In what is without doubt the most tantalizing POSTS exclusive yet, we present a Garfield script penned by renowned novelist Alan Moore. Best known for his books Voice of the Fire and Promethea, Moore got his start writing and drawing weekly strips in ancient devices called "magazines" in the 1970s and 80s. While the scope of his work — and the size of his eager audience — has grown massive and repetitive since then, he remains an enthusiastic collaborator with many of comics' biggest artists.
None of this should surprise anyone who has stumbled drunkenly through any of the accomplished — and quite heavy — displays of his books at their local comic hovel. What will surprise all but three living persons is the idea, let alone the existence, of the attached script.
In 1992 Jim Davis was another cultural juggernaut, whose work stained every issue of every newspaper — bundles of paper similar to accidentally printing a web site, which used to be driven around cities and thrown at houses in the dead of night — and which sells millions of copies annually of bathroom-bound collections even today. Nothing more needs to be said about Garfield. Davis, unlike Moore, was also notoriously isolated, both writing and drawing his increasingly-unhinged screeds on loneliness, labor, and lasagna all by himself.
By the spring of that year, however, burnout was setting in. Davis asked his manager to arrange for a couple of weeks of guest strips so he could take an expensive Gulf Coast vacation. While not an unheard-of practice, guest artists were usually conscripted from within the well-established club of newspaper stalwarts. Davis's publishers at United Feature Syndicate, however, had a bold new idea. In their hubris, they mistook comfort food for cuisine. Why not get the biggest stars of comic books to try their hands at comic strips? Names like Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, and Rob Liefeld might be unfamiliar to the morning-porridge demographic, but strips helmed by these visionaries could, they speculated between rails, draw a younger audience not yet stunned into dull submission by the routine of late-capitalist drudgery.
Whether or not this idea could have been executed favorably in some other configuration, we are stuck with this inherited world. Inquiries went out, agents frothed and phoned, writers signed on. And first among them, delighted at the opportunity to inject his venom into yet another placid media vein, was Alan Moore.
We may never know precisely how Jim Davis reacted upon receipt of this script, written in Moore's trademark all-capital verbosity and delivered as an unfolded, single-sided stack via overnight Royal Mail. Several things, however, may be speculated upon. First, that the strip itself never appeared in print, and was likely never drawn. Second, that Davis cancelled all other nascent contracts with the comic book industry veterans. Third, that he did not take a vacation in '92, nor has he in any year since. Garfield has run, uninterrupted and unassisted by any other human hand, every day, of every week, of every year since.
We now present the script, sent to POSTS by an anonymous source. We leave it up to our readers to envision the comic as it might have been rendered, as well as to speculate for themselves at the mercurial whims of self-centered artists whose persistent drivel can only survive in fear of the shadow of true literature. Had this comic been published, it is this editor's personal opinion that Garfield itself might have been impossible to continue. Just as Watchmen thankfully made it impossible to ever produce another superhero comic, Moore's invasive text might have undone the entire comic strip industry, ultimately leaving no refuge for the miserable and exhausted millions except true art, which state of terror and bliss would certainly have brought about the next age of human enlightenment. Instead: Garfield.
GARFIELD: ODIOUS DAY
THREE PANELS OF EQUAL WIDTH AND HEIGHT, ESTABLISHING A REGULAR AND MONOTONOUS RHYTHM INDICATIVE OF LIFE IN GARFIELD'S WORLD. NO PYROTECHNICS REQUIRED, JIM. ONE OF THE STRENGTHS OF YOUR ART IS ITS APPARENT BANALITY, WITH PATHOS THROBBING JUST BENEATH THE SKIN IN PFIZER-BLUE RIVULETS. SO WORK YOUR MAGIC. AS EVER, I'LL INCLUDE MORE DETAIL THAN NECESSARY, JUST TO GET ACROSS THE FEELING AND TONE. DESCRIPTIONS IN CAPITALS, DIALOGUE IN SENTENCE CASE AT THE END OF EACH PANEL. YOU CAN PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT TO INCLUDE. JUST HAVE FUN WITH IT!
INTERIOR OF A SUBURBAN HOME, STRIPPED TO ITS BARE ESSENTIALS. THE ARBUCKLE HOUSE IS THAT QUINTESSENCE OF AMERICAN ISOLATION, DUPLICATING THE NECESSITIES AND NICETIES OF DAY TO DAY LIFE AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE TO CREATE A BUBBLE OF APPARENT PROSPERITY. SOVIET-FLAVORED AUSTERITY UNDER CAPITALISM HAS PRODUCED AN UNENDING ARRAY OF TASTELESS, UNCOMFORTABLE COUCHES; STOVETOPS WITH PERMANENT SLANTS AND UNRELIABLE KNOBS; FLUORESCENT-BULB FIXTURES OF VARYING COLOUR TEMPERATURE BLENDING MIGRAINILY FROM ROOM TO ROOM TO HALLWAY TO KITCHEN TO THE TINY BATHROOM WHEREIN JON ARBUCKLE HUDDLES SWEATILY AND AT LENGTH WITH A MOISTURE-RUMPLED SEARS CATALOG.
