As a cartoonist, he has also worked on Tumbleweeds (as an assistant to Tom Ryan), Gnorm Gnat, U.S. Acres (Orson's Farm outside the United States), and a strip about Mr. Potato Head. He is the writer of all the CBS television specials and the direct-to-video movies, as well as a producer/executive producer for Garfield and Friends, the DTV movies, and The Garfield Show. He will be an executive producer for an upcoming film.
Jim Davis was born in Marion, Indiana on July 28th, 1945, and grew up on a small farm in Fairmount, Indiana with his father James William Davis, mother Anna Catherine (Carter) Davis, brother Dave, and twenty-five cats. Growing up, Davis recalled that after finishing his chores he would spend much of free time drawing; however, he admitted his childhood drawings were of such poor quality that if he drew a cow he would have to label his drawing "cow", or else he would later fail to recognize his own work. Davis' childhood on a farm parallels the life of his cartoon character Garfield's owner, Jon Arbuckle, who was also raised on a farm with his parents and a brother, Doc Boy. Jon, too, is a cartoonist and also celebrates his birthday on July 28th. Davis attended Ball State University. While attending Ball State, he became a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.
Ironically, considering his fame as a cartoonist who draws a cat, his first wife Carolyn (Altekruse) was allergic to cats although they owned a dog named Molly. They have a son, James Alexander Davis. On July 16, 2000, Davis married his current wife Jill. They have three children: James, Ashley, and Christopher.
Davis as of 2007 resides in Albany, Indiana, where he and his staff produce Garfield under his company, Paws, Inc., begun in 1981. Paws, Inc. employs nearly fifty artists and licensing administrators, who work with agents around the world managing Garfield's vast licensing, syndication, and entertainment empire.
Davis is a former President of the Fairfax, Indiana FFA chapter.
Prior to creating Garfield, Davis worked for a local advertising agency and in 1969 began assisting Tom Ryan's comic strip, Tumbleweeds. He then created a comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, that ran for five years in The Pendleton Times, an Indiana newspaper. Davis tried to sell it to a national comic strip syndicate, but an editor told him, "Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs — nobody can relate to bugs!" In the final strip, Davis killed off all the characters by having them get stepped on by a giant foot.
On June 19, 1978, Garfield started syndication in forty-one news-papers. Things were going well until the Chicago Sun-Times canceled the strip, prompting an outcry from 1,300 readers. Garfield was reinstated and the strip quickly became the fastest selling comic strip in the world. Today it is syndicated in 2400 news-papers and is read by approximately 200,000,000 readers each day.
In the 1988-1994 cartoon series Garfield and Friends, one episode ("Mystic Manor") has a scene where Garfield slid down a fireman's pole in a haunted house, and Davis has a brief cameo as himself drawing a cartoon.
In the intro to one of the Garfield treasuries, there was a mock headline saying "Jim Davis Exposed as Fraud" showing Garfield at the drawing table creating a cartoonized Jim Davis, in which the fake headline reads that Davis is under investigation for plagiarism, as "Garfield himself draws his own strip!" The page shows Garfield drawing Jim Davis who looks like a bald Jon Arbuckle with a pony-tail. It is implied that Arbuckle is a drawing of a young Davis himself.
In the 1980s, Davis also made the barn-yard slap-stick comic strip U.S. Acres, featuring Orson the Pig. Outside the U.S., the strip was known as Orson's Farm. Davis also made a 2000-2003 strip based on the toy Mr. Potato Head with Brett Koth. The idea was to do a strip from Davis' native farmland roots.
In 1999, Davis authorized Garfield and Odie to be used by Boys Life magazine and the Cub Scouts in order to promote recruiting, where Odie and Garfield are seen wearing Cub Scout uniforms near a campfire or doing other outdoor related activities.
In 2005, Davis appeared in the music video Lazy Muncie, a parody of the Saturday Night Live video "Lazy Sunday".
More recently, Davis founded The Professor Garfield Foundation, to support children’s literacy.
In 2017, Davis contributed to Squirrel Girl #26 with a series of comic strips depicting Marvel characters Galactus and the Silver Surfer in his style.
- Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Johnny Hart (B.C.) were Davis' primary inspirations.
- Among Davis' favorite comic strips are Zits, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, For Better or For Worse, Mother Goose and Grimm, Blondie, Cathy, Beetle Bailey, Pogo, Krazy Kat, Prince Valiant and Steve Canyon.
- Davis has revealed that his father's favorite comic strip was Beetle Bailey ("How's that for awkward?").
- Davis has a dog named Odie and a cat named Nermal.
- In Garfield at 25: In Dog Years I'd be Dead, Davis stated that Garfield in Paradise is his favorite TV special.
- Davis had the same high school gym teacher as actor James Dean, and went to Ball State University at the same time as television host David Letterman, who was in a rival fraternity.