Control Nathan Rabin: Garfield/Grumpy Cat Crossover Comic Book
Welcome to the latest entry in Control Nathan Rabin, the column where I give the earth angels who contribute to this site’s Patreon page, thereby keeping me and my family out of the gutter, an opportunity to torment me by forcing me to experience one of two impossibly dire-looking pieces of entertainment.
In previous columns, the choices have been limited to what can generously be deemed films. This time around, however, I wanted to exploit Grumpy Cat mania by giving readers a choice between two Grumpy Cat spinoff projects—the Christmas special Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, and a comic book crossover pairing the feline with the sour-looking puss with Garfield, the lasagna-munching, Monday-hating madman of the daily comics page.
My readers chose the Garfield/Grumpy Cat crossover comic book, and I was afforded an opportunity to delve into one of the low-key obsessions of my childhood. As a kid I was obsessed with, well, everything. That paved the way for an adulthood where I’ve been able to just barely eke out a living following my obsessions whatever strange back alleys they lead, including places like a Garfield/Grumpy Cat crossover comic.
The comic book mini-series begins by establishing that one of these cats is very much like the other, and vice versa. The narration opens by describing Garfield and Grumpy Cat as sourpusses who “like to sleep all day and not be annoyed.” The same is true of heroin addicts.
Some of the narration here sounds like it’s badly translated from Cantonese, or could double as the title of a Guided by Voices song, like, “The sleeping cat’s response is typical for him.” The sleeping cat is of course Garfield and he is responding with characteristic irritation at what appears to be a common predicament for him: Odie, the guilelessly enthusiastic dog Garfield emotionally, verbally and physically abuses, wants Garfield to throw a stick for him to fetch.
Odie loves and trusts Garfield. He is a true innocent, and cannot begin to fathom the almost unimaginable hatred and self-loathing that drives Garfield to be so consistently awful to just about his only real friend. Sure enough, as one of his “pranks” on Odie, he throws a stick on the flatbed of a truck speeding away.
It’s funny because of Garfield’s hatred of Odie and desire to see him punished, to see him suffer. It’s funny that Garfield threw the stick on the back of a moving truck because pretty soon Odie will be how Garfield wants him: helpless, alone, terrified and almost assuredly weeping openly with despair, if he’s not killed in traffic.
We know Garfield. He is a hateful, selfish, sadistic bastard concerned only with his own insatiable needs and hunger. He loves lasagna and hates Mondays, Jon, Odie and himself. He’s a garbage monster of banality, an icon of affable, cynical mediocrity.
What about Grumpy Cat? Let’s just say that Grumpy Cat knows what’s up.
Garfield is a theoretically lovable grump. Grumpy Cat alone understands that we inhabit an age of free-floating, almost Lovecraftian horror, and that the only way to survive this bleak hellscape with your sanity intact is to grow harsh and cold, to make yourself jaded and bitter so that the ugliness of the world cannot consume you.
Grumpy Cat knows that life is a cruel, grim joke with death as the eventual, inevitable punchline. She knows that friends will betray you and loved ones will abandon you. She knows that the only possible escape from the unrelenting awfulness of existence lies in the sweet, permanent embrace of the grave, or at least in its less intimidating cousin, sleep.
Grumpy Cat stares into the void and the void is scared to look back.
I’m not sure how she feels about lasagna. Or Mondays.
Sleep is the cousin of death. Grumpy Cat just wants to be left alone so that she can sleep but her brother Pokey wants her to play a board game with him. So, anywho, apparently in this universe cats play board games, crave money and are able to understand human language and react accordingly.
The plot kicks off when a sinister pet food company unveils their latest and most nefarious scheme: they’ve decided that cat owners don’t like that cats behave like cats, and would prefer that they behaved like dogs. Of course, if a pet owner wanted an animal that acted like a dog, I would imagine they would just get a dog, but I am not one to poke holes in the logic of the Garfield/Grumpy Cat crossover comic book.
The evil pet food mogul doesn’t care about logic or morality. He answers an underling’s question about whether it’s right to try to turn cats into dogs with, “Who cares? I didn’t get into this business because I love animals. I did it because I love money! Money is my idea of the perfect pet.”
How do you even begin to unpack that statement? Is he saying that his idea of a perfect pet would be a sentient pile of money that fetched and you could take for walks? Or is he saying he’d rather have money than a pet? Regardless, he dispatches his sinister underlings to capture, by any means necessary, what he has deemed to be the two grumpiest cats in all of existence: Garfield and a Tabby named Buster with a real sour streak.
I'm kidding, of course. The two grumpiest cats in existence turn out to be Garfield and Grumpy Cat. They capture Garfield by promising him free, delicious lasagna if he'll only open the door to the home he shares with Jon. They capture Grumpy Cat by offering her a lot of money to leave her home. What would a surly feline do with human money? I don’t know, but this ruse succeeds in getting both cats locked up by the bad guys. The first issue of the comic book miniseries ends with its title characters together for the first time.
The issue ends by assuring us, “And so they meet and take an instant dislike to each other…Why do they take an instant dislike to each other? Because it saves time.”
Seeing Garfield alongside Grumpy Cat in the same frame, something that only happens at the very end of the comic book, really underlines just how non-grumpy Garfield looks. Once upon a time Garfield looked weird and lumpy and surly, with pin pricks for eyes and a permanent frown but he’s been streamlined over the years to look cuter and cuter and cuter and cuter. Garfield’s eyes are so huge and expressive you’d think Margaret Keane took over the drawing of Garfield sometime in the 1980s. He's the Disney version of Garfield, more at home in the greeting card aisle than the comics page.
Garfield’s mouth is forever fixed in a smug smirk. His body language is aggressive and confident. For a legendary glutton, he looks positively svelte. Garfield has been rounded out to look as adorable and kid-friendly as possible. He's not just cute, he's excessively, cloyingly cute.
My expectations for this exercise in pandering cross-promotion were so low that I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover that this comic book has actual jokes. They’re not good jokes, of course, because this is fucking Garfield and Grumpy Cat we’re talking about, but they are undeniably jokes and that’s more than I was expecting here.
I was also surprised by the amount of just straight-up fucking. I never thought I'd see Jon Arbuckle's dick in any form and I'm not sure that's something I, or anybody else, needs to see. Or is supposed to see. Seriously, why is half this book devoted to Jon's sexscapades? It seems really off-brand. This is supposed to be for kids. Don't nobody need to see Jon holding shit down in an orgy. This new sex-positive spin of Jon is, to be honest, really disconcerting and inappropriate.
Grumpy Cat isn’t much of a character here but she emerges as the fresher and more appealing cat by default. She’s less a Grumpy Cat than a Quietly Despairing Cat, a Nihilist Cat, a Cat All Too Aware of Life’s Rampaging Cruelty. So while Garfield and Grumpy Cat are both cranky, Garfield just seems like a jerk while Grumpy Cat seems haunted by forbidden knowledge of the true nature of existence, and that makes her funnier and a whole lot easier to relate to than that garbage cat Garfield. Man, that fuck that guy. He’s lucky a rising talent like G.C even knows who he is, let alone is willing to work with him on a slickly mediocre exercise in crass commerce, synergy and cross-promotion just barely masquerading as children’s entertainment.
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