Gnorm Gnat (found Jim Davis comic strip; 1973-1975)
The title character, drawn by Jim Davis.
Date found: 05 Jun 2020
Found by: Quinton Reviews
Jim Davis is known for creating the very famous comic strip Garfield that started in 1978, which has become a massive media franchise on its own, adapted into animated series, video games, TV specials and feature-length movies.
What is lesser known is that, before Garfield, Jim Davis created another comic strip called Gnorm Gnat, featuring anthropomorphic insects, which ran from March 1st, 1973 to December 25th, 1975.
The main character was the titular Gnorm Gnat, a straight man with "Walter Mitty" tendencies.
Other characters include a depressed fly, Freddy, who only has a week to live, Cecil, a "dumb" slug, Dr. Rosenwurm, a genius worm, Drac Webb, a cannibalistic spider, and an unspecified species "free spirit, just a tad insane" bug called Lyman (the Garfield comic strip would also have a major character called Lyman, Odie's original owner, who would infamously disappear without a reason).
One early comic strip also mentions a "John Arbuckle" as a poet, which would later serve as the name of the Garfield co-protagonist Jon Arbuckle.
The comic strip was only published weekly in The Pendleton Times, a newspaper from the town of Pendleton in the State of Indiana. Davis tried to have it published in more mainstream publications, but it kept being rejected. Although his art and writing were praised, the main criticism he received was that the characters were considered "unrelatable" and "unfunny" due to being insects.
For a while, there was an urban legend stating that in the final strip, the main character died by being stepped on by the foot of a human. This was later debunked after a Google Drive document containing many Gnorm Gnat comics was uploaded online, with the actual final strip just having the protagonist thank the fans who stuck with the strips while standing next to the message Merry Christmas. One potentially unreleased strip however had a different character be stomped by a human's foot, which perhaps contributed to the myth.
Jim Davis later created a new comic strip called Jon, running from 1976 until 1978 about a man named Jon, and his cat named Garfield having adventures and being lazy. The strip was later renamed to Garfield before becoming syndicated in 1978. Some strips from Jon (themselves often recycled from previous Gnorm Gnat strips) were later recycled into Garfield strips with minor changes, including Garfield being added to strips only featuring Jon and reworking a joke due to the fact that their dog Odie was originally named Spot. The comics were picked up for syndication in early 1978, and the rest is history.
Despite being the predecessor to one of the most popular comic strips of all time, very few of the strips resurfaced online for almost 45 years afterwards, and it seems Davis and his editors have no interest into collecting and reprinting them.
According to an author of fan-produced parody website Square Root of Minus Garfield, some scans of Gnorm Gnat still existed at the "local library" in Pendleton, Indiana, on "microfiche films". He was able to look at some previously unknown strips, including one from 1975 where the script was reused for a 1982 Garfield strip.
In January of 2020, YouTuber Quinton Reviews traveled to Pendleton and scanned every Gnorm Gnat and Jon comic he could find, before later making them all available for public consumption on June 5th, 2020 alongside an accompanying documentary video about the process.
- Wikipedia page on Gnorm Gnat. Retrieved 22 Mar '19
- Google Drive document containing all Gnorm Gnat comics. Retrieved 05 Jun '20
- 20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection. Retrieved 22 Mar '19
- Garfield at 25: In Dog Years I'd Be Dead. Retrieved 22 Mar '19
- Garfield Complete Works: Volume 1: 1978 & 1979. Retrieved 22 Mar '19
- Square Root of Minus Garfield site that mentions Davis reusing Gnorm Gnat material for Garfield comics. Retrieved 26 Mar '19
- Tweet by Quinton revealing his plans for preserving the Gnorm Gnat and Jon strips. Retrieved 20 Mar '20