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.