David Lynch’s Forgotten Comic Strip Is a Nightmare Version of Garfield


Leave it to David Lynch to take comic strips to a level Garfield couldn’t even imagine. Forget hating Mondays, Lynch’s surrealist strip The Angriest Dog in the World combined non-sequitur humor with the famed director’s real-life bouts with rage.

When it comes to comic strips, few have become as large a worldwide phenomenon as Jim Davis’ Garfield. A staple of the funnies section of newspapers everywhere, Garfield examines the life of the eponymous cat as well as his relationships with his owner Jon Arbuckle, and Odie the dog. With little commentary on the social or political aspects of life, Jim Davis’ Garfield keeps things simple and light with Garfield’s particular foibles, such as his love of lasagna and his absolute disdain for Mondays. The lighthearted strip found major success, and at one point held the Guinness World Record for being the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip.

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But the simple charm of Garfield has got nothing on David’s Lynch’s subversive approach to the four panel comic strip. During the incredibly long production of Eraserhead, Lynch came up with the idea of The Angriest Dog in the World. The strip is an experimental, alternative comic centered around a dog whose anger issues make Garfield’s hatred of Mondays look like a love fest. Unlike most comic strips, the panel art of The Angriest Dog in the World almost always remains the same, with the titular dog “bound so tightly with tension and anger.” The only thing that does change is the dialogue coming from within a house, often delivering groan-worthy puns and non-sequiturs, likely contributing to the dog’s growing anger. In an interview with David Breskin, David Lynch relates the strip to his own personal experiences with anger.

While The Angriest Dog in the World would never see the same syndication numbers as the comic strip Garfield, Lynch’s work did find its way to being published in several alternative weekly papers like the Los Angeles Reader and the New York Press. In the Breskin interview, Lynch admits that his anger, or rather, “the memory of anger” as he says, is what helped inspire his work. While Lynch’s and Davis’ strips both seem to embrace gags and puns, The Angriest Dog can be seen as a dark mirror to something like Garfield.

Even when tormenting Odie or sending Nermal to Abu Dhabi, Garfield has always possessed a lightness that has shone through its silly humor. While equally humorous, David Lynch’s work just comes off a bit more dark and mysterious. The shadowy figure pulling against his leash, the repeated panels, the eerie glow and outline of the dog in the final panel. All of these attributes flip the standard comic strip tropes that something like Jim Davis’ beloved property has followed for years. With The Angriest Dog in the World, David Lynch managed to take a medium dominated by the wholesomeness of Garfield, and add in his own unique spin on it.

Source 1: Open Culture

Source 2: Dangerous Minds

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