My friend and fellow cartoonist Tony Murphy has collected his newspaper strip "It's All About You" into its first paperback book collection, on sale now at Lulu.
I asked Tony if he would mind telling us more about himself, how he got his strip syndicated, his cartooning routine and where he sees newspaper comic strips 5 to ten years from now.
He didn't mind -- and here are his candid answers to my questions:
Did you always draw?
Pretty much. By second grade I thought of myself as drawing cartoons and not just drawing. My father drew cartoons sometimes to entertain my sisters and me and I was trying to emulate, then surpass him.
Is "It's All About You" based on your life?
Nah, Michael is nothing like me. WHERE’S MY COFFEE?
What is your creative work week like? Do you have set times when you draw, when you write?
Ah, “set times.” What a lovely concept. Since having a syndicated strip requires having a day job, there’s not much room left over and I’m not disciplined about it. But I gotta get those strips in every week. I do have a little book in my back pocket where I write down things I think are funny. (Like, I just wrote down “set times”). So at some point each week I sit down and go through the scribbles and figure out how many I can turn into strips. If I start doing that earlier in the week, I’m less of a wreck on Friday. Frequently, though, this isn’t done until Thursday night. So I guess the answer is that I’m more deadline-driven than adhering to set times.
How long did it take to get "It's All About You" syndicated? Did the strip evolve from conception to print?
In the nineties I was drawing a six-panel strip that I felt would be good in alternative newsweeklies. Mostly it only got published in “The Funny Times” because I was too lazy to send anything out unless I knew it was going to get published. This is a terrible marketing strategy. But, I did enjoy seeing it in “The Funny Times.” It went through a variety of titles, from “Murphy Slaw” to “Love Litters” to “Ouch.” There were no regular characters, just people talking about their lives. I stuffed a bunch of strips in an envelope one day and sent them to syndicates. Jay Kennedy, then the guru at King Features, called me three days later. With such a short response time, I figured I was in. That was in 1999. His call prompted me to create a daily, three- and four-panel strip that I called “Love Junk.” It had the same basic characters, minus a few, that are now in “It’s All About You.” Jay promptly lost interest, but I was hooked on the idea that I could get syndicated, and kept trying over and over again with all the syndicates. In 2001, Creators Syndicate offered me a contract for “Love Junk,” then changed their mind at the last minute. I was left at the syndication altar.
So it took from 1999 to 2008 to get syndicated. But in the meantime, in 2004 “It’s All About You” started running in the New York and Boston editions of Metro, the free commuter paper. So I had a daily, widely seen strip in two major cities before it got syndicated. The weird thing is, it got dropped from Metro in June 2006 but about 2 months later I started my development deal with Washington Post Writers Group.
What are your drawing tools?
I use a variety of tools to produce my strip. Some are more important than others. I’ll start with the most important: I use Chemex bonded, unbleached square filters to make my coffee. For a creamer I use organic half-and-half, and I sweeten it with agave nectar, though sometimes I throw in a dash of regular sugar.
And, you know – paper and pens and stuff.
It can take forever if I feel I’m not drawing well or not getting the effect I want, but a good average is about an hour per daily strip – that doesn’t count scanning, lettering in Photoshop and fixing up in Photoshop. Sunday strips take longer.
What strips are in the new book? Why did you choose those particular cartoon strips?
The strips in the new and first collection are simply the first strips that I drew once “It’s All About You” started national syndication, so they go from January 2008 to October 2008. The book therefore features a unique historical snapshot -- right before the economic meltdown and bank bailouts, and before the layoffs and foreclosures really took off. While “It’s All About You” is not a political strip, in the book’s introduction I make a connection between these events and the chronic anxiety that many of the strip’s characters feel.
How do you predict most people will read "It's All About You" 5-10 years from now?
Good question, since it’s so much harder to get carried in newspapers these days. I don’t really know, but newspapers won’t die out completely. The corporations that run this country will still need some way to lie to us. FOX can’t do ALL the work.
"It's All About You" © 2009 by Tony Murphy