Dean's World
 Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy.

.:: Dean's World: Interview with Chris Muir ::.

March 12, 2003

Interview with Chris Muir

Chris Muir has made quite an impression among webloggers in recent months with his cartoon strip, Day By Day. A witty and insightful look at what he calls "the other half of America," the strip 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 last week. 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...?


CM: Yes.

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...?


DM: All art is drawn on a Wacom 11x16 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.

(Update: I got a note this morning (03/13) from Chris: "I forgot to mention that Bill Quick at Daily Pundit was the first blog to run the strip, a real faux pas--could you mention that in a blurb and correct my manners?" Given how supportive Bill was of Dean's World when we were just getting started, I'm more than happy to give him a plug. --Dean)

Update on 3/31/03: Dodd over at Ipse Dixit has published a further interview with Chris Muir that takes up where this one has left off.

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Discuss This Article!

 

It's been in my favorites menu since the first piece.

Posted by Paul Fallon on March 12, 2003 at 6:52 AM


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.

This is so forehead-slappingly brilliant that I am speechless.

Why didn't I think of that? Bwah!

And his writing is great too. I linked to it this morning.

Posted by Ara Rubyan on March 12, 2003 at 9:24 AM


Cool! He's become one of my favorite comic strips.

Posted by Andrea Harris on March 12, 2003 at 9:25 AM


Thanks for posting. I greatly enjoy his comics.

Posted by addison on March 12, 2003 at 9:29 AM


A favorite of mine, and I've featured him before at Winds of Change.NET. Won't be the last time... I think Chris' "Day By Day" will be as big as Doonesbury one day.

Posted by Joe Katzman on March 12, 2003 at 9:49 AM


Brilliant! Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Posted by Jaymie Collette on March 12, 2003 at 12:50 PM


MB has put that site in her #1 folder in her bookmarks!

Posted by MommaBear on March 12, 2003 at 1:29 PM


Dean,

Thanks for putting this together. Chris, thanks for doing the interview. You have a new viewer. Your cartoons are great.

Posted by Eric on March 12, 2003 at 2:10 PM


Great cartoons...but why is Jan a marketing director? Personality doesn't seem to exactly fit the job...maybe she would be happier in HR.

Posted by David Foster on March 12, 2003 at 5:01 PM


Chris has caught me, hook, line and sinker. A single cartoon can sometimes tell a story or capture the mood of a time and place better than a lengthy textbook.

And sometimes without words. Have any of you guys and girls ever come across the late Bill Mauldin's book of World War II GI's, "Up Front"?

There was one wordless but poetic cartoon showing a broken down Jeep, with its driver, an old-time cavalry sergeant, standing beside it, one hand covering his eyes, the other holding the .45 with which he was about to put his vehicle out of its misery by blowing a hole in the engine block.

Then there was Mauldin's other cartoon, done in late 1963 following the assassination of John F Kennedy. Again no words. Just the statue of Abraham Lincoln seated in his memorial on the great mall in Washington DC, holding his head in this hands over grief.

Arnold Harris
Mount Horeb WI

Posted by Arnold Harris on March 12, 2003 at 5:07 PM


Dean and Chris - excellent, excellent, excellent! I know this had to take some time for both of you, and I appreciate it. Like everybody else, I love cartoons, and I'm really getting a kick out of DbD. I can't remember another daily from this view-point, and I hope it takes off.

Posted by Scott Chaffin on March 12, 2003 at 9:32 PM


Amazingly good, and he don't need no stinking

newspaper to publish his work; The Net rules !

Posted by E D Maner on March 12, 2003 at 10:54 PM


[quote]I want to be the voice of the average citizen out there, people you bump into every day.
[/quote]

Beware anyone who says those words. It's the voice of someone who wants to be a politician.

Posted by Henry Shieh on March 13, 2003 at 12:17 PM


a-HEH. Yeah, the 45 year old industrial designer and cartoonist who plans to run for... what? President?

