[Special Guest Post Alert: Joshua Cohen watches too much web video and writes about it at Tilzy.TV, which just launched a shiny new site! You urlbots should definitely check it out, especially if you like Josh's Garfield webtacular below.]

I used to love Garfield, inexplicably LOVE Garfield. Those plush dolls were softer than a Snuggle Bear. On the Saturday morning cartoon, Lorenzo Music's languid tenor mesmerized me. And I just had so much in common with that feline (Oh, Garfield! I like sleeping, TV, and lasagna, too!!!). Yet he was soon relegated to that special Children-of-the-80s place where dreams of He-Men, Gobots, and Thundercats frolic.

Now he's back, and kids aren't laughing with him anymore - grown-ups are laughing at him. In 2004, Slate revealed that Garfield was nothing more than a fanatically capitalistic conception of marketing genius, Jim Davis. The article spawned comp lit-master's-program-level assessments of Garfield, straight-up analysis from legitimate fans (favorite quote: "Since George Costanza is just a Garfield rip-off anyway, it's good to see some give and take."), and random play that cemented the comic strip's total stagnation.

But what started as a few random examinations of Garfield has evolved into a full-blown meme.Playful ridicule has given way to (sometimes NSFW scatological) derision and the internet famo.us parodies and remixes have multiplied. Garfield Minus Garfield, Nothing Garfield, Garkov, Garfield as a real cat, Garfield Randomizer, Silent Garfield, Garfield: Lost in Translation, and The Death of Garfield all use slightly modified original cells or recombined strips to poke fun at the comic, while Lasagna Cat, Arbuckle, What if Conan the Barbarian was Garfield's owner?, Barfield and Garfield Variations re-envision the famous calico in interesting and absurd ways.
Why the obsession, internet? And why now?

Because the people who grew up with Garfield are at an age ripe for retrospection and irony, with enough free time to investigate questions like "WTF were we laughing about?" and a medium on which to distribute the answers.

Why Garfield? Because he's made not to be subverted. The fascination with the fat cat (and the existentialism of his absence) stems from his intense lack of opinion, his rabid inoffensiveness, his profoundly safe laziness. Today's permeating counter culture might have "mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum," but at least it can care about something more than an Italian dish.

The most interesting/aggravating part about the Garfield meme is that Jim Davis doesn't seem to mind. After all, this was never really his baby. Garfield's a cash cat engineered for profit. If you create any derivative work that Davis thinks he can sell, expect a call from Paws, Inc. or Ballantine Books. Soon you and Jim could be purring all the way to the bank. And isn't that what the internet's all about?