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Cartoonist Chip Zdarsky’s Answers the Hard Questions About His Fake Mayoral Race

It’s been a couple of weeks since we last wrote about Chip Zdarsky AKA Steve Murray, the Canadian cartoonist running a genuinely hopeless race for Mayor of Toronto. The “Prison Funnies” and “Bad Advice” creator launched his “M4M” campaign after an unhappy encounter with a plastic bag surcharge at a local café, an event that inspired some radical positions on not just taxes (Murray believes all taxes are unjust except those that pay his Mayoral salary) but also garbage (Murray proposes that his friend’s company, Gary & Sons, can handle Toronto’s garbage for “like, half the price”). He has since become something of a media sensation, with coverage in such mainstream news sources as The Toronto Star and Globe & Mail, but also comics websites like The Beat.

It’s no easy thing to participate in an election when you’ve missed the deadline for eligibility, as Murray has, so it is only with great resolve that we were able to sit the man down for a few questions about his political philosophies as they relate to the medium of comics.ComicsAlliance: “Bad Advice,” your current work for the “National Post,” is not political in nature, nor are your independent ventures. In your capacity as a cartoonist and newspaper professional, do you have anything at all to do with politics?

Steve Murray: While my work may not be as politically based as, say, that comic where a goateed archer become the mayor of some city, or that miniseries where Captain America’s right to wear a mask and hit people in the head with a metal shield was challenged, there are still politics at play underneath it all. For example, my comic book, “Prison Funnies,” is a scathing indictment of the flawed penal system, or a bold statement on how prisons are perfect and keep bad people away from good people. I am about nuance and people pleasing, no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall under.

CA: You detail on your Web site that the final straw in Toronto’s degradation, the one that inspired you to launch your campaign, was the so-called