The comic strip Garfield has always been a funny staple of newspaper comics sections, but one notable experiment has given the series a dark makeover. Garfield Minus Garfield is a webcomic created by Dan Walsh that edits Garfield strips by creator Jim Davis that removes the titular cat and his commentary from the strips. This often leaves Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, alone and talking to himself.
The changes are always unforgettable, and often for the darkest possible reasons. Many strips present Jon as lonely, downbeat and quite sad. Of all the Garfield Minus Garfield strips, the following 15 stand out as some of the darkest to ever be created.
15 “Where’s Garfield?“
One of the simplest Garfield Minus Garfield strips simply shows Jon trying to enjoy a cup of coffee before looking around and asking “Where’s Garfield?”. Ordinarily, readers would wonder what sort of mischief the lasagna-loving cat would be getting into. But in the context of these edits, Jon’s thoughts become a bit more alarming. Is Jon slowly realizing that Garfield isn’t real or is he desperately trying to cling to the fantasy that his cat is still around?
14 Cat Hair
Garfield was known for always disrupting Jon’s own food time while making unbelievable demands for his own cuisine. But here, Jon’s meal isn’t interrupted by anything other than the thought a cat hair could be in his food. However, there is no Garfield, making Jon’s intense search not only pointless but quite disturbing. The fervor with which he scans his food makes it seems like he’s trying to find some evidence that Garfield is real.
13 “I Have Fleas!“
In the original Garfield comic strips, Jon was always ready to get on Garfield’s case for his slovenliness. With the iconic feline removed, however, Jon has no one to get mad at over the state of his house other than himself. And somehow, in spite of having no visible pets in sight, he’s managed to get fleas. It makes one wonder just what Jon has been doing to actually get such a perturbing infestation.
While Garfield and Jon’s relationship could sometimes be contentious, the comic strip usually presented Jon as his own worst enemy. Nothing shows that better than this Garfield Minus Garfield strip that sees the man as somehow bound by scotch tape. It suggests that Jon is out of his mind with boredom and trying to find something to occupy his time. But based on whatever project he was attempting here, it’s clearly not going well.
11 “…Then I Fail“
Without Garfield’s humorous commentary, many of these edited strips take on a much darker tone than the original. Here, Jon is talking to himself, assuring that he always tries his hardest at whatever he sets out to do, though he contends it usually ends with failure. Garfield is usually presented as a counter to Jon who eggs on his negative side. But here, that negativity comes from within, revealing how self-critical Jon is.
10 “What Do I Do It For?“
Many Garfield Minus Garfield’s minor edits turn a silly little comic strip into a dark examination of Jon Arbuckle. In this strip, he’s standing around asking “What do I do it for?”. Of course, fans know that the original Jon does it for his pets. But without Garfield, who is Jon? What drives him as a person? What is it that keeps him going beyond making sure the things that rely on him are content?
9 “It’s a Shame“
While there’s a certain humor that can be found in removing Garfield, eliminating him completely reveals just how barren Jon’s life is. Here he contemplates how rough it is not having someone to spend time with, with the following panels simply showing empty space. Jon does have his girlfriend Liz, but more often than not, he’s only ever seen associating with his pets. Taking them away practically destroys the only things in Jon’s world.
Jon Arbuckle isn’t the most confident or self-assured character in comic strips. But here, he doesn’t even need the empty, judgmental look of Garfield to erode his self-esteem. Jon’s affirmation that he isn’t a loser slowly begins to degrade into an admittance of how much of a loser he actually is. He can’t help but tear himself down, even when there’s no one there egging him on, a truly sad state of affairs.
7 “It’s Gone Forever“
Jon and Garfield’s interactions are a cornerstone of the comic strip. But without Garfield, all that’s left is a man slowly coming to terms with the cold bleakness of reality. Here Jon thinks about the passage of time and notes that once a day is over, it’s gone for good. Normally, Garfield would be here with some manner of pithy rejoinder. But all that’s here is a man on the edge of a personal crisis.
6 Unfulfilled Dreams
Dan Walsh once said he chose Garfield strips that made Jon seem the most “metaphysically tormented”. And few strips showcase the harshness of Jon’s life more than this strip, where the man is seen asking no one at all if they have any unfulfilled dreams. Without Garfield, Jon is just asking himself that question, and the long silence that follows reveals an inner sadness not often seen in the original cartoon.
The more one takes in Garfield Minus Garfield strips, the more people see the hidden ennui of the original strip. Here, Jon discusses the world saying it existed before anyone and will be here long after everyone is gone. Jon isn’t exactly happy-go-lucky, but he’s usually not the dour, downbeat existentialist that he becomes once Garfield is erased from his life.
4 “I’m Pathetic“
Even when things start out good for Jon, he can’t help but return to a dour state of being. Normally this would be because of a certain orange cat, but here he’s by his lonesome. Though Jon optimistically greets the new day, he almost instantly turns to a more self-deprecating mindset, calling himself pathetic. It seems that without Garfield around, Jon just can’t see the brighter side of life.
3 “Nobody Cares“
The more one reads Garfield Minus Garfield, the more one sees Jon’s negative perspective growing and growing. Here, Jon asks no one in particular if they get the feeling nobody cares about them, only to be met with silence. It’s one of those edits that somewhat manages to keep the punchline, but ultimately changes its meaning, as it cements the idea that no one does care about Jon.
2 Can’t Take It Anymore
Reading enough of these strips really makes one feel for the protagonist, whose world has become deathly silent and devoid of any kind of contact. Absolutely nothing is happening in the first two panels and the last one shows Jon weeping and declaring he can’t take it anymore. It’s one of those strips where the novelty has worn off and all that remains is a cruel joke on a suffering character.
Garfield Minus Garfield reached its apex here with the dark ending it implies. Here Jon is on a cliff, smiling as he looks out onto the world. But his smile disappears as he looks below, leading to the eerily empty final panel. While there’s nothing that outright says that Jon jumped, seeing enough of these strips gives one insight into Jon’s darkest thoughts and hints that it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for him to answer the call of the void.
Garfield Minus Garfield is a dark experiment, and these 15 strips stand out as the darkest of all time.