Jim Davis studied art and business at Ball State. After graduating, he created the popular comic strip Garfield, which is now seen in more than 2,100 newspapers nationwide. Photo Courtesy M Magazine, The Star Press
Jim Davis: Creator, illustrator, storyteller
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Jim Davis was born in 1945 in Marion, Indiana. There, he grew up on a farm where the barn contained nearly 25 cats at one time, according to the Garfield website.
However, he was often bedridden due to his asthma. There, he honed his drawing skills.
Eventually, Davis studied art and business at Ball State before going to work for Tumbleweeds creator Tom Ryan. Shortly after, Davis began his own strip called Gnorm Gnat.
When his strip containing an insect didn’t garner much attention, Davis decided to try again. After finding many strips about dogs, Davis decided to create one about a cat. Thus, the lazy, lasagna-loving cat was born.
He named the orange feline after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis, according to the Garfield website. At the time, though, Davis said he couldn’t have anticipated the cat’s success.
“I like to joke that there must be something in the water in Indiana — but seriously, I think people enjoy Garfield because he deals with a couple of universal truths,” Davis said in a previous Daily News article. “We all love to eat. We all love to sleep. There’s a lot of comedy that can be mined just from those two subjects.”
The strip first debuted June 19, 1978, in 41 newspapers across the nation. Today, Garfield is seen in more than 2,100 papers. It even holds a Guinness World Record for “The Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World.”
Not long after he debuted the strip, Davis formed his own company to license the comic. Paws, Inc., which was founded in 1981, manages rights for the cat worldwide.
Garfield’s fame spanned much further than print, though. He has appeared on 11 primetime specials for CBS and has made it to the big screen on two separate occasions and DVD three times. “The Garfield Show” also debuted on Cartoon Network.
For all his work in television and movies, Davis received 10 Emmy nominations and four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program. And while he has had a successful career, Davis doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I’ve often joked that I’d retire when you had to pull the pencil out of a cold dead hand,” Davis previously told The Daily News. “So, no, I am not planning to retire, although I do try to slip in more golf with each year.”
Davis, who still serves as president of Paws, Inc., maintains connections with Ball State. He founded The Professor Garfield Foundation, which supports children literacy, in collaboration with the university.