Jim Davis originally started the Garfield series with a different cast of characters. Named Gnorm Gnat, the strip received lukewarm reviews. One commentator suggested Davis employ a more "relatable" character, such as a cat, and this became the inspiration for Garfield.
Named after Davis' grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis, the Garfield character adopted characteristics from both Davis' childhood cat and his grandfather. Garfield's owner in the comic strip, Jon Arbuckle, was inspired by a 1950s coffee commercial, and Odie the dog came from previous advertising work Davis had done.
At first, Garfield was rejected by syndicators. It took Davis several years to get the strip picked up, eventually by United Feature Syndicate. Davis bought back the rights to Garfield in 1994, through his company Paws, Inc.
In addition to the comic strip itself, Garfield quickly spawned a lucrative merchandising market. Davis founded Paws, Inc. in order to manage the merchandising business, which grew to over $15 million in value by 1981, only three years after the debut of the strip. Currently, approximately 400 manufacturers create Garfield merchandise.
Piggybacking on the strip's success, the television show Garfield & Friends premiered in 1988, eventually running for 7 seasons. Davis has also produced a large number of Garfield books.
About Jerry Gladstone: A highly regarded dealer of collectors' memorabilia, Jerry Gladstone runs American Royal Arts Corp., based in Boca Raton, Florida. In addition to animation items, Jerry Gladstone distributes classic rock posters and other entertainment art.