Jim Davis was born in Fairmount, Indiana, near Marion, Indiana, where he grew up on a small farm with father Jim Sr., mother Betty, brother Dave, and 25 cats. His love of cartooning emerged during the time he would normally be doing chores, but couldn’t due to asthma. Davis’ childhood on a farm parallels the life of Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, who was also raised on a farm with his parents and a brother, Doc Boy. Jon, too, is a cartoonist, and also celebrates his birthday on July 28.
He atteneded Ball State University. While attending Ball State, he became a member of Theta Xi fraternity.
Prior to creating Garfield, Davis worked for a local advertising agency and in 1969 began assisting Tom Ryan’s comic strip, Tumbleweeds. He then created a comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, that ran for five years in The Muskegon Chronicle, a Michigan newspaper. Davis tried to sell it to a national comic strip syndicate, but an editor told him, “Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs — nobody can identify with bugs!” 20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield’s Twentieth Anniversary Collection Five years after starting Gnorm Gnat, Davis drew a giant foot that fell out of the sky, crushing Gnorm and ending the comic strip.
The strip debuted on June 19, 1978 in 41 U.S. newspapers. Several months after the launch, the Chicago Sun-Times cancelled GARFIELD. Over 1300 angry readers demanded that GARFIELD be reinstated. It was, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, GARFIELD is read in 2570 newspapers by 263,000,000 readers around the globe. Recently, Guinness World Records’, named GARFIELD “The Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World.” Jim Davis has had many successes with GARFIELD including four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program and induction into the Licensing Hall of Fame (1998), but his most prized awards are from his peers in the National Cartoonist Society: Best Humor Strip (1981 and 1985), the Elzie Segar Award (1990), and the coveted Reuben Award (1990) for overall excellence in cartooning.
Davis in the 1980s also created the barnyard-slapstick comic strip U.S. Acres, featuring Orson the Pig. Outside the U.S., the strip was known as Orson’s Farm. Davis also created a 2000-2003 strip based on the toy Mr. Potato Head.
Davis in the Lazy Muncie music video In the mid-2000s, Davis appeared in the music video “Lazy Muncie”, a parody of the Saturday Night Live video “Lazy Sunday”.
Davis did not have cats when he started Garfield, but they owned a Labrador retriever named Molly. With Jill, the family has expanded to include children Ashley and Chris, granddaughter Chloe, and cats Link, Spunky, and Spritzy.