Before moving here, he apprenticed with the company that publishes Ebony.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
SHARON, Pa. -- Cartoonist Bill Murray is launching "Jet News," his most recent comic strip, Monday in more than 400 weekly newspapers.
Murray has contracted with DBR Media Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based international newspaper syndicate, which will promote, sell and distribute the new comic strip. The contract calls for "Jet News" to eventually become a daily feature.
Murray said he knew he wanted to be a cartoonist at age 9 or 10 and attributes his success to hard work and determination. "I persisted," he said in an interview in his basement studio last week.
He noted that he has experienced numerous rejections in his career.
"Nothing worthwhile in life comes easily. It can only come through trial and error,'' he said.
His advice to anyone aspiring to become a nationally syndicated cartoonist?: "Believe in yourself. The most important part is persistence. Don't quit. Never quit."
The characters in "Jet News," which is heavily laced with political satire, are either political figures, such as President Bush, Janet Reno, Al Sharpton or Saddam Hussein, or they are adapted from people Murray has met.
One character, Archie Bumper, is adopted from Archie Bunker from the TV show, "All in the Family." In the comic strip, Bumper is a news anchor and reporter, who professes to be a radical black news commentator, but is regarded by friends as "a big baby teddy bear."
Archie is the guardian of his 8-year-old nephew, Bullet, a messenger boy. Joe and his brother-in-law, Moe, are handymen in the Jet News building, and they are sometimes referred to as Dumb 'n' Dumber. Tom Red Neck, the president and only member of a movement dubbed Red Necks Inc., espouses "The South shall rise again," as his mission statement.
Importance of humor
"I've learned that there are two sides to every story, and I've always wanted to be a voice for the underdog," Murray said. "By doing this [cartooning], I've been able to laugh at things, and I hope I can take some of the seriousness out of life.
"The humor can be used in such a way that it can be non-offending," he said.
Murray, 52, who writes his own copy and draws his own cartoons, works in his studio at his Baldwin Avenue home. His wife, Merry, helps by being an editor and critic of his work, he said.
He estimated there are about 300 nationally syndicated cartoonists, and he is one of only seven blacks.
Born in Chicago, Murray studied cartooning at the Chicago Institute of Art and served his art apprenticeship with Johnson Publishing Co. of Chicago, which publishes Ebony magazine. In the mid-1970s, he moved to the Sharon area and began doing editorial cartoons for the daily Sharon Herald and weeklies, including The Pittsburgh Courier, Akron Reporter and Chicago Defender.
With characters based on his family, Murray created his first comic feature in 1976. That daily panel, titled "Those Browns," was promoted and distributed by Sammy Davis Jr. Enterprises and published in 50 U.S. newspapers, including the Herald.
More than 20 years ago, he resigned from his job as a crane operator at the Sawhill Tubular Plant in Wheatland to devote more time to cartooning.
In 1985, he collaborated with Kevin Eastman, creator of "Ninja Turtles," to produce "Adam & amp; Eve A.D.," an internationally distributed comic book, which is still published three times a year.
Murray is also president of Mercer County Frontiers, a nonprofit community service club that annually provides college scholarships.