Jon (partially found prototype "Garfield" comic strip; 1976-1978)
By now, almost everyone knows about Jim Davis's famous comic strip cat, Garfield. However, what is much lesser known is the fact that, before the Garfield comics were syndicated into several mainstream newspapers, Jim Davis had published various "prototype" Garfield comics weekly in the Pendleton, Indiana newspaper, The Pendleton Times. These comics were interestingly titled Jon.
Jon centers around the titular character Jon, along with his plain, stripe-less cat, Garfield. Lyman, the character who eventually infamously disappeared with no explanation in Garfield, also had an appearance here, along with his dog, Spot. Spot is the original version of Odie in this comic strip. It's unknown why his name was changed, but a likely reason is that the name "Spot" is a very stereotypical name for a dog, which was made fun of in one of the comics. This name change also resulted in Davis having to alter the punchline of one of the comics, so that it would still work when remade in Garfield. Most comics in this series would eventually get slightly altered and re-released as mainstream Garfield comics when those came out. However, there were a few unique comics which never got adapted into Garfield.
After September 1st, 1977, the strip's name was changed to Garfield, named after the cat in the comic strip.
On March 2nd, 1978, it was revealed to Pendleton Times readers that the newly-named Garfield would be getting syndicated into more mainstream newspapers. 2 final prototype strips were shown as a farewell, showing designs for Garfield and Jon much closer to how they looked in the first few mainstream Garfield strips.
For some reason, this short-lived comic strip had gone almost completely undocumented for 40 years until just recently on July 28th, 2019, when Youtuber Quinton Reviews had someone in Pendleton make scans of various then-lost Gnorm Gnat comic strips (Jim Davis's other Pendleton Times comic). However, to his surprise, he later got another email with the subject "Here is Jon", revealing to him, and the Garfield fandom, 38 of these comics.
Knowing that The Pendleton Times was a weekly publication, and that the first Jon comic strip was made on January 8th, 1976, and the last on March 2nd, 1978, It is most likely that at least 104 Jon comic strips exist. However, only 38 have been preserved on the internet in a PDF file, with the rest being lost as of now. The currently found ones were discovered in a public library in Pendleton, along with several Gnorm Gnat comic strips. Since the location of the lost strips has been found, and since Garfield has become very popular over the years, there's a large chance that the lost comics will be found in the future.
- Wikipedia page on Garfield, mentioning Jon. Retrieved 24 Aug '19