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Jim Davis Doesn’t Remember 9/11

Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip, has never once acknowledged the September 11 attacks in his cartoon. Whereas virtually every other comic strip has put their shenanigans on hold to commemorate 9/11 — at least on the first and tenth anniversaries — Garfield has held fast in its refusal to preempt its daily dose of fat cat sass.

It is unclear why Garfield is such an outlier. Did 9/11 not occur in the Garfield universe? Are Jon Arbuckle and his zany pets simply indifferent to the horrors of that day? Is Jim Davis afraid his Middle Eastern readership would be scandalized by any show of pro-American chauvinism? This wouldn’t be the first time Jim Davis has acted in a crassly unpatriotic manner. On Veteran’s Day, 2010, an insanely ironic Garfield ran featuring a spider boasting that if Garfield kills it, it will earn an annual day of remembrance; the last panel showed a classroom of spiders discussing “National Stupid Day.” Davis’ excuse was that he churned out and queued the strip a year in advance, which is a surprising turnaround time considering the obviously high production values that go into the writing and design of Garfield.

As you will see, “National Stupid Day” — in honor of those idiot troops who died for dumb causes — is the only remembrance day commemorated in the Arbuckle householdWhat follows is every Garfield cartoon that ran on September 11, from 2002 onward.

2002. America’s wounds were still raw on the first anniversary of 9/11. Tens of thousands of soldiers were fighting in Afghanistan, and every major television network ran wall-to-wall coverage of the day’s memorials. Jim Davis, apparently not feeling the patriotic fervor that gripped the nation, churned out a zinger about Jon’s lack of fashion sense. Perhaps when Jon muses that “life is strange,” he is contemplating the surrealism of the attacks and life during the War on Terror. More likely, he is setting up his cat for a terrible joke.

2003. With America now embroiled in two wars, Jim Davis turned his canny eye to the plague of cat hair in closets. Like the Islamic radicalism that built up during decades of failed American foreign policy in the Middle East, Garfield’s hair steadily accumulated in the closet that he sheds in. And like a succession of Presidents turned a blind eye to the growing threat of terrorism, Jon ignored Garfield’s shedding until it exploded on him in a tragic fashion.

2004. Amid mounting casualties in Iraq, on the third anniversary of 9/11, Jim Davis offered a sardonic commentary on the U.S. military’s failure to capture Osama bin Laden. Why did Bush give bin Laden a two-week head start? Jim Davis wants the truth.

2005. The fourth anniversary of 9/11 fell on a Sunday, and on this grim observance, newspaper readers awoke to the broadly grinning face of Garfield, who couldn’t be happier because he ate the last donut. Once again, Jim Davis morbidly cackles at a nation’s pain.

2006. Surely Jim Davis knows about the 9/11 attacks. I mean, that’s not the sort of thing you just happen to not be aware of. Here he is, year after year, marking “9-11” on each strip without any thought other than “here’s another one for the shitpile.” The mouse — ostensibly the antagonist of the cartoon — is upset because it has yet to eat any cheese. I was also upset this day, but for a somewhat different reason.

2007. Another symbolic attack on American foreign policy. Like the Afghani Mujahideen who were armed by the Reagan administration, Garfield eventually turned his boots against those who supplied him with them. How innocent is the one spider who criticizes the other? That spider clearly knew about the boots deal, but did nothing to prevent it. Is Jim Davis suggesting that the victims of 9/11 had it coming?

2008. Garfield and his “enemy” are colluding once again, this time on a miniature golf course, with which the mouse flagrantly taunts Jon. Will Jon always be terrorized by the mouse, needing to maintain a costly and bloated security complex that sheds all over his closet? Is the fear of the mouse just a convenient excuse for Garfield’s continued authority in Jon’s home? And why haven’t there been any Odie-centered cartoons so far? Isn’t he still a character? Or was he yet another casualty of the fog of war?

2009. That’s how I marked the 8th anniversary of 9/11 too.

2010. Whether America’s foreign policy actions in the Middle East directly caused the blowback that resulted in the 9/11 attacks is a valid and important debate that we, as a free democratic society, must hold in the appropriate venue. The newspaper comics page on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is not the appropriate venue for that discussion. Nor is Garfield taunting Odie with a toy ball an appropriate way of conveying this argument. For God’s sakes, Jim Davis, nearly 3,000 people died. Even if you sympathized with al-Qaeda’s aims, the resultant decade of endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the persecution of Muslims in the United States should be enough to silence your taunting.

2011. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Garfield hogged the air conditioning, and everyone else was real sweaty and pissed. I understand the compulsion to soldier on even in the face of a horrific national tragedy, to put on a strong face for your readers and encourage a return to normalcy. But come on, this is Garfield, the cartoon about the fat cat that loves lasagna and hates Mondays more than he hates global terrorism. Nobody has ever desperately looked to Garfield's daily gag for a marker of stability in their life. The quotidian wit and wisdom of Jim Davis has never helped the bereaved momentarily forget their traumas and escape into a fantasy world where a frisky feline with a mega-dose of cattitude is the only thing they need be concerned about. I'm pretty sure everyone would have been totally fine with it if, on the first anniversary of 9/11, Jim Davis had momentarily paused the non-stop antics of his comic strip cat to show Jon and Garf crying over an American flag or Odie dressed like a soldier covering bin Laden with slobber. It even would not have had to take up the entire strip. Witness how the creator of Luann tastefully shoehorns in a poignant tribute on the tenth anniversary of 9/11:

See that, Jim Davis? That’s how someone with class does it.

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