Emmy-Award Winning Creator of Garfield, Best-Selling Author, and Artist in Residence, Ball State
Cartoonist, Author, Producer, Director, President, Founder, Screenwriter, Playwright, Environmentalist, Philanthropist — all these titles can be used to describe Jim Davis, best-known as the creator of GARFIELD.
Jim Davis, 1947 Jim Davis was born July 28, 1945 in Marion, Indiana, and raised on a small farm with his parents, James and Betty Davis, and his younger brother, Dave (Doc). Like most farms, the barnyard had its share of stray cats; about 25 at one time, by Jim’s estimation. As a child, he suffered serious bouts with asthma and was often bedridden. Forced inside, away from regular farm chores, he whiled away the hours drawing pictures.
In college, he studied art and business before going to work for TUMBLEWEEDS creator, Tom Ryan. There, he learned the skills and discipline necessary to become a syndicated cartoonist and began his own strip, GNORM GNAT. When he tried to sell the strip to a newspaper syndicate he was told, “It’s funny, but bugs? Who can relate to a bug?” After five years of GNORM, Davis crushed the bug strip idea and tried a new tact, studying the comics pages closely.
He noticed there were a lot of successful strips about dogs, but none about cats! Combining his wry wit with the art skills he had honed since childhood, GARFIELD, a fat, lazy, lasagna loving, cynical cat was born. Davis says Garfield is a composite of all the cats he remembered from his childhood, rolled into one feisty orange fur ball. Garfield was named after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis.
Garfield first appeared in June 19, 1978 The strip debuted on June 19, 1978 in 41 U.S. newspapers. Several months after the launch, the Chicago Sun-Times cancelled GARFIELD. Over 1300 angry readers demanded that GARFIELD be reinstated. It was, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, GARFIELD is read in over 2100 newspapers by 200 million people. Guinness World Records™, named GARFIELD “The Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World.” Davis’s peers at the National Cartoonist Society honored him with Best Humor Strip (1981 and 1985), the Elzie Segar Award (1990), and the coveted Reuben Award (1990), the top award presented to a cartoonist by NCS members.
Garfield quickly became a sensation in the licensing world, too, inspiring Davis to form his own company to take care of Garfield business concerns. Paws, Inc., founded in 1981, manages the worldwide rights for the famous fat cat, and Davis serves as President.
Jim has won four Emmy Awards Garfield’s fame spilled over to television and Davis penned eleven primetime specials for CBS-TV. He received ten Emmy nominations and four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program. Movies were next, and Twentieth Century Fox turned out Garfield: The Movie (‘04), and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (‘06). Davis also wrote the original screenplays and executive produced three animated features for DVD: Garfield Gets Real (‘07), Garfield’s Fun Fest (‘08), and Garfield’s Pet Force (‘09). Also in 2009. “The Garfield Show” made its debut on Cartoon Network. Today, the CGI animated cartoon is in its fourth season and is seen in 131 countries, including China, where CCTV broadcasts the show daily.
Davis’s philanthropy has been directed at educational and environmental projects. He founded The Professor Garfield Foundation in cooperation with Ball State University, to support children’s literacy. Davis spearheaded reforestation, prairie and wetlands restorations, and built the world’s first all natural wastewater plant for commercial use. He was awarded the National Arbor Day Foundation’s Good Steward and Special Projects Award, and the Indiana Wildlife Federations’ Conservationist of the Year Award.
Davis spends his leisure time golfing, gardening, fishing, and enjoying his wife, children, and grandchildren. In a nod to Garfield’s friends in the comic strip, Davis also keeps one cat, Nermal, and a dog, Pooky.