Garfield, set in a scene of the Sabertooth Tiger Volcano Hell Dimension
March 4, 2017 10:03 AM   Subscribe

"Most of the stories in His 9 Lives are light-hearted comics about Garfield's past incarnations throughout history (for example, as a cave cat or a viking). But in "Primal Self" — which features art by Jim Clements, Gary Barker, and Larry Fentz — things go off the deep end without warning. I read "Primal Self" when I was seven, and it messed me up for a solid week." Holy crap, this is the most terrifying Garfield strip ever published. If you need something to lighten you up* after that, here's a playlist of the animated version of His 9 Lives**, which doesn't include "Primal Self," two others. The noir Garfield's Babes and Bullets was it's own short special, and for a final bonus, here's Garfield's Feline Fantasies, for another "alternate universes/lives" Garfield video.

* Warning: Life 6, "Diana's Piano," is lovely, but some end up in tears at the end. And Life 7, "Lab Animal," isn't particularly chipper, either. In fact, one unseen scientist even says "these experiments sound like something out of a horror movie to me."

** Lives 4 and 5 are blocked in that playlist, so here's an alternate source for lives 4-6.
posted by filthy light thief (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had this as a kid. It was terrifying, but then I was too young to know that things were not supposed to be terrifying. Everything worth looking at frightened me sometimes -- Disney movies, the Muppets, my family. All in all, I liked the book very much, and mostly just skipped the scary part when I reread it.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:15 AM on March 4, 2017 [12 favorites]


Can we do Garfield Week every year?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:21 AM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Primal Self put the willies up me I read it aged 9. I thought I'd puma pants.

I remember my dad being more concerned about perceived blasphemy in chapter one. There was also some reference to Paradise Lost being boring in some Garfield related book I had which my chose to interpret as anti-Christian as opposed to anti-long-old-poems.

Seriously though, for a property as bland and as merchandise minded as Garfield ( I was a huge fan back in the day. I had wallpaper and doorknobs and everything) what was the thinking behind putting that chapter in the book?
posted by gnuhavenpier at 10:24 AM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


GAR-FEEEEEEL!!
posted by jcruelty at 10:50 AM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


"Primal Self" is great!

I could not watch 60 seconds of "Lab Animal"; I am ashamed to be a human being.
posted by jamjam at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a kid, I was into Garfield (we share a birthday)...had all the books and everything, including this one. By the time this came out (around the time I did) I was a little older, but still enough of a fan to record this, on betamax no less, and note that several of the animations are not in the book.
To this day, I can recite life #4, court musician, in it's entirety, from memory, including all the voices. Hello Frrrreddy! What have we heah?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Oh my gosh I remember this book! It really was amazing. Not for kids, but amazing. I must have read it a hundred times.
posted by annekate at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2017


I remember this book! I can't remember where I came across it but a the viking and primordial cat stories pop into my head now and then.
posted by bunderful at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2017


Yeah, "His 9 Lives" was one of my favorites when I was little. Lots of stuff for my kid-brain to chew on. Really neat art.
posted by chasing at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had no idea what this was and then clicking the link to "Primal Self" immediately took me back to being seven and reading that, and all of the weird feelings of how wrong it was. I hadn't consciously thought of that since then but apparently it strongly stuck with me as I gasped aloud at the panel of the cats "merging." Is this why I'm so messed up?
posted by neustile at 4:36 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


When I read this book (at around six or seven), I ended up deciding that the dark spirit coming out of the water meant that the cat had rabies. (I did not understand what rabies was and had confused the symptom of hydrophobia with it being a water-borne illness.) I used to get weepy-scared when I thought about the nice grandmother about to be mauled by a sick, deranged, version of her trusted and beloved pet.

Looking at it now I see that it was, I think, trying to do a 'joke' about how when cats suddenly go nuts and bite-bite-claw out of nowhere that it is an echo of their feral instincts (and metaphorically here also revenge for the indignities visited upon them by being domesticated.) But yeah, straight up nightmare fuel for young Scatterkitten.
posted by Scattercat at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


* Warning: Life 6, "Diana's Piano," is lovely, but some end up in tears at the end.

I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WATCH "DIANA'S PIANO".

I haven't seen the short in nearly twenty years and I still tear up just thinking about the ending.

It is beyond a doubt one of the most tear-jerking animated shorts ever produced the history of animation.

.....I'm sorry, I have to go hug a kitty right now.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:29 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WATCH "DIANA'S PIANO".

Why do you say those things unless you intend the rest of us to watch them?

(OTOH, my cat jumped up on my lap during the last minute of the short. So there's that.)

