From his creation in 1943, the Daily Mirror's Garth strip exemplified the comic strip hero. Muscular, good-looking and fearless, never at a loss for what to do, he was the embodiment of the non-superheroic superhero: although he travelled through time, he had no powers beyond his physical strength and phenomenal mind. Aided by scientific genius Professor Lumiere on his many adventures, Garth survived 54 years before being discontinued.
Now, the time-traveller has been revived ... but with a post-modern twist that has turned the strip into an internet phenomenon. "Garth Minus Garth" is an almost existential experience. The familiar and heroic figure has been removed from each of the strips, leaving his fellow travellers isolated, adrift and facing danger alone. By taking out the titular character, the strip is left populated only by normal, human figures and raises issues about the nature of heroics and who really is the hero.
Garth's removal leaves important questions hanging without answers and asides meant for the now invisible giant are turned back upon the speaker. In one strip, a sailor asks, "You gone crazy, feller?" Without Garth, the question takes on a whole new level of uncertainty as the sailor queries his own sanity.
With Garth no longer there, the Captain's question in the example above goes unanswered, leaving the reader to ponder whether there ever could be an answer. "Garth Minus Garth" is an unsettling reimagining of the familiar strip that takes it into whole new territories of doubt and contradiction.
(* Garth © Mirror Group Newspapers)