At one point there were 2 orange cartoon cats, Heathcliff and Garfield. For some reason Heathcliff has completely vanished whereas his doppelganger “Garfield” (who didn’t even appear until 5 years after Heathcliff appeared) is still making books, Hollywood movies, Valentines Day cards and just generally lingering around as a timeless, pop culture icon of some sort and I can’t figure out why.
You could make the argument that the fact that Garfield has outlasted Heathcliff in that way makes him the defacto winner of their real life “face off”, but lets take a closer look.
Garfield is a beloved character; you can find him on coffee mugs, stuck to the inside of car windows, and in the movies.
As a general character, Garfield, who came out in 1978, is fat, lazy, greedy and sarcastic. That’s pretty much it, there were maybe 4 jokes you can get out of him. If he isn’t zinging his owner Jon or kicking his hapless co-pet Odie off the kitchen counter, he’s sleeping or eating.
His friends are somewhat non-descript, there’s Odie the dog who pretty much just drools and stares blankly.
Jon Arbuckle, his owner, is a dim wit, some of the humor he brings comes from his failed attempts at dating but mostly he’s just a straight man going “Hey, you ate my lasagna” or something like that, there’s also a female cat named Arlene who Garfield tries to holla at every now and again but usually fails and a really annoying cat named Nermal who is obsessed with befriending Garfield for some reason and is super annoying.
The comic strip is standard 3 or 4 panel stuff and has been around since 1978 and holds the Guinness record for most widely syndicated comic strip ever.
The show was pretty good, they are able to do more than they could with the strip, although not much more. The coolest part about the cartoon is the fact that it was broken into 2 parts, one half featuring Garfield and whatever crap he was up, eating or some shit, and the other half featuring the farm animals of US Acres, another newspaper comic strip by the creator of Garfield, which was crazy funny.
It had a far better cast of characters (an arogant rooster, a hypocondriac duck, an unhatched egg that talked and walked) and as a result was way funnier than Garfield.
The lasting effect of Garfield is obvious, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know who he was and apparently because all of the books, cartoons, the tons of crap his face is on like birthday cards and “get well soon” Mylar balloons and the 2 movies, Garfield generates almost a Billion dollars a year. That’s Billion with a “B”, although I never understood how that happened exactly.
I respect Garfield as an icon but to me it’s sort of like Mickey Mouse to me, another wildly popular figure with no personality.
On the other hand there’s Heathcliff, created in 1975, who, if anything, is the Aaron Hall to Garfields R.Kelly clearly, as he was out 5 whole years before Garfield.
Personality wise, Heathcliff is definitely much cooler in general in the sense that he was more of a badass. He’s wasn’t necessarily witty, but he was funnier in that he was an outside cat doing outside cat stuff. He’d be out in alleys, knocking over trash cans, stealing fish from the market, he had a girlfriend (probably because he wasn't neutuered as I suspect the lazy, chick-less Garfield was. He was constantly fighting other neighborhood animals, and he’d howl in the middle of the night disturbing the neighbors, shit that outside cats do, as apposed to Garfields lazy housecat schtick.
Heathcliff had more fascinating relationships than Garfield. He didn’t have a sidekick like Odie, but he was owned by a boy named Iggy who lived with his grandparents.
Iggy was as close to a sidekick as it would get and the relationship between the 3 was very different from the Jon, Garfield Odie arrangement.
Iggy had almost no control over Heathcliff which in itself was funny, and Grandpa wasn’t into Heathcliff at all, so there was infighting at home which made for a interesting dynamic.
There was also a neighborhood bully named Mugsy who would give Iggy the business every now and then.
Mugsy also owned a bulldog named Spike that would try to step to Heathcliff occasionally but would always get the crap beaten out of him. Heathcliff would eventually have to beat both of them up because Iggy was such a spineless turd.
The comic strip for Heathcliff is kinda wack compared to Garfield's. It’s a one panel thing, like Family Circus or Marmaduke. Heathcliff didn’t talk in the strip, the family would usually just react to something he was doing. I hated the comic strip.
The Other half of the cartoon show was awesome for 2 reasons. First of all, there were two different versions, I remember as a kid being excited to find out which one was gonna be on that day. One was Heathcliff featuring “Dingbat and The Creeps” a show about a Vampire Dog, a talking pumpkin and a skeleton who sounded exactly like curly from the 3 Stoogies, they went around solving crimes or something and it was nuttier than it sounds, I shit you not.
The other version is probably the one most people remember and that was the one featuring “The Catillac Cats”, a really strange group of junkyard cats lead by Riff Raff, who was really interesting enough to have his own show.
If you don’t know, he wore a hat and scarf, and had a smoking hot girlfriend who lived in a record store and actually looked like an human woman.
He also, like Heathcliff, would get into all kind of neighborhood shit and beef with dogs and other cats, but unlike Heathcliff he had a car that could transform into a flying boat and his own goons, Hector, Mongo and Wordsworth.
You could argue that Riff Raff alone was better than Heathcliff AND Garfield.
So props to Garfield for managing to generate billions of dollars and having the better newspaper strip, but Heathcliff has a girlfriend, a kick ass attitude, a better cartoon that introduced 2 other really unique and interesting shows and at the end of the day, he’s the original orange cat.
Friday Face Off Winner: Heathcliff
Next Week On Friday Face Off: 2 Other Things...