James Davis 101: His Comic Empire
Zatrun Published at May 18, 2024

When it comes to the world of comics and entertainment, James Davis is a name that resonates with millions. Born on July 28, 1945, in Marion, Indiana, he has etched his mark as an American cartoonist, screenwriter, and producer. His illustrious career revolves around iconic creations such as Garfield, U.S. Acres, and many more. In this exploration by, we delve into the life, career, and the exceptional empire built by this creative genius.

Early Beginnings and Personal Life

James Robert Davis’s journey began in the heart of Indiana. Growing up on a small Black Angus cow farm in Fairmount, Indiana, Davis shared his childhood with his father, James William “Jim” Davis, his mother, Anna Catherine “Betty” Davis, and his brother, Dave Davis. Interestingly, Davis’s early life on the farm draws parallels with the life of Jon Arbuckle, Garfield’s owner. Both Davis and Jon grew up on farms, adding an intriguing layer to the comics.

Davis’s quest for knowledge led him to Ball State University, where he pursued studies in art and business. During his time at the university, he crossed paths with another future luminary, David Letterman. The university years were also marked by Davis becoming a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.

While still in high school at Fairmount High in 1959, James Davis ventured into the world of comics. His journey began as he joined the school newspaper, The Breeze, where he eventually took on the role of Art Editor. This was where Davis’s first comic found its home, inspired by the nuances of school life. In 1963, his senior yearbook featured a significant portion of illustrations created by Davis himself.

In the realm of personal life, Davis has been married twice. His first marriage was to Carolyn Altekruse. It’s interesting to note that despite her allergies to cats, they shared their lives with a dog named Molly. Their union brought a son into the world. On July 16, 2000, James Davis embarked on a new chapter of his life by marrying Jill, who had two children from a previous marriage.

In 2006, Davis’s connection with Ball State University deepened as he joined the faculty as an adjunct professor. Here, he shared his insights on the creative and business aspects of the comics industry. Currently, James Davis resides in Albany, Indiana, where he oversees the production of Garfield under his company, Paws, Inc., established in 1981.

With nearly 50 artists and licensing administrators, Paws, Inc. plays a pivotal role in managing Garfield’s vast licensing, syndication, and entertainment empire. James Davis’s commitment to his roots is evident as he served as the president of the Fairmount, Indiana FFA chapter.

In December 2019, Davis made headlines by announcing weekly auctions for all hand-painted Garfield comics created between 1978 and 2011. His transition to digital art in 2011 brought these classic comics into the spotlight, revealing a treasure trove sealed in a climate-controlled safe.

James Davis: The Path to Comic Stardom

Before creating the beloved Garfield, Davis worked in advertising and contributed to Tom Ryan’s comic strip, Tumbleweeds. In 1969, he stepped into the world of comic strips by assisting with Tumbleweeds. His own creation, Gnorm Gnat, took flight as a comic strip featured in The Pendleton Times, a newspaper in Pendleton, Indiana, from 1973 to 1975.

However, Davis’s journey to introduce Gnorm Gnat to a national comic strip syndicate hit a roadblock. An editor’s response motivated a shift. “Your art is good, your ‘gags’ are ‘great,’ but bugs—nobody can relate to bugs!” the editor commented. It was this experience that led to the creation of a feline character, eventually bringing Garfield to life.

Garfield, initially known as “Jon,” made its debut in The Pendleton Times in 1976. On June 19, 1978, it embarked on syndication in 41 newspapers. As of 2008, Garfield had become a global sensation, syndicated in a staggering 2,580 newspapers and enjoyed by approximately 300 million readers every day.

In the 1980s, Davis expanded his comic universe with U.S. Acres, known as Orson’s Farm outside the U.S. Furthermore, Davis teamed up with Brett Koth to create a comic strip based on the popular Mr. Potato Head toy.

Davis’s contributions extended beyond comics as he founded the Professor Garfield Foundation, dedicated to promoting children’s literacy. His artistic influences include comic legends like Mort Walker, Charles M. Schulz, Milton Caniff, and Johnny Hart. In 2019, Davis’s empire saw a shift as he sold Paws, Inc. to Viacom, which later merged with CBS Corporation, forming ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global).

James Davis’s journey from a farm in Indiana to becoming the creative force behind iconic comics is a testament to his unwavering dedication and creativity. The legacy of Garfield and the vast comic universe he crafted continue to capture the hearts of readers worldwide.’s exploration has uncovered the remarkable story of James Davis and his enduring impact on the world of comics and entertainment.

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