IN SHORT, THE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF APPLIANCES AND FURNITURE USED INTERMITTENTLY BY THE SINGLE AMERICAN MAN BETWEEN STRETCHES OF ANXIOUS LABOR AND TEPID UNCONSCIOUSNESS. THIS HOME, LIKE SO MANY OTHERS, IS A PARKING LOT FOR OBJECTS OF MINIMAL COMFORT, RARELY-USED AND IF WE'RE HONEST, NOT MUCH-MISSED. WE FOCUS, HOWEVER, NOT ON THE PITIFUL HUMAN RESIDENT RESPONSIBLE FOR GATHERING THESE ACCIDENTS, BUT ON THE CREATURES WHO MUST ENDURE IT ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT.
THE PANEL SITUATES A PLAIN DINING TABLE AT ITS BASE, A SORT OF DE FACTO HORIZON LINE THAT WILL BE RE-USED IN EACH OF THE SUBSEQUENT PANELS. AND UPON THIS ICONIC PLANE, ON THE LEFT SIDE FACING RIGHT, IS GARFIELD. HE IS TUCKED INTO A SMALL RECTILINEAR BOX, WITH A BLANKET PULLED OVER HIS BODY, WRAPPED LIKE A MIXED-BERRY PASTRY, OR A CHEST-BURSTING PASTA. YOUR CHOICE, JIM. GARFIELD, THE TROUBLED CHIMERA OF HUMAN DREAD AND ANIMAL COMFORT, SIMULTANEOUSLY CONFORMING TO THE SHAPE OF A BOX AND THE SHAPE OF A CAT. HIS FACE POKES OUT FROM BENEATH THE BULK OF FABRIC, EARS BACK AND WHISKERS AT FURIOUS ATTENTION, A POSTURE OF SKEPTICISM REGARDING THE DAY AND, ESPECIALLY, HIS COMPANION.
ODIE STANDS PANEL RIGHT, FACING GARFIELD. LIKE A DOG WHO WENT ON ONE DINNER DATE WITH A SINGULARITY, NO MOVIE, NO KISS GOODNIGHT, BUT HAVING GOT CLOSE ENOUGH TO BEAR THE TRAUMA OF MEMORY, ODIE IS A DOG BY WAY OF STEAMED PENNE. TOWERING VERTIGINOUSLY ABOVE GARFIELD, HE IS A LEERING BEACON OF UNCONSIDERED OPTIMISM. HIS EYES PEER DOWN OVER A TUBEROUS NOSE, PAST THE TENDERIZED BEEF OF HIS FOUNTAIN-ARCED TONGUE, ACROSS A CHASM OF CONSCIOUSNESS THE FULL EXTENT OF WHICH HE IS ENTIRELY UNAWARE. ONE COULD BE FORGIVEN FOR THINKING HIS PANTING, VACUOUS MAW IS A SMILE.
GARFIELD: Well, Odie, it's another day. Another wave of catastrophes both personal and political which we are powerless to prevent. How do you convince yourself to keep going?
BETWEEN PANELS, THE DISTANT HUM OF A NEIGHBOR'S GASOLINE-POWERED WEEDWHACKER. THE ARBUCKLE COMPOUND IS A GROUND-FLOOR, MID-CENTURY POLYP CONSTRUCTED TO PLEASE NO ONE. NO PLEASURE WAS TAKEN IN ITS ASSEMBLY, NO DETAIL ATTENDED TO WITH ANYTHING APPROACHING LOVE. NOR WOULD ANYONE WHO HAS EVER LAID EYES ON IT AS A POTENTIAL OR CURRENT RESIDENT LET OUT A SIGH OF RELIEF AT HAVING FINALLY FOUND A PLACE TO CALL HOME. THE HANDSOAP OPERA OF SUBURBAN LIFE PLAYS OUT IN STARK SHAPES WHICH SERVE ONLY THE NECESSARY THRIFT OF A CITIZENRY STRIPPED OF FAIR COMPENSATION AND POSSIBLE DIGNITY.
