Apr 25, 2011

The Jim Davis You Never Knew

I was scrounging through my old books last night, and I ran across my copy of GARFIELD: BABES & BULLETS.


Now, I'm fairly certain that most of you have never seen this book, but that at least some of you have seen the TV special about it.



Essentially, it's a rainy day, and Garfield steps into his closet, puts a trenchcoat on, and goes on to pretend that he's a private eye named Sam Spayed (the pun went over my head when I read it as a kid — for you guys who don't get it, Sam Spade is an iconic detective character, most notably played by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, and a spayed cat means the cat can't reproduce). All right, so basically, the book starts out in typical GARFIELD fashion:


And then you turn a couple of pages, and you see the "crime" that drives the story.


Now, unless he used assistants, this is all still Jim Davis. Throughout the entire book, Davis manages to blend his typical cartoony style with a novel dose of realism. Here, Sam is talking to his client, Tanya O'Tabby, whose husband, Professor O'Tabby, was in that car you see above.. (In the background: Sam's secretary, Kitty.) Davis' figures are all still his style, but then... shading? Mood-setting? What?


Not sold yet? This is a few pages later, when Sam goes to the morgue and runs into Lieutenant Washington.


Because it's Garfield, Davis can get away with screwing around with proportions, so it doesn't matter that Lieutenant Washington has cartoony proportions when every other human has regular proportions. But look at those trees, look at that railing. Davis is doing some serious mood-setting here (which is completely subverted by the narrative, but that's kind of the point).

The coroner, Burt Fleebish, is shown on the next page. All these years, and I still think it's weird to see Davis drawing like this.


Soon, Sam makes his way to the university where Professor O'Tabby worked. Jim Davis drawing in two-point perspective with a consistent light source. What a thing of beauty.


I think I've shown you enough to blow your mind (mine certainly was) at this point, but I'll give you a couple more. When Davis finally shows Professor O'Tabby's face, the realism in the figures is taken up a notch:


And when it's revealed that Professor O'Tabby's one weakness is coffee? Davis pulls off a neat trick.


Yeah, I know. Twenty years later, and it's still new to me.

Unfortunately, I don't think my copy is available anymore. I know there's an alternate version in GARFIELD: HIS 9 LIVES, where everyone is a cat and human-sized (so Garfield doesn't actually look like Garfield), and what I remember of the TV version was really just a basic black and white Garfield cartoon, with none of the Jim Davis novelties that my book has.

Still, if you can find it at a cheap price, I highly recommend it!

By the way, best line from the book?
Oh yeah, the dame. She was beautiful. Too beautiful to trust.


"Are you Spayed?" she asked.


I hate that question.

You can get Garfield Presents... Babes & Bullets here.

7 comments:

RaceForTaste said...

oh HELL YEAH! I LOVED the TV show version of babes and bullets!! I saw it a million times! i had it recorded on video!!! My brother and I used to sing the theme song!!!

RaceForTaste said...

It's also funny that I didn't understand what "spayed" was as I kid, so that part never made sense to me....All I thought was that it was a cheesy play on the word "Spade," probably because Sam Spade had a copyright. Little did I know....haha! :-)

Duy said...

Yep! Me too! I actually didn't find out what it meant till a few years ago, and I didn't remember this book at all until last night, so I just now got the joke. Double entendre jokes are awesome, and kids never get them, so it's all cool!

John Prisk said...

Man, I had never heard of this but it looks quite cool! I'm gonna have to try and find a copy somewhere...
Thanks for sharin' Duy!

Dev said...

I have the 9 lives book - unfortunately they dropped the actual garfield persona and replaced him with a realistic looking cat. Pity. This original stuff looks much, much, cooler!
Btw, remember the title song from the TV show? It even hit Indian shores, you can't beat that!!
"My life's full of baaaaaaaaaabeeees and bullets!"

Duy said...

Dev, my friend has that 9 lives book too, but I haven't seen it in YEARS. I'd love to get a copy of it and get some scans just to contrast. I definitely think my version was much cooler, although the one in the 9 lives book is just AS mind-blowing in terms of Jim Davis' versatility.

William Jay said...

I had this book, and I also didn't get the spayed reference... I've gotta say that until recently I would've said it was drawn by Davis' assistants, but then I saw some of his early cartoon sketches in an anniversary book and the people look in his style.

I remember the 9 Lives book most fondly for the Cave Cat and the Space Cat lives. The exact titles are lost to me now but they really fired my imagination as a kid.

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