Chris Muir’s Day By Day cartoon started publishing almost exactly one year ago, on November 1, 2002. Since then, while it is still available only on the World Wide Web, it has stayed on a consistent daily schedule, and only grown more popular. It has recently received favorable notice on Tech Central Station, and I expect him to receive even more attention in the coming year. One can only hope so: this guy deserves a syndication deal!
I interviewed Chris Muir back in March of this year. That interview appeared on my weblog, Dean’s World. Since the publication of that interview, his cartoons have stayed consistently good, or even improved. Given that Chris is now getting more attention than ever, it seemed like a good time to revisit this interview, and republish it here on Blogcritics. His strip is a witty and insightful look at what he calls “the other half of America,” and alternates between the relationships between four office coworkers:
…and current events:
I got Chris to sit down and answer some questions about himself and his strip. He’s quite an interesting fellow, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he one day becomes a rich and famous cartoonist. We can only hope so.
Here’s our conversation:
Dean Esmay: Tell us about yourself. When were you born, where did you grow up, where do you live, what do you do for a living at the moment?
Chris Muir: I was born on October 30, 1958 in Syracuse, New York. I live in a small beach town in Florida, between the ocean and the lagoon. I’m a consulting Industrial Designer at my own firm.
DE: How long have you been cartooning?
CM: About 5 years, though I sketched out some stuff when I was a kid.
DE: Would your work have appeared anywhere else where we might have seen it? If so, where?
CM: Not the Day By Day strip, but I’ve done a single panel called Altered States for about 5 years for Florida Today, a Gannett paper. It’s good for mental exercise.
DE: Do you have any specific goals with Day by Day? You obviously have a point of view. Is grinding an ideological axe your main goal?
CM: I want to present the point of view that I never see represented in what I call Old Media: the papers, magazines, TV (until Fox News), etc. Where’s the voice of the other half, the moderate-conservative half of America, on ethics, economy, politics and the age-old dynamic betwixt men and women?
Well, it’s in the blogging world, of course! Thousands of viewpoints! Labels like Left, Right, Conservative, Libertarian, Liberal–these just don’t cover that wonderful spectrum out there. I have my own point-of-view, but all are grist for my mill.
I’m the last of the “boomers” in age, and it seems to me that the monolithic view presented of that generation (PC correctness, dried up old hippie platitudes that actually contradict themselves) are, thankfully, finally going away.
So, yes, I definitely have an ideological axe to grind. But it’s not Republican. Or Democrat. Or Libertarian. I believe the people I’m writing to are looking for better representation than these entities provide. I want to be the voice of the average citizen out there, people you bump into every day.
DE: Who would you say are your main inspirations, as a cartoonist? Or even as a person?
CM: As a cartoonist: Gary Larson’s Far Side, Pooch Cafe by Paul Gilligan, Cafe 8Ball by Dominic Capello, The Hots by Stephen Hersh and Nina Paley, Story Minute by Carol Lay, Arlo & Janis by Jimmy Johnson, The Imp by Jose Arroyo & Robin Reed, Stephanie Piro, Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau, and Overboard by Chip Dunham.
As a person: The Founding Fathers!
DE: Your work has frequently been compared to that of Garry Trudeau. Are you flattered by that comparison, annoyed by it, or…?
Actually, I think a lot of the comparison comes about inasmuch as Doonesbury has not only been the pre-eminent strip on politics, but perhaps the only one (other than Mallard Fillmore) for such a long time. So, if you have a strip and you want to establish a storyline over time, on real political events, with real names, well, everyone refers to the only one they have ever seen (until now): Doonesbury.
As I see it, Trudeau is more “hip” to his generation. But today, he’s the Establishment.
Rather than laugh-out-loud funny, people tell me they see Day By Day as cerebral, measured, amusing, and insightful. (Now, you guys who say that are looking at www.daybydaycartoon.com, and not some other strip, right?)
DE: Day By Day currently has a permanent cast of four characters, in addition to the occasional politician or other random character. I suppose the question is inevitable, but, are they based on you or anyone you know? Are you Zed, for example? Do you know any Damons?
CM: All characters are blends of people I have known through life. I would have to say I am in all of them to some degree. I’m probably most like Damon.
DE: Have you taken any criticism for your portrayal of Damon?
CM: Actually, the reverse. He just kind of “popped out” one day while I was sketching around for a better foil for Jan. Zed was the first one, then Sam, then Jan, and then that little devil Damon.
DE: You obviously like poking fun at the “peace” protestors and the Hollywood folks.
A lot of the people making fun of them now used to count themselves among their number. Are you one of those folks who’s had second thoughts, or were you always on the other side of the culture war?
CM: I was born a 45 year old conservative. But you know what? Conservative isn’t even “conservative” anymore. It’s a label for normal.
Yes, I said normal!
DE: Is Day By Day currently available anywhere besides your web site?
CM: Nope. I intend to run it on the web for a year and get some feedback. I also hope to link up to whatever bloggers will have me. The blogosphere is where true discourse is going on these days, not syndicates or papers or TV.
DE: How do you do your art work? Do you do it all on the computer, or do you perhaps use a pencil, scan it, and clean it up on the computer? Or…?
CM: All art is drawn on a Wacom 11×16 tablet, using Adobe Illustrator, then exported over as a gif in Photoshop. All coloring is also done natively in Illustrator. I have templates of bodies, heads, expressions, etc. If you look at the cartoons closely, you may notice that, at this time, each character has about 5-6 head positions only. I will be adding, over the course of time, more head shots. I tend to draw the bodies and the backgrounds individually, though (but not always).
DE: You seem to be issuing about a cartoon a day. How are you managing that kind of pace, especially with a full-time job in industrial design?
CM: The templates help a lot! As soon as I get caught up, I intend to do a cartoon relevant to the day I put it up, which is the advantage of online publishing. Unlike printed toons that are 2 weeks back because of distribution timeframes, I can hit the daily topic the same day, a rather important ability in the political arena.
DE: Every creative person gets this question, and finds it impossible to answer, but I’m going to ask it anyway: Where do you get your ideas?
CM: The hypothalamus, mostly.
Other times I read, read, read, read!
DE: You mention that you’re fond of weblogs. I take it you don’t mind if webloggers reprint your cartoons, so long as they give you credit and link to your site?
CM: I definitely want bloggers to spread the word, if they feel it’s worthy. And a link is just great for traffic!
In short, post ‘em up, send ‘em out, print them off as gifts. Just don’t sell them. Otherwise, the bigger the audience, the more likely I can spend more time on this and speak out for that other half of America that’s not represented in daily cartoon strips.
(Man, that sounds arrogant. But what the hey, why not me?)
DE: Anything you wish I’d asked that I didn’t?
CM: I believe this country has reached a turning point in the culture where you have half the country denied a true mass medium (TV, newspapers, films, print) to speak its side–and I don’t necessarily mean Republicans.
Think of the energy of political thought and discussion in talk radio and blogs (and selected small publishers like Regnery) versus the PC dreck on Old Media. It’s no surprise that people are changing the channel or closing the comics page.
I think that’s all changing now, and it’s a very interesting place and time to be.
You can check out the latest Day By Day cartoon, and the entire run of the strip from its beginning on November 1, 2002, at Chris Muir’s daybydaycartoon.com. He’s been in my blogroll for a while. Now you know why.
By the way, Dodd Harris over at Ipse Dixit has published a further interview with Chris Muir that takes up where this one has left off, and includes some special art work that’s not been seen elsewhere online. Chris also did a special editorial cartoon on conspiracy theorists that was published exclusively on Dean’s World. –Dean Esmay