Not the most tear-jerking ending ever, though. That belongs to "Jurassic Bark."
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:31 PM on March 4, 2017


The Babes and Bullets special looks disappointingly Garfieldian; the main thing I remember about the Sam Spayed noir story from His 9 Lives was how fucking sexy all the characters in the illustrations were. That stands out vividly in my mind, even though I read it at like age 8 or something, long before I had any facility with the phrase "fucking sexy." That's just how fucking sexy these catpeople were
posted by Greg Nog at 8:23 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


How did this Primal Self thing get made? Has anyone heard anything like a story?
posted by wotsac at 8:29 PM on March 4, 2017


Scattercats' experience rationalizing Primal Self mirrors my own. Cats just flip out sometimes and attack you. That grandmother seems harmless and such in the last panel of that story, but really she's just about to curse a blue streak and put kitty into time out.

It is weird that His 9 Lives is still talked about today. It's such a strange thing. My favorite story in it, in retrospect, is probably the last one, which actually turns out to be a virtual reality video game in which a humanoid Garfield tries to win a space battle despite the help of ship's computer O.D.I.E., who was "built by the lowest bidder." As people in the earlier thread mention, Garfield used to be fairly funny, before comic rot set in, the inevitable result of having to produce a new joke, using the same characters and settings, once a day, for basically the rest of your life.

Back to His 9 Lives, it seems that Mefite Thorzdad worked on it.
posted by JHarris at 8:57 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


I want to update the 9-Lives screensaver so I can use it nowadays.
posted by rhizome at 8:59 PM on March 4, 2017


wotsac, Thorzdad mentioned in a Memail to me around 2008 (I don't think he told me anything secret) that:
It was Jims gift to his art staff. Something for them to stretch out with instead of doing the same Garfield stuff. Theres some pretty cool stuff in the book
posted by JHarris at 9:00 PM on March 4, 2017 [11 favorites]


the main thing I remember about the Sam Spayed noir story from His 9 Lives was how fucking sexy all the characters in the illustrations were.

It might not be in the top ten list of gateway drugs into furry fandom, but I'm pretty sure that it's in the top twenty.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:23 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


...the main thing I remember about the Sam Spayed noir story from His 9 Lives was how fucking sexy all the characters in the illustrations were.

The artist who drew it really created some masterworks of pencil illustrations. It easily took the most time to complete of any of the stories in the book, and it shows.

...................
How did this Primal Self thing get made? Has anyone heard anything like a story?

The book was never conceived as being anything other than something by the artists for a grown-up audience (or, more grown-up than the usual Garfield audience.) So, Primal Self was just allowed to happen. You have to remember it was a time when comic books in general were going through a huge transition to much more edgier stuff, and the primary force behind Primal Self, Gary Barker (whose normal job was to pencil the daily strip) was deeply into comics. It was an easy project to get into because it was so not Garfield.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Back to His 9 Lives, it seems that Mefite Thorzdad worked on it.

Yup. Sadly, my normal duties (being the sole product/graphic designer on staff at the time) didn't allow me more than a couple of days to bat out my own solo piece, and the result was probably the weakest of the bunch. But, I got to help out when I could with some of the other stories, most notably PS.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:34 AM on March 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


For those of you who still have copies of the book, the people in the "Creation" story at the front are the entire art staff in all our youthful, 1984 glory.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:22 AM on March 5, 2017 [9 favorites]


One of the things I loved about the His 9 Lives book was that as a kid it helped sort of open up comics? Garfield was always sort of a gateway to comics fandom for me—as a little kid I had SO MANY of the collections, and when the H9L special ran, I taped it and watched it over and over, and I was SO EXCITED when I found out they made a book out of it[1].

"Primal Self" was totally scary as a kid, though now I get the joke. (also: it's super gorgeous.)

Wasn't there one too about Garfield/the GF standin as a lab animal?

But yeah—honestly, it's stuff like that that makes me still have a warm feeling towards Garfield, even though I've kind of outgrown the base strip.

(ALSO: Garfield and Friends, by the great Mark Evanier, ruled.)


[1] I don't know why, but little me assumed that the book was a tie-in with the special rather than the special being based on a book. I guess because at the time I'd only seen the standard strip collections?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there one too about Garfield/the GF standin as a lab animal?

Yes. It was titled Lab Animal, also drawn by Gary Barker.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Lasagna Cat link.
posted by mikeand1 at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I admit my shame in having never figure this out, but in "Primal Fear", was Tigger supposed to have been possessed by some Evil Force that would have made Lovecraft crap his pants, or was he somehow mentally reverted back to (possessed by?) a sabre cat state?
posted by gtrwolf at 10:17 PM on March 5, 2017


This book was one of a handful of things I saw just once (as a child in a used bookshop) and wasn't sure if it was real or completely imagined for like ten plus years for the internet to come around and have all the answers.

Never knew it was animated, too
posted by elr at 11:54 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


By sheer coincidence, I found a copy of His 9 Lives--in hardcover, even!-- in a used bookstore today. I've only read individual stories from it; I'm looking forward to seeing how it works as a whole.
posted by MrBadExample at 1:39 PM on March 12, 2017


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