Sequential Art Analysis with Garfield & Friends

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I grew up reading Garfield comics and to this day I would read them in the daily Sunday newspaper, so I thought it was only necessary to pick a Garfield & Friends comic. This comic strip I chose was a simple one of three characters having a conversation, made up of only three panels. You could say the comic got straight to the point with no jabber. The comic is bright and full of colors, attracting the reader’s eye immediately. The colors make the reader more intrigued in the comic. Here we can see amplification, as McCloud writes about, through simplicity. All three panels have a couple and Garfield included in them. Garfield has the same grumpy and displeased looking face on in every one. He seems completely emotionless and motionless until he says the one word, “NO” in the last panel. The reader can get a good idea of the kind of animal Garfield is, and my idea of him would be a grumpy old man. Garfield does not seem to be the only motionless character as the man and woman barely move as well. There is also little talk as the woman says only one sentence. Since the panels are so still and there is no concept of time, it is left up to the reader to interpret the comic. It seems as if this conversation takes place in all of five minutes.

McCloud believes there are way words and images can interact. In this Garfield comic, I would say this strip is word specific, duo specific, and additive. The pictures illustrate what is going on but don’t significantly add to the complete text, which makes it word specific. The words almost have more meaning than the illustrations themselves, because the illustrations are so bland and motionless. The words make the illustrations come to life. According to McCloud, “If the words lock in the “meaning” of a sequence, then the pictures can really take off.” This comic strip can be seen as duo specific, because the words and pictures send essentially the same message. For example, in the last panel, Garfield replies “NO” but the reader can almost already tell he would say that by the negative and unamused look on his face. Finally, the comic is additive because the words amplify and elaborate the images. Without any of these word bubbles, there would be no way the reader could tell what was happening in this comic. The author was creative in the second panel by using the punctuation, “…” after the man’s sentence. This leaves not only the woman in the comic, but the reader hanging, wanting to read the next panel to see what the man has to say. The next panel could be something the reader expected or something completely out of the blue and both myself and the woman weren’t too impressed with his response. The man’s words portray how most men think these days, that women are perfect housewives and only there for cooking and cleaning. Many woman readers could be insulted by this and the idea of sexism could be brought up. However, Garfield’s single response ends the comic well with some humor. Since one person is talking at a time for most of the panels, it is easier to focus on what that character is saying. I feel like the illustrator should have made the comic more relatable and real by showing more movement and maybe a different background in each panel. On the other hand, the simplicity leads the reader to interpret the comic with their own imagination, and I enjoy this because I’m more of a visual learner and have the opportunity to get creative.

Garfield & Friends

4 thoughts on “Sequential Art Analysis with Garfield & Friends

  1. Ali, I wonder, when you mention “the punctuation, ‘…’ after the man’s sentence” (called an ellipsis), what this punctuation does to the timing of how you read the panel? It seems to me that without that punctuation, the timing of the joke might be affected. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “If the words lock in the “meaning” of a sequence, then the pictures can really take off” in this comic. It doesn’t seem like the pictures take off anywhere here.

  2. Hey girl, I have a few questions for you! In the first two pictures, although Garfield isn’t talking, why do you think he’s in the frame? He could have just appeared in the last panel. Also, do you think the brevity of the panel is supportive of the brevity of the joke? Do you think there could have been more pictures or words to enhance the joke? Lastly, in regard to what Kevin has said above, do you if the panel did not have any words, would the images be able to execute the joke? Or are the words necessary.

    • Hi Allie!

      To answer your questions, I believe Garfield is involved in the frame because he is the main character of these comics and he adds more to the comic strip. By the use of silence, he becomes more powerful but not saying any words. He adds to the thoughts and feelings of the woman that the man is ridiculous and not funny when he makes his comment. It’s as if Garfield is there to see what stupid comment the man will make next. I feel like the little amount of panels does support the brevity of the joke. It supports the fact that this joke was not a good one, filled without humor. It’s almost an embarrassing joke because of the way Garfield and the woman react to it, so the man should want it to be over so he can forget he made the terrible joke. Without the words, the images would really not be able to execute the joke. I believe that the characters are so motionless that since they basically stay the same in each panel, the viewer needs words to understand what is going on. There always could be more pictures and words to help the viewer understand what the characters are thinking and what they are doing. The pictures and words help explain the goal of the author and what he wanted to get across to the viewers.

  3. Hey Ali! I think you incorporated ideas from McCloud well. I think you analyzed Garfield’s face very well, he was unamused throughout the whole comic, so when you called him a “grumpy old man” I thought that was a good comparison. However, what do you think about the man moving closer to the woman? Do you think it is something that can be analyzed? Also, what type of background would you want it to be changed to; would they be outside or inside?

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