Rocky Mountain News throws Garfield in the litter box

Shoo, cat.

A sidebar to an article introducing three new comic strips to the Rocky Mountain News mentions in passing that the tabloid has bid farewell to a trio of older offerings: "Herman," "Hagar the Horrible" and -- most notable of all -- "Garfield."

Oh, how the times have changed. Once upon a time, Jim Davis' "Garfield" was the hottest strip in the land -- so much so that during the late '80s, amid a particularly brutal stretch of Denver's daily newspaper battle, the Rocky and the Post tangled over which of them would have the honor of publishing the humor-free faux-adventures of the lasagna-gobbling feline -- and after one side achieved victory, the losers retaliated in memorable fashion.

As Westword's Alan Prendergast reported in a Denver print roundup dubbed "The Hundred Years War," the Post held the "Garfield" franchise in the late '80s. However, the Rocky stole it away after agreeing to pay a then-whopping $62,554 per annum for the rights, and then ballyhooed its achivement by erecting a yuletide Garfield display on the roof of its building. The Post's response? Pranksters snuck onto the building and vandalized the fat cat.

Today, of course, a lot fewer people care about the strip, which has been repeating the same tired jokes for decades. It's a problem shared by a lot of geriatric comics -- a subject debated in the September 2007 Message column entitled "The Funnies Aren't Anymore." Just over a year later, the folks at the Rocky have targeted several of the worst offenders -- but there remains plenty of dead wood to be chopped. Now how about sending "Marmaduke" to the pound? -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts