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The Sad Lonely Life of Jon Arbuckle

I just rediscovered one of the more creative "remix" projects in webomics: Arbuckle. Essentially an effort to re-do all of the Garfield comics without Garfield's thought bubbles. Why?

In 1978, Jim Davis began a newspaper comic strip called "Garfield". For almost thirty years, this strip has endured, primarily because its inoffensive, storyless humour is immediately accessible. It is, if not quite the Lowest Common Denominator of the comic world, at least as close to it as one can get without being obviously mediocre.

The comic changes dramatically when one removes the thought bubbles.

"Garfield" changes from being a comic about a sassy, corpulent feline, and becomes a compelling picture of a lonely, pathetic, delusional man who talks to his pets. Consider that Jon, according to Garfield canon, cannot hear his cat's thoughts. This is the world as he sees it. This is his story.

Some of those are really

robert's picture

Some of those are really choice. More to say with less said y'know?

Yeah, that's actually why

Yeah, that's actually why this comic was born. Since the other Arbuckle projects were all getting cease and desisted, someone decided that the only way to keep the project alive was if people used all original artwork, so nothing was really being ripped off from United Features.

I actually think it's funnier this way, though, because it gives people a chance to draw Garfield looking like a real cat and add just a bit more surreality to the whole thing.

I don't see why this isn't

Gordon McAlpin's picture

I don't see why this isn't just as much of a violation of copyright. You're taking dialogue verbatim; pacing/panel breakdowns; characters (even if they're re-drawn, the fact that every strip corresponds to a real Garfield strip makes them the same characters)... You're definitely ripping him off still. I'd go with "satire" as your defense.

(I'm not trying to bash the strip; I just think your "nothing is really being ripped off" defense is untrue. Bear in mind, I'm the guy who uses movie posters and film stills in his comic; my own "it's film commentary and satire" defense is pretty arguable, too.)

Multiplex is a weekly webcomic revolving around the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Doubt very much this is fair use...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I don't see a very good argument that this is fair use (which would be the defense against creating these derivative works) but it's hard to argue that a Garfield reader would start reading these Arbuckle strips instead (that's often a concern with derivative works - do they "crowd" the marketplace for the original work?).

I assumed that Davis and PAWS either are ignorant of its existence or know of it and figured it was harmless enough (who knows, Davis might even think it was a funny, if twisted, homage to his life's work...)


Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.


almamater's picture

Although I can't say for sure, my guess is that the hand-drawn Arbuckles are more likely to be "transformative," and thereby protected, than strips that just remove the thought balloons. Additionally, courts would probably be more likely to consider a less "substantial" taking as fair use.

I somehow doubt that PAWS is ignorant of (or indifferent to) Arbuckle's existence, since the company has fiercely protected its copyright in the past. It's probably just "not worth it" to Davis; if there is enough of a possibility that it is fair use, he wouldn't want a protracted court battle or the chance that the case would create bad precedent.



I can't remember the interview...

Erg's picture

But I am fairly sure thst Davis has said that he has to be merciless with any deritive work, funny or not, because he does not want to overheat or damage the brand image. Davis manages Garfield very careful. Marketing and licensing, not drawing, Garfield is his life's work, and it is hard to begrudge a man that.

I remember there was a comic

Black_Kitty's picture

I remember there was a comic on DrunkDuck that did something similar to this. Instead of redrawing the comic though, the user had simply erased all of Garfield's dialogue. It was actually really hilarious to read.

Then we got a cease and desist letter so we had to pull the plug. :(