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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.

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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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