Gnorm Gnat was a comic strip by Jim Davis based on fictional insects, especially a gnat named Gnorm. The strip appeared in The Pendleton Times in Pendleton, Indiana from 1973 to 1975. Since the character did not achieve mainstream success, Davis moved on to the comic strip Jon, which later became Garfield.
Davis developed the idea for the strip while assisting cartoonist Tom Ryan in his Tumbleweeds comic strip. Davis saw the possibilities for gags with insect characters, and the strip was adopted by The Pendleton Times. However, Davis also approached syndicates to publish Gnorm Gnat and was rejected. According to writers Mark Acey and Scott Nickel, Davis would receive rejections for Gnorm Gnat for years. "I thought bugs were funny, and nobody else did", Davis would later tell the press.
Davis also recounted that one editor had advised him that "Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs—nobody can relate to bugs!" Davis took the advice to heart and ended the character's strip that December. The last strip depicts Gnorm saying "Thanks Pendleton" as he stood next the message "Merry Christmas". Despite that, Davis claimed in 20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection that he "drew a giant foot falling out of the sky, crushing little Gnorm in his last comic appearance". Davis then created the comic strip Jon, which would later be reworked into Garfield.
Garfield became a success. In 1992's Garfield Takes His Licks, Gnorm was referenced as an in-joke. "Gnorm Gnat" was listed among the "Top Ten Comic Strips Jim Davis Tried Before Garfield", being placed behind "Garfield the Toaster" and above "Milt the Incontinent Hamster." In 1997, one Garfield comic strip featured a fly talking to a spider; Davis alluded to Gnorm Gnat by commenting that, "After nearly 30 years, I finally got a bug strip published."
Davis' fellow-cartoonist Mike Peters looked back on Gnorm Gnat in an unfavorable way. Peters claimed, "We can always be thankful that Jim's first strip never made it...Gnorm Gnat has gone down in cartoon folklore as a most fortunate failure. Can you imagine a bright orange gnat on every car window? A great, huge gnat for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. A big fat gnat saying 'I hate Tuesdays'".
Acey and Nickel explain that the characters of Gnorm Gnat were meant to be presented in a "simple, humorous style" of appearance. Davis displays the characters and describes them in the book 20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection.
- Gnorm Gnat is a gnat who Davis says plays the "straight man" who sometimes behaves like the character Walter Mitty, a trait later shared by Orson Pig.
- Lyman is an insect with buck teeth who wears a hat. He is supposed to be insane. Davis later named a character after him in Garfield.
- Freddy is a fruit fly who has two weeks to live.
- Dr. Rosenwurm is a worm who is highly intelligent.
- Cecil Slug is a slug merely described as a stupid character.
- Drac Webb is a villain who eats other characters. Another character is named Wench Webb.