thought it would be funnier to go in a completely different direction from everybody else who would try to describe either of the new re-re-retellings by having a text-based explanation help clear up any confusion about the increasingly incoherent descriptions.

Though really, to understand the main joke, you just need to look at the 7th paragraph. It can't be made any clearer.

Original Garfield strip: 2007-09-05.

Original Square Root of Minus Garfield strips: #44, #101, #1162, #1163.