THE ROOF HAS NEEDED INSPECTION AND PATCHING FOR YEARS; A GROWING SEEP OF STAINS ON THE LIVING ROOM CEILING SHOW NEGLECT'S SLOW TOLL. ONCE A WEEK OR SO, LEANING BACK ON THE COUCH WHICH SAGS ONLY BENEATH THE ONE REGULARLY-USED CUSHION, JON ARBUCKLE MAY HAZARD A BRIEF GLANCE UPWARD AND WONDER IF THE STAIN HAS GOTTEN BIGGER OR DARKER. HE ASKS GARFIELD WHETHER HE'S NOTICED, PROVOKING A COMMENT ABOUT JON'S STATUS AS A GROWING STAIN ON THE COUCH WHICH WILL SPIKE JON'S BLOOD PRESSURE AND THEN BE FORGOTTEN.
AT THE MOMENT OF OUR DRAMA, THE DRIVEWAY IS EMPTY OF ITS ANCIENT BURDEN. JON'S 14-YEAR-OLD TWO-DOOR SEDAN IS THE MINIMUM PRICE OF ENTRY FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE U.S. WORKFORCE. BARELY-NOTICEABLE TIREPRINT DIMPLES IN THE SUN-FUCKED AND WEED-BUCKLED CONCRETE SURROUND A GREEN-BROWN RESIDUE OF UNKNOWN AUTOMOTIVE ORIGIN. JON HAS NEVER REALLY NOTICED THIS STAIN; HIS INTERACTIONS WITH THE CAR ARE ALWAYS IN HASTE, EITHER LATE FOR WORK, TOAST-IN-MOUTH IN THE MORNING, OR BOLTING TOILETWARD IN DESPERATE NEED OF RELIEF AFTER THE MISERABLE COMMUTE HOME. A POETIC MIND COULD WONDER WHETHER THE STAINS IN DRIVEWAY AND ROOF HAD SOME CONGRUITY OF SHAPE OR MEANING. JON ARBUCKLE WILL DIE BEFORE EVEN ENTERING THE SAME COUNTY AS THIS QUESTION.
ONCE AGAIN, JIM, I DON'T EXPECT ALL OF THIS DETAIL IN THE PANEL ITSELF. IT'S INTENDED TO PLANT SEEDS, TO GIVE DETAILS TO WORK INTO THE SUBCONSCIOUS, FROM THE TIMBRE OF LINEWORK TO THE PLACEMENT OF SPEECH BUBBLES. PICK AND CHOOSE OR, HELL, THROW IT ALL OUT AND CAPTURE THE EMOTION IN YOUR OWN WAY. I SPEND LONG DAYS IN A DESKBOUND DUNGEON AND MUST AMUSE MYSELF IF NO ONE ELSE WILL.
BACK AT THE TABLE, GARFIELD BESEECHES HIS FELLOW CAPTIVE. HIS EYES, BLOODSHOT AND CRACKLING LIKE A SPOON-TAPPED DEMON'S EGG, SHOW A RARE VULNERABILITY. HAVING BARED HIS FEARS AS A BELLY TO A FOE, WITH NOWHERE ELSE TO TURN, GARFIELD HOPES BEYOND HOPE THAT THERE IS AN UNTAPPED RESERVE OF WISDOM OR EVEN COMPASSION WITHIN THE WATER TOWER OPACITY OF ODIE'S IMPOSSIBLE FORM. ODIE'S EYES, IMPASSIVE. ODIE'S EARS, DISRESPECTFUL IN THEIR WHIMSY. ODIE'S MOUTH, GATHERING DOG-SWEAT IN HIDEOUS CAVITIES, PREPARING TO SPEAK. GOD, HOW GARFIELD HATES THE DOG. AND YET ALSO HUNGERS FOR SOMETHING. SOMETHING LIKE A TOUCH, WITHOUT THE SENSITIVITY OF CARE. HE WOULD KILL THE DOG, IF NOT FOR ISOLATION'S CONSEQUENCE.
EXPRESSION UNCHANGED, BLITHELY MUTT-HAPPY, TONGUE A TANGLE, ODIE YAPS WHAT PASSES FOR HIS TRUTH. MASSIVE GOBS OF SPITTLE HANG SUSPENDED BETWEEN THEM, FOREVER A THREAT, GLITTERING DIRTY QUARTZ.
TWO BLOCKS AWAY, THE NEIGHBOR HACKS AWAY AT NATURE'S INTRUSIONS ON HIS PRECIOUS PALACE. BLACK SMOKE WISPS UPWARD FROM A VICIOUS DIESEL RELIC. A RUMBLING, HANDHELD ENGINE TURNS A GEARSHAFT, AND THICK NYLON CORD BEATS CIRCULAR AGAINST WEEDS, GRASS, AND A REBELLION OF DANDELIONS.
