Cash Kitty

Garfield creator Jim Davis gets nostalgic at Joseph-Beth.

Jim Davis Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 13217 Shaker Square 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 11. Free; call 216-751-3300.

Garfield, that lethargic, lasagna-loving orange feline, first appeared in the comics 25 years ago. He's celebrating with a new book, In Dog Years I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25, creator Jim Davis's behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of his beloved character over the years. "We all eat, we all sleep," Davis says. "And, let's face it, we'd probably all be lazy and selfish if we could get away with it."

Judging by all of the Garfield memorabilia out there, it's hard to believe that the fat cat almost died an early death. Three months after the Chicago Sun-Times picked up the strip in 1978, it was dropped, in a money-saving effort. The devastated Davis figured his career had come to an end. "Within two or three weeks, they had 1,300 phone calls and letters in Garfield's defense," he recalls. "And right then, I knew that we had a feature that had already developed some affection on the part of the readers."

No kidding. Garfield fans remain as rabid as a catnip-crazed cat. The daily strip now appears in 2,570 newspapers; it's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most syndicated comic in the world. "Garfield has the courage to say a lot of things we feel, but don't have the courage to say," Davis says. "They'll let Garfield say it on a T-shirt or coffee mug, so they don't have to."

In Dog Years I'd Be Dead is a lavish coffee-table collection that gathers everything from recollections about the early days to the collector's items found around the world. And, of course, there are plenty of the classic strips Davis has written and illustrated over the past quarter-century. "I know Garfield so well," he says, "when I sit down to write, he just appears in my imagination.

"One of the reasons I love the writing so much is because he has to make me laugh first. It's as entertaining for me as it is for the readers."

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