Dude, relax. You’re getting a positive review. And it’ll be mostly spoiler-free, provided you choose to ignore the large number of spoilers that I intend to include.
In Garfield’s Cheesy Holiday Special, the popular Jim Davis character gets two holiday-themed outings. The first is entitled “Holly’s Holiday Hope,” and the second is “The Lasagna Monster Who Stole Christmas!” These stories are very, very different, so it’s necessary to discuss them separately.
“Holly’s Holiday Hope” begins with Garfield and Odie on their way to The Store That Carries Everything to see Jon play Santa Claus. They run into a snag, however, when the security guard boots them out. Not because the store has a general rule against unsupervised animals, but because the manager is trying to prevent an ongoing ring of thefts that appear to be perpetrated by dogs.
After this set-up, Garfield hatches a plan for Odie and himself to enter the store by dressing up as elves in (presumably) stolen costumes. If Garfield seems oddly cheerful about seeing Santa, it’s only because he intends to sit on Jon’s lap and read him an insanely long wish list/holiday menu. This is one of those weird moments where fans are forced to scratch their heads and wonder if Jon Arbuckle can hear what Garfield is saying. Or, if you’re a Garfield Minus Garfield fan like me, you just assume that this moment is less about whether or not Garfield can talk and more about Jon’s deep-seated mental disturbances.
Look at him. He doesn’t hear a word that kid is saying. Maybe it’s the kid’s fault for not speaking in thought bubbles.
Anyway, Odie attacks a security guard and they get kicked out. But not before Garfield tries to stay by hiding out in a Santa outfit. This causes a young girl named Holly to mistake him for the real Santa. Holly appears to have a somewhat troubling relationship with her father, and her mother’s work schedule has left her something of a latch-key kid. The comic never really gets that serious, but there are a lot of hints that Holly’s childhood needs some fixing. For now, however, all she wants is Hope. That’s not some lame metaphor, but rather the name of her missing dog.
This is where the theft ring from earlier begins to come back into play. I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by telling you that a Garfield comic didn’t go with the darker ending and kill anybody off, so things all work out in the end. Sort of. The girl’s dad comes back into her life, but we’re also told that this is the first time he’s ever expressed care for her. Hard to believe that he’s suddenly a changed man. It’s a good thing she has that dog, because she’s probably in for some disappointment in the near future.
Oddly depressing ending aside, it’s a nice little holiday story. And we get to see Odie act tough a couple of times, which is the story’s real strength.
The writing by Mark Evanier is strong in this story, humorous and thoughtful while never getting too heavy-handed for the kids. The only real thing that ruins it is the downer ending, but it takes a bit of cynicism and a lot of fridge logic to see that the ending is anything but sappy. So kids will enjoy it either way.
The illustrations by Andy Hirsch are pretty much what you’d expect from a modern Garfield comic, but that’s not to say they’re boring or disappointing in any way. Hirsch draws the characters well, and somehow manages to convey a bit of expression behind Odie’s usual dopey grin. But it’s the colors by Lisa Moore that really make the artwork pop off of the page, and that’s what arguably makes this the more enjoyable story in this special.
The second story in Garfield’s Cheesy Holiday Special is “The Lasagna Monster Who Stole Christmas!” And the first thing you’ll notice upon reading this story is that the art style is very different.
David DeGrand’s illustrations recall an old-school Garfield that we don’t see too often these days. It’s a welcome throwback, although it can be a bit jarring after spending half the comic with the polished artwork in the first story. Lisa Moore did the colors for this comic as well, and even she seems to have gone a bit paler. There’s something aged about this artwork, which mimics a combination between your classic Seuss illustrations and the newspaper funnies of yesteryear.
The story, written by Scott Nickel, is much less standard holiday fare than the story that precedes it. The Lasagna Monster, a character that has appeared in Garfield comics before (originally drawn by the same artist, David DeGrand), is out to ruin the fat cat’s Christmas. After a relatively belabored reference to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Monster decides he wants to go for a slightly more original plan. Instead of simply stealing all the lasagna in town, he’s going to transport it all to an alternate dimension through the use of his molecular pasta displacer.
The plan works, but the Lasagna Monster writes his own failure when he yells at his lackey’s daughter—the subtly named Mindy Loo. The lackey tells Garfield where the Monster is hiding out, and the feline must go and have a showdown with his cheesy foe. This is rather short-lived, but Garfield isn’t exactly known for its action sequences.
While this story may not have as much heart as the first one, it’s classic Garfield through and through. The humor is bizarre, Odie is a moron, and Jon still seems like a crazy person with no one to talk to but his cat. And while the colors didn’t feel to me like they popped as much as they did in the first story, they’re still wonderfully vibrant. Ultimately, this story still succeeds.
The whole thing is then capped off with a few classic strips, which are nice to see. It just wouldn’t be Garfield without Jim Davis.
Garfield’s Cheesy Holiday Special isn’t necessarily out to impress anyone, but it will certainly entertain. The writers and artists did an excellent job of giving us two very different kinds of Garfield, one with a bit more depth and one with a bit more cartoon zaniness. The depth doesn’t quite work for the cynical adult (read as: the kind of adult who reads Garfield), but the fun factor is consistent throughout pretty much the whole issue. This shouldn’t top your list of things to read, but it’s certainly worth a purchase.