Not All Good Ideas Are Transferable

One of the oddest, but strangely brilliant, blog ideas I have seen in a long time was the ‘Garfield Minus Garfield’ site where someone took the original Garfield comic strips but removed Garfield. According to the website it is “…a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” The comic strip isn’t as much funny as it is sad. And successful, instead of suing the site out of existence, the owners of Garfield allowed a book of the altered strips to be sold (which probably gives them a nice little cut for work they already did).

Since it was idea that worked once, it just has to work again, right? Well, enter ‘Dilbert minus Dilbert’, which is the same basic idea as ‘Garfield minus Garfield’ but with (to me at least) a lot less creative success. While ‘G-G’ seems like the mental deterioration of a single person, ‘D-D’ doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. And not in a ‘nonsensical but still designed to make to you think about other things’ way, but more in a ‘something’s missing and it’s pretty obvious it is missing’ way.

I suppose that has a lot to do with the source material. Garfield is a gag strip aimed at children which revolves around a very small cast of characters, while Dilbert is much more complex and adult in its approach to the same three panel format. It has been a while since I read either strip, but if I remember Garfield was set-up, set-up, punchline (like most classic gag strips), while Dilbert was set-up, joke, aftermath.

I’m not a comic strip expert, so I will let others more familiar with the craft make the final judgement, but to me, it seems like what works in one instance just flat out doesn’t work in another.

To get the ‘Garfield minus Garfield’ book, click on the image below: