Jim Davis, “Garfield” creator and Ball State alum, has been well known in East-Central Indiana and in the Midwest, alike.

Davis began drawing as a result of his asthma; whenever he would have an asthma attack, his mother would give him a pencil and some paper to draw.

“My drawings always made her laugh,” Davis said to a design class while visiting on Feb. 19. “She was always an easy mark.”

The decision to make a comic about cats came to Davis easily; he had grown up with 25 cats, yet hadn’t seen a lot of cat comics. He named his creation after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis.

“He had the world’s biggest laugh,” Davis said. “He seemed grumpy; he would rarely smile. But he was very warm; his eyes would give him away.”

The original Garfield looked quite different from today’s cat. He didn’t have stripes for the for the first nine years of his existence. The newspaper syndicate had suggested the stripes, Davis said.

Davis' visit to the campus was small but much appreciated by students.

  • Garfield has 94% familiarity in the U.S. That ties him with Santa Claus, and puts him three percent behind Mickey Mouse. However, it does put him above Snoopy.
  • In 1978, the comic's first year, Garfield debuted in 41 newspapers. By 1979, it appeared in 100 newspapers. In 1982, the number reached 1,000 newspapers.
  • Garfield has nearly 17 million "likes" on Facebook.
  • The first Garfield book, "Garfield at Large," was on the New York Times' best-seller list for two years.
  • A film adaptation of the Garfield comics was made in 2004. 
  • Garfield is not censored in China.

(via Jim Davis and Garfield and Friends website)