Jim Davis (cartoonist)

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Jim Davis
Davis in 2013
Born
James Robert Davis

(1945-07-28) July 28, 1945 (age 78)
EducationBall State University
Occupations
  • Cartoonist
  • television writer
  • television producer
  • screenwriter
  • film producer
Years active1969–present
Notable work
Parents
  • James William Davis
  • Anna Catherine Davis
Signature

James Robert Davis (born July 28, 1945), better known as Jim Davis, is an American cartoonist, screenwriter, and producer. He is best known as the creator of the comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres. Published since 1978, Garfield is one of the world's most widely syndicated comic strips.[1] Davis's other comics work includes Tumbleweeds, Gnorm Gnat, and Mr. Potato Head.

Davis wrote and co-wrote all of the Garfield TV specials for CBS, originally broadcast between 1982 and 1991. He also produced Garfield and Friends, a series which also aired on CBS from 1988 to 1994. Davis was the writer and executive producer for a series of CGI direct-to-video feature films about Garfield, as well as an executive producer for the CGI animated TV series The Garfield Show and Garfield Originals.

Early and personal life[edit]

Davis, yearbook photo, 1962

James Robert Davis was born in Marion, Indiana, on July 28, 1945.[2] Davis grew up on a small Black Angus cow farm[3] in Fairmount, Indiana, with his father James William "Jim" Davis, mother Anna Catherine "Betty" Davis (née Carter), and his brother, Dave Davis. Davis's childhood on a farm parallels the life of Garfield's owner, Jon Arbuckle, who was also raised on a farm with his parents and a brother, Doc Boy. Jon is a cartoonist, who also celebrates his birthday on July 28. Davis attended Ball State University where he studied art and business, and one of his fellow students was David Letterman. While attending Ball State, he became a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.

While attending Fairmount High School in 1959, Davis joined the staff of his school's newspaper The Breeze, where he eventually became Art Editor. This is where Davis's first comic was featured, apparently inspired by school life. Davis also drew the majority of the illustrations for his 1963 senior yearbook, reusing the same characters.[4][5]

Davis has been married twice, first to Carolyn Altekruse, who was allergic to cats,[6] though they owned a dog named Molly.[7] They have a son.[6][8] On July 16, 2000, Davis married Jill, who had two children from a previous marriage.[7]

Davis joined the faculty of Ball State University in Muncie as an adjunct professor in fall 2006, lecturing on the creative and business aspects of the comics industry.

Davis resides in Albany, Indiana, where he and his staff produce Garfield under his Paws, Inc. company, launched in 1981.[9] Paws, Inc. employs nearly 50 artists and licensing administrators, who work with agents around the world managing Garfield's vast licensing, syndication, and entertainment empire.

Davis is a former president of the Fairmount, Indiana FFA chapter.[10]

In December 2019, Davis announced that he would be holding weekly auctions for all hand-painted Garfield comics made from 1978 to 2011. As Davis explained, he started drawing comics digitally using a graphics tablet in 2011. Older comics remained sealed in a climate-controlled safe, and Davis had to figure out what to do with them.[11]

Career[edit]

Prior to creating Garfield, Davis worked for an advertising agency, and in 1969, he began assisting Tom Ryan's comic strip, Tumbleweeds. He then created a comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, that ran weekly for two years (1973–1975) in The Pendleton Times, a newspaper in Pendleton, Indiana.[12] When Davis attempted to sell it to a national comic strip syndicate, an editor told him: "Your art is good, your 'gags' are 'great', but bugs—nobody can relate to bugs!"[13] He then began studying the comic strips; still firmly believing that animals were funny, he took note of how Snoopy was not only a scene stealer in the Peanuts comic strips, but that he was far more of a marketing success than his owner Charlie Brown. Deciding that the comic market was oversaturated with dogs, he decided to create a cat character as a primary character his next strip instead.[14]

The first Jon strip, which ran in the Pendleton Times on January 8, 1976.
The first Jon strip, which ran in the Pendleton Times on January 8, 1976.

From January 1976 to February 1978, Davis then published a weekly strip titled Jon in The Pendleton Times, starring the young bachelor Jon Arbuckle and his lethargic, cynical housecat Garfield; the latter's increasing popularity among both editors and readers led Davis to rename the strip Garfield on September 1, 1977. Garfield would ultimately evolve into a highly successful daily strip of the same name, beginning syndication in 41 newspapers on June 19, 1978.[12] As of 2008, it was syndicated in 2,580 newspapers and was read by approximately 300 million readers every day.[15]

In March 1986, Davis launched the barnyard slapstick comic strip U.S. Acres. Outside the U.S., the strip was known as Orson's Farm. Failing to match the success of Garfield, U.S. Acres would conclude on May 1, 1989; Davis' assistant Brett Koth was credited as a co-artist during its final year. Davis, along with Koth, also made a 2000–03 strip based on the Mr. Potato Head toy.