THREE BLOCKS TO THE EAST, THE HISTORICALLY-WHITE-ONLY CEMETERY IN WHICH GRANDMOTHERS ARE ALLEGED TO BE SHIPPED TO HEAVEN IN AMAZON-WOOD CASKETS RISES AS A DULL CRESTING WAVE, MIST-VISIBLE JUST ABOVE A RENOVATED BURGER KING. BENEATH THE SOIL, SHOWING FEWER FOOTPRINTS NOW THAN IN PREVIOUS DECADES, THOUSANDS OF HUMAN BODIES MELT SLOWLY THROUGH SUITS AND DRESSES LIKE CREAMSICLES IN HALF-OPEN WRAPPERS. THERE ARE NO JOKES WRITTEN ON THE BONES. THE ONLY PUNCHLINE AVAILABLE IS CHRISTIANITY'S INSISTENT DENIAL OF THE HUMAN RIGHT TO REENTER THE CYCLE OF NATURE AFTER A FEW FLEETING DECADES OF TRYING TO BE ABOVE IT ALL. A CHURCHBELL RINGS THE HOUR ON AN AUTOMATED TIMER OVER AN EMPTY PROTESTANT CHAPEL.
INSIDE THE HOUSE, SILENCE SWALLOWS THE BELL. AS WE DRAG OUR EYES ACROSS THE WALLS IN FOUR-DIMENSIONAL FREEDOM, UNCONSTRAINED BY THE LIMITATIONS OF PHYSICALITY, PERCEIVING THE HOUSE IN ITS ENTIRETY, EVERY SURFACE VISIBLE AT ONCE IN A SPLIT-ORANGE TABLEAU OF SIMULTANEOUS, SHUDDERING CLARITY, ONE HORROR ABOVE ALL OTHERS PRESENTS ITSELF AS A VIVID ABSENCE: THERE IS NO ART WHATSOEVER ON ANY WALL OR SIDE TABLE; NOT A SINGLE MEMENTO MAGNET-BOUND TO THE FRIGIDAIRE. JON ARBUCKLE'S LIFE — AND THEREFORE ALSO THE LIVES OF HIS WARDS — IS DEVOID OF INTENTIONAL BEAUTY.
WHILE THE ANTHROPOCENTRIST MAY QUESTION THE VALUE OF ART TO A DEPRESSIVE HOUSECAT AND HIS OBLIVIOUS CANINE TORMENTOR, WE CAN BE QUITE CERTAIN THIS IS THE GREATEST INJURY OF ALL TO JON'S PSYCHIC HEALTH. FOR, AS I WILL GO TO GREAT PAINS OVER THE REST OF MY CAREER TO REITERATE, ART IS FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO MAGIC, WITH THE POWER TO SHAPE AND EVEN CREATE REALITIES. THROUGH ART, THE MOST BASIC DOMESTIC GEOMETRY MAY GIVE WAY TO THE INFINITE DEPTH OF A TIMELESS LANDSCAPE OR A TREASURED MEMORY. WHAT COMFORT CAN BE DRAWN FROM BARE, PAST-DUE-EGGSHELL-TINTED WALLS? WHAT VISION? THE MIND NEEDS MATERIAL TO CONVERT INTO FUTURES. THE DAWNING TREMORS OF JON'S TRUE PLIGHT — AND OUR SYMPATHY FOR WHAT EFFECT THIS HAS HAD ON GARFIELD'S OUTLOOK — SPREAD OUTWARD PISS-SHIVERY FROM BLADDER TO SCALP.
ON THIS DINING-ROOM TABLE IN A FOOD DESERT AT THE END OF THE WORLD, GARFIELD HAS PULLED HIS BLANKET ALL THE WAY OVER HIS HEAD. BLUE-TINTED DARKNESS ENVELOPES HIM, WELCOME DISMAL ILLUSION OF ODIE VANISHING. THIS, FOR GARFIELD, IS AN ARTISTIC ACT, ONE WHICH CHANGES HIS WORLD VIA HIS PERCEPTION. HE ALLOWS HIMSELF THE GIFT OF TEMPORARY PEACE. HOWEVER, AS WE KNOW, GARFIELD IS NOT ONE TO LET THINGS REST. HIS TEMPER IS HIS UNDOING, AT ONCE UNDERMINING HIS EFFORTS AND INFLAMING HIS TINY POOL OF RELATIONSHIPS. THE POWERLESS LASH OUT AT THOSE THEY PERCEIVE AS LESSER, AND EVERYONE IN GARFIELD'S LIFE IS BENEATH HIM. ATTEMPTING VENOM AND ACCIDENTALLY ADMITTING HIS SENSE THAT THE TRUE PRISON IS INTELLIGIBLE CONSCIOUSNESS TRAPPED WITHIN LINEAR TIME, GARFIELD GETS IN THE LAST WORD.
GARFIELD: It must be nice to be you.