EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Nationally-Syndicated African-American Cartoonist Bill Murray

If you hear the name Bill Murray, more often than not, the image of this guy comes to mind.

But, I’m gonna tell you about another Bill Murray, a Bill Murray who was born in 1955 in Chicago, Illinois with a talent for art and a passion for cartooning in particular.

The Bill Murray I am about to unveil to you has developed and honed his craft to the point where he eventually became the seventh nationally-syndicated African American cartoonist.

But the path to greatness wasn’t paved with smooth, gilded, easy-gliding asphalt.

No, Mr. Murray had to scuffle, show-and-prove, and exhibit his talents to a world that was not yet ready nor willing to view the graphic inner workings of a Black man’s mind.

Bill Murray obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Communication from the Art Institute of Chicago, and served his art apprenticeship with Johnson Publishing Company, which publishes the widely-respected Ebony and Jet magazines.

In 1985, Murray alongside legendary comic book artists Jerry Ordway , Ben Dunn, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, helped produce Murray’s first comic book: ADAM & EVE A.D.. Issue #1 of that series now a majorly hot item on ebay as well as comic book stores.

Murray currently resides in Pennsylvania, where he writes a comic strip for Real Times Media, Inc. The Detroit-based company owns a chain of six African-American newspapers, which includes The Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier.

Murray has been employed by the company since 1981, drawing a comic strip entitled “Sonny Boy”.

Murray‘s freelance editorial cartoons have appeared on CNN, FOX, and USA TODAY. He is represented by CSL Limited, which distributes his cartoons and illustrations around the world.

He is also a published children’s book illustrator with a series of books that were published in July 2010.

I first began corresponding with Mr. Bill Murray by means of the social-networking behemoth we know as Facebook. I’m always on there plugging away at one project or another or just being silly in general.

One day, a few months ago, I began noticing that someone “new” (to my circle of friends, at least) had started “liking” many of the ADDANAC CITY comic strip samples I had been posting on my profile page.

This “new friend” did so with such gusto and regularity that I decided to give a closer inspection to see exactly who this guy was. I love garnering new attention and I just wanted to send a personal thanks to this gentleman for his continuous approval and kind words regarding my meager artistic offerings.

Upon deeper scrutiny, I discovered that this dude was not your “average Joe” and that he was quite accomplished in the field of cartooning.

I was like, “Wha–? An established, world-renowned cartoonist is patting me on the back for creating my silly, little comic strips?”

I was bewildered (as well as honored), and decided to delve deeper into this man’s history.

What I encountered upon my snooping investigative dealings, was that I was already familiar with Bill Murray‘s work. I grew up reading his comics, although, as an easily-distracted youth, I did not match his name up with those wonderful drawings of his.

My childhood home was filled with issues of Jet and Ebony where Mr. Murray‘s work regularly appeared.

Heck, I probably traced more of his drawings than I did that turtle-headed character that was on the back of all the matchbook covers back in the day.

To say that Bill Murray is a legend and a pioneer would be a tremendous understatement.

This gentleman has paid his dues and has left his mark on the industry without having a swelled head or being a megalomaniac about it.

Bill Murray is even-keeled, humble, and doesn’t consider his vast accomplishments to be endeavors of much significance.

He feels that he merely does what he does and that he has been blessed to be employed in a career that he thoroughly enjoys.

To him, the accolades and awards are simply perks that come as a result of the job. He’s not chasing fame nor celebrity, he’s just a working man like the rest of us.

So, for today, I would like to present this well-respected artist to you, Dear Reader, so that you may gain a greater insight into what makes Bill Murray tick and what motivates him to pick up that drawing pencil and create magic each and every day.

Ladies and gentleman, I’m proud to introduce (or re-introduce) to you: Mr. Bill Murray, cartooning legend!

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ADDANAC CITY: What was your first professional project?

BILL MURRAY: I started freelancing to magazines around the age of fourteen. My first sale was to Ebony Magazine.

Can you describe the day when you received notice that you were chosen (and would be paid) for that project? What were your feelings? (Excitement? Numbness/Disbelief? Fear/Nervousness?)

I recall that I spent all of the money that I was paid for that cartoon on buying copies of Ebony. That should give you some idea of my feelings.

Have you ever encountered any professional adversity due to your race? If so, what was your response?

Of course I have, even yet today, but I have learned to use it to my advantage.

The more anyone tries to hold me back, the more it motivates me to reach my goal.

Who are some of your influences, artistic or otherwise?

It has to be the late Morrie Turner and Sammy Davis,Jr.

As for Morrie, I never met him, but I spoke with him weekly on the phone during the 70′s.

Sammy,of course, was not a cartoonist, but he gave me my first break by syndicating The Candy Man a comic strip I created based upon his song and character.

What does your family think of your cartooning occupation?

The family loves it! We live in a small community where everyone knows cartoonist Bill Murray.

I have three kids: two girls (one whom is eight years old and loves to draw) and a son who is in his thirties.

What is a typical “workday” like for you?

My typical “workday” begins around 9:00am and ends around 10:00 pm. I work six-days-a-week if I’m lucky and don’t have a deadline that requires working on Sunday.

What is your creative process? Do you seal yourself off from others until the project is finished? Do you work in a public environment? Is there total silence or do you have background music/TV for inspirational ambiance?

I work best with something going on in the background, whether it’s television, music, or Facebook. And I try to take small, quick breaks.

Are there any sensitive subject matters that you refuse to tackle, in order to avoid any sort of public/professional backlash? (political, cultural, sexual preferences, etc….?)

In my career I have had to handle all sort of subject matters that I did not personally agreed with, but I accepted them because these conditions came as a part of doing the job.

What new projects do you have in the works these days?

I have always felt that an artist must stay on top of what’s-hot and what’s-not). My latest project is creating interactive storybooks for iPad‘s, iPod‘s, and other tablets and mobile devices.

What advice can you give a budding artist who wishes to make cartooning a career ?

Prepare yourself for that career. Learn all you can. Most cartoonists are freelancers, so you must continually submit…submit..and submit.

What advice can you give a newcomer who encounters initial rejection or even “common internet animosity” such as hate-filled comments or unprovoked negativity?

Rejection is a part of the game. I have gotten enough rejection slips over the years to wallpaper every room in my home.

You have to think “Am I gonna WIN….or will I let those people who are filled with hate and animosity win?”

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If you would like to learn more about Bill Murray, feel free to visit the following websites:

www.billmurrays.com

http://bm3.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/bill.murray.737/

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