Davis founded the Professor Garfield Foundation to support children's literacy.[16]

His influences include Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois, Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon and Johnny Hart's B.C.[17]

From 1984 until its closing in 2001, Davis owned a fine-dining restaurant in Muncie called Foxfires. Davis chose to close the restaurant after its head chef was hired elsewhere.[18]

In 2019, Davis sold Paws, Inc. to the mass media conglomerate Viacom,[19] which months later merged with CBS Corporation to form ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global).

Awards[edit]

Year Award Presenting organization and sciences
1983 Golden Plate Award[20][21] American Academy of Achievement
1984–85 Emmy Award, Outstanding Animated Program, Garfield in the Rough, TV special, CBS Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
1985 Elzie Segar Award for Contributions to Cartooning National Cartoonist Society
1986 Outstanding Animated Program, Garfield's Halloween Adventure, TV special, CBS Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
1986 Best Strip National Cartoonist Society
1988–89 Emmy Award, Outstanding Animated Program, Garfield's Babes and Bullets, TV special, CBS Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
1988 Sagamore of the Wabash State of Indiana
1989 Reuben Award for Overall Excellence in Cartooning National Cartoonist Society
1989 Indiana Arbor Day Spokesman Award (presented to Jim Davis and Garfield) Indiana Division of Natural Resources and Forestry
1990 Good Steward Award (presented to Jim Davis and Garfield) National Arbor Day Foundation
1991 Indiana Journalism Award (presented to Jim Davis and Garfield) Ball State University Department of Journalism
1992 Distinguished Hoosier State of Indiana
1995 Project Award National Arbor Day Foundation
1997 LVA Leadership Award (presented to Paws) Literacy Volunteers of America
2016 Inkpot Award (presented to Jim Davis)[22] San Diego Comic-Con International

References[edit]

  1. ^ LaMartina, Jerry (January 28, 2002). "Garfield Comic Strip Makes Guinness Book of World Records". bizjournals. Archived from the original on September 20, 2002. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  2. ^ De Weyer, Geert (2008). 100 stripklassiekers die niet in je boekenkast mogen ontbreken (in Dutch). Amsterdam / Antwerp: Atlas. p. 244. ISBN 978-90-450-0996-4.
  3. ^ "Jim Davis Bio". Premiere Speakers Bureau. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  4. ^ My Garfield Vacation: A Historical Voyage (Video). Quinton Reviews. June 12, 2020. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved June 12, 2020 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "0 Pre-Pendleton". Archived from the original on June 6, 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020 – via Google Drive.
  6. ^ a b "Those Catty Cartoonists". Time. December 7, 1981. Archived from the original on April 30, 2022. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Jim Davis - Everything2.com". Everything2.com. Archived from the original on November 17, 2017. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  8. ^ "NNDB Profile". NNDB.com. Archived from the original on June 3, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
  9. ^ "Jim Davis". The Saturday Evening Post. January 25, 2022. Archived from the original on January 25, 2022. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  10. ^ "National FFA Organization Prominent Members" (PDF). National F.F.A. Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 13, 2010.
  11. ^ Muncy, Julie (December 21, 2019). "Garfield Cartoonist Jim Davis Is Putting 30 Years of Strips Up for Auction". io9. Archived from the original on December 22, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Finding Garfield Lost Media (Video). Quinton Reviews. July 28, 2019. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Davis, Jim. 20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection. New York: Ballantine Books, 1998, p. 14.
  14. ^ Shapiro, Walter (December 12, 1982). "Lives: The Cat That Rots the Intellect". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  15. ^ "Garfield Named World's Most Syndicated Comic Strip" (Press release). Kansas City, Missouri: Business Wire. January 22, 2002. Archived from the original on January 21, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
  16. ^ "TRC About Us: Professor Garfield". ProfessorGarfield.org. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  17. ^ Ashton (November 9, 2012). "Interview with Jim Davis". Calendars.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  18. ^ Brian Saparnis (April 13, 2001). "Foxfires plans to close its doors for good next week". The Star Press. pp. 5C. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  19. ^ Whitten, Sarah (August 6, 2019). "Viacom Buys Lasagna-Loving Garfield for Nickelodeon". CNBC. Archived from the original on September 30, 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  20. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". Achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement. Archived from the original on December 15, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  21. ^ Wade, Larry (July 14, 1983). "American Academy of Achievement Fills Coronado with Famous Names" (PDF). Coronado Journal. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 30, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  22. ^ "Inkpot Award". Comic-Con International: San Diego. December 6, 2012. Archived from the original on January 29, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bruce McCabe, "The Man Who Put Garfield on Top", The Boston Globe, March 8, 1987.

External links[edit]