Tag Archives: Creative Arts

The decline of the feline

When you hear the term “newspaper comic strip,” what do you think of? Some people’s minds are drawn to the misadventures of Charlie Brown in Peanuts, while others might think of the imaginative and colorful adventures of a young boy and his tiger in Calvin and Hobbes. Among all the other comic strips, the one with the lazy orange feline is the one that reigns supreme, Garfield.

Garfield is one of the most important and influential comic strips. Over its 43-year run, the comic has provided endless hours of entertainment to millions of fans across the globe. However nowadays, Garfield isn’t as popular as he used to be in the 1980s and the 1990s, and most people want to know “what happened?” Slowly over the years, the comic has been on a slow and steady decline in its quality, with seemingly no end to the strip and its downward spiral. Garfield is a former shadow of itself, failing to deliver the same enjoyment and iconic status that it once held, however all hope is not lost, as there are things that can be done to improve the comic to its legendary status.

After Jim Davis had canceled his earliest comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, he began working on a comic strip simply titled Jon that ran in the Pendleton Times newspaper from 1976 to 1977. Soon, the comic would be renamed to Garfield, and would begin its syndication in newspapers on June 19th, 1978. This comic strip followed the daily adventures of Jon Arbuckle, a freelance cartoonist living with his obese, orange tabby cat, Garfield. Together, the two would experience many exciting mishaps, specifically surrounding Garfield’s laziness and constant bothering of Jon. With its deadpan sense of humor and a feeling of sarcastic, dry wit, the comic instantly became a smash hit, with a Sunday strip being added to the comic’s lineup only a year after release. The comic was becoming one of the most popular strips in newspapers. For a brief time, Garfield seemed unstoppable, and would lay the groundwork for hundreds of many future comic strips through its influence on millions of people. However, Jim Davis didn’t wait very long to cash in on his favorite feline and little did he know that this would lead to the downfall of the very thing he created.

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Most people would say that Garfield peaked between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. This was when the comic was at its all-time height of popularity, and Jim Davis wanted a piece of the orange pie. Two years after the comic’s debut, with the comic strip appearing in over a thousand newspapers at the time, Jim Davis founded Paws Inc., a company that would handle the merchandise distribution for the franchise. With the ever-growing popularity of Garfield exploding into pop culture, merchandise sales for the franchise increased as well. Jim Davis would then spend more of his effort and time as a businessman managing the merchandise sales of his comic strip franchise, rather than spending time on the actual comic strip itself. This is the start of Garfield’s slow decline: a push to focus on merchandise on promotions rather than the center of the content. Many would argue that the shift to marketing for the franchise is what got the comic into the state that it is currently in, but I would argue that the comic is not completely lost.

Even after all that has been previously described about the comic’s critical status, the comic is not completely gone. There is a way that Garfield can return to the iconic and legendary status that he once held. The simple answer is that Jim Davis would just have to return to the comic and continue to contribute more. While Jim Davis wouldn’t have to be the head writer for the comic anymore, if he at least were a more involved creative supervisor over the ghost writers and authors, the comic’s quality would absolutely see a positive growth.  It’s no secret that the Garfield comic is mainly handled under unnamed writers and artists under Jim Davis’ name, but if the comic had a more solid direction from Davis himself, chances are the comic’s quality can be improved for the better.

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Garfield has been running for several decades and doesn’t show any signs of stopping any time soon. The comic has had a massive influence on millions of people across the world and has inspired future generations of comic artists as well. It’s impossible to deny the huge presence and iconic status that Garfield has held, even if it is a simple comic strip about a fat orange cat and his cartoonist owner living in Muncie, Indiana. Even though the comic might be in a quality rut nowadays, hopefully it won’t stay that way forever. If Jim Davis understands why people love Garfield and company so much, then maybe one day he can return to write for his magnum opus. While the comic is not on the same quality as it used to be, the fact the comic is still running is a testament to the legacy of the strip and the characters that Jim Davis has created, and I’m looking forward to reading Garfield for years to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

An original opportunity: the importance of creative arts at MSJ

“High school is one of the greatest times in your life where you can explore your passions,” stated Mr. Bianco, the director of student life here at Mount Saint Joe, about the importance of student original creative work. High school is, in fact, the opportunity for students to find themselves and the passion that rests inside them. Many students have options to try out for sports, study specific topics, and be involved with extracurricular activities that follow their interests. But what about creative arts? Does high school give students who want to explore the creative arts the chance for student-produced work? I interviewed some of MSJ’s creative and leading teachers for their take on the importance of creative arts at MSJ.

MSJ’s Drama Club’s “Peter and the Star Catcher” cast and crew during rehearsal.

One essential aspect of creative arts is the first word of the study, “creative.” Students find themselves intrigued by the area of study due to the availability to express themselves through creating and producing their own work. That chance for students at MSJ to work on and showcase original work allows them to explore that possible career path. The Carpenter, MSJ’s literary magazine, gives students the chance to publish their pieces of writing. The drama department allows students to act and be a part of the plays and musicals put on in the Knott Fine Arts Auditorium. But other than those two outlets, which are somewhat limited, do students have chances for showcasing original work? The Drama Club at MSJ is currently working on expanding its horizons and giving students more opportunities for showcasing original work. The club is hoping to host a winter cabaret to show original creative projects.

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Mr. Hartsfield, an English teacher and director of the theater department, states that “it’d be great if students could produce their own (creative) work.” Other than the art show here at the Mount, Mr. Hartsfield does not believe we see enough student-driven work. He would like to see students “create their own content like plays, film or singing…I don’t think we see a lot of that now”. He also claims that “there should be more of an opportunity for that to happen.”

Mr. Stromberg, a new theology teacher at MSJ.

Mr. Bianco commented on the idea of giving students the opportunity for an original creative project, “I think if we give students those opportunities, to figure that (project) out along the way, that’s a high school’s responsibility. That’s especially a Xaverian Catholic high school’s responsibility.” Mr. Bianco relates to the importance of the arts due to his “side hustle” of playing the guitar. He explained how, in college, he was in a band that really helped him through that time in his life. He explained how ”those things matter to us because that’s how we express ourselves.”

Mr. Stromberg, a new Theology teacher at the Mount, is also connected with the arts in the way of musical theatre. He received a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre from the Catholic University of America. When asked if he felt prepared by MSJ for that area of study, he said, “I would say yes…(MSJ) taught me how to have a certain work ethic.” He continued to explain his creative opportunities at the Mount, “It did prepare me…the way it taught me to approach education.” Still, he detailed how he did not get the specific chance to find that creative work opportunity. He did not find that passion for musical theatre until he went to college at CUA. But as he now begins his teaching career here at the Mount, he wants to support students who have a passion for creative arts and make sure they have that opportunity.

Other than the shows and the literary magazine at MSJ, students do not have a strong outlet for their original creative work to be shown to the school community. Hopefully, the Drama Club will sponsor and host a cabaret for students to explore, create, and showcase their original work for Gaels, friends, and families to see on the stage.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of the Quill and the Multimedia Journalism class.