Jon (found prototype "Garfield" comic strip; 1976-1978)
Garfield as he appears in this comic strip.
Date found: 05 Jun 2020
Found by: Quinton Reviews
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. This was suggested by Tom K. Ryan, creator of the comic strip Tumbleweeds, pointing out that Garfield had all the good lines, and was the main focus of certain strips.
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.
From January 8th, 1976, to March 2nd, 1978, 112 Jon comic strips were produced. However, only 38 had been preserved on the internet from their initial discovery to their complete release via a Google Drive document uploaded by Quinton Reviews. The first found strips were discovered in a public library in Pendleton, along with several of the Gnorm Gnat comic strips.
In January of 2020, Quinton traveled to Pendleton and scanned every Jon and Gnorm Gnat 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 Garfield, mentioning Jon. Retrieved 24 Aug '19
- Google Drive document containing every Jon comic strip. Retrieved 05 Jun '20