Chris Muir for President! I'm on board, how about you guys?

Posted by Dean Esmay on March 13, 2003 at 12:55 PM


Boy have I been missing out. I need to bookmark DbD yesterday! Thanks for the interview.

Posted by michael h on March 13, 2003 at 2:52 PM


Jan as marketing director is great - so many lefties work "in the belly of the beast". Either, mostly in contradiction, as half-hearted conscience-assuaging "moles", sometimes living a coherent lie, as proper, hardcore saboteurs.

Great dynamic and point of view in this work!

Posted by George Stewart on March 13, 2003 at 4:39 PM


Hey folks,Muir here.

I'm not running for office,Henry,and Dean,I'm only 44!

Only 44,arrgghh.Aren't there younger countries than that?

It's all in fun,and it's y'all(hey,I'm a Floridian)in the blogosphere that really helped me focus the toon on
what should,might,and can be discussed.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time and viewing,and Dean and Bill Quick for getting my scribbles out there to the people that matter.

Chris

Posted by Chris Muir on March 14, 2003 at 12:14 AM


Chris: I think it's a great idea. Didn't Teddy and JFK both gain office in their early forty's?

Besides, wouldn't it be great if, instead of a diplomatic note, you could send countries custom cartoons instead? To follow Arnold's thread, you could send Great Britain a modern version of Mauldin's "You blokes leave an awfully messy battlefield"... Heh.

Posted by Casey Tompkins on March 14, 2003 at 1:18 AM


Like your work Chris. It seems to have something that Doonesbury used to have, which I used to like. Keep it happening. Blogoshpere rules!

Posted by Ian Guthrie on March 14, 2003 at 9:30 AM


ROTFLMAO! I've just added this one to my bookmarks. In fact, to my folder of "Often Visited" bookmarks. Thanks, Dean!

And thank you, Chris! :-)

Posted by Paul Burgess on March 14, 2003 at 1:53 PM


"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."

Chris: From a fellow '58er...wish I could be as optimistic as you. Maybe I'm buying into too much Old Media coverage, but the college campus scene today doesn't look that much different than Berkeley '67. And it's our generation that will have to start answering "Why is that?" as we hit our "peak political/economic power" years. A fer-instance: Anybody with a pulse knows Social Security is a dinosaur -- and I do see alot of "Damons" at my workplace who flat-out understand that. But how to effect the change? Will we Boomers (boy I do hate that label though) have the nads to step up? I fear not...and in that respect, we will have proven the "selfish, spoiled" view (monolithic?) the younger folks have of us...still, you pen a great column and keep up the good work.

Posted by Kelly Palmer on March 15, 2003 at 10:18 AM


Kelly,

Societies are in a sense,similar to people-they can be contrary,vulnerable...but also extremely tough.A Doctor I know(why is 'doctor' always capitalized?)once observed just how resilient the human frame is.

As our bodies are,so is our spirit.I meet so many (I'll say it) kids who are completely fed up @ PC dreck and hunger for true knowledge...it is truly a natural urge for humans to be better than they are.And no person of even average thought is going to buy the old crap that the purveyors of the 60's sell anymore-not @ alternate info available to them on the net.

It's rather like how the Soviets lost control when the people could actually get their info from other places-you just can't hide the hypocrisy(this is not good news for the Dems)anymore.

Take a read on Richard Florida's book,'The Rise of the Creative Class'and extrapolate form there to bloggers,to GenX,I think you'll see where things are headed.

Or not.Hey,it's just a theory.

thanks for taking the time to comment,it is truly the lifeblood of my strip!

Chris

ps I'm going to post this on the comments forum,if that's ok.

Posted by chris muir on March 15, 2003 at 1:59 PM


For what it's worth, you might like to check out the link at NZPundit.com (http://www.nzpundit.com/archives/002512.html#002512)

Posted by Craig Ranapia (Other Pundit) on June 12, 2003 at 7:32 AM


 



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