"Halloween 1989" (or "Garfield Alone") refers to a series of six highly unusual Garfield comic strips that first appeared in newspapers between Monday October 23 and Saturday October 28, 1989.
The Garfield comic strip was created by the American cartoonist Jim Davis. The first Garfield strip appeared in forty-one newspapers in North America on June 19, 1978. It is now the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world, appearing in more than two thousand five hundred newspapers and magazines in many different countries and territories. The strip has spawned thirteen TV specials, two animated TV series (Garfield and Friends (1989-1994) and The Garfield Show (2009-2016), two theatrically released movies which combine live-action with computer generated imagery, three straight-to-video CGI only films and a great deal of merchandise. The strip's title character is a fat, lazy striped orange cat. Garfield loves sleeping, watching television and eating lasagna. He hates Mondays and spiders. Other major characters in the strip are Garfield's owner, a somewhat eccentric and socially awkward man named Jon Arbuckle, and Jon's other pet, a dim-witted dog named Odie.
The strip has now largely settled into a "gag-a-day" format, often with a common theme running through all the strips that appear in a single week. In recent years, Garfield strips for the days preceding and following Halloween have typically shown Garfield passing comment on horror movies that he watches on TV. Storylines which spanned a week, or several weeks, were more common in the earlier years of the strip's run.
The six strips which were first published on the week before Halloween 1989 are unlike any other Garfield comic strips because they are not supposed to be funny. Instead, they are intended to be frightening. They present a storyline in which Garfield suddenly finds himself in a future in which Jon and Odie no longer exist. The cat is left completely on his own and without any food in a house which has long since been abandoned. Jim Davis has said, "During a writing session for Halloween, I got the idea for this decidedly different series of strips. I wanted to scare people. And what do people fear most. Why, being alone."
Garfield wakes up and complains that the house is cold. He then comments that he has "an eerie sensation" and thinks, "This doesn't feel like home." Garfield discovers that there is nobody else in the house. The cat tries to reassure himself that the house is only temporarily empty. In the second panel of the third strip in the series, he thinks, "Jon must be at the grocery." The final panel of the third strip in the series shows the exterior of Garfield's house. There is an old "for sale" sign in front of it. The windows and door have been boarded up and the front lawn is overgrown. It is obvious that the house has been abandoned for a very long time.
The fourth strip in the series introduces the possibility that Garfield may now be a ghost who is haunting his former home. Having realized that nobody has lived in his old house for many years, Garfield concludes that he cannot have lived there for many years either. In response to a noise and light, Garfield runs into the kitchen. Jon and Odie are there. Jon greets Garfield and offers him a bowl of cat food. The food, Jon and Odie suddenly disappear. They were merely hallucinations. A caption at the end of the fifth strip in the series says that Garfield is, "locked fast within a time when he no longer exists."
Captions at the start of the sixth strip in the series say that the only way that Garfield can overcome the terrible situation in which he finds himself is through denial. He thinks, "I don't want to be alone." Jon and Odie reappear. Jon again offers Garfield some food. Garfield ignores the food and hugs the much surprised Jon.
The storyline ends on a somewhat ambiguous note. A caption in the final panel of the sixth strip in the series speaks of the power of imagination. It says that imagination can alter someone's perception of the past and present and can also, "paint a future so vivid that it can entice ... or terrify." This can be understood as meaning that Garfield merely imagined that he was in a terrifying future and has now returned to the present reality. What was intended to be reality and what was intended to be fantasy in the six comic strips is, however, not made explicitly clear.
Notes and references
- The series of strips does not have an official name.
- Davis, Jim (1998) 20 Years & Still Kicking! Garfield's Anniversary Collection, Ballantine Books, ISBN 0345421264