Gnorm Gnat (partially found Jim Davis comic strip; 1972-1975)
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 1972 to 1975.
The main character was the titular Gnorm Gnart, a straight man with "Walter Mitty" tendencies.
Other characters include a depressed fly, Freddy, who only has a week to live, 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).
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 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 strip however had a different character 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 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 rest is history.
Despite being the predecessor to one of the most popular comic strips of all time, almost no strips of the original comic have resurfaced publically, 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 exist at the "local library" in Pendleton, Indiana, on "microfiche films". He was able to look at some unknown strips, notably one (from 1975) where the script was reused for a 1982 Garfield strip.
- Wikipedia page on Gnorm Gnat. Retrieved 22 Mar '19
- Google Drive document containing numerous Gnorm Gnat strips, as well as well as various prototype Garfield strips. Retrieved 28 Jul '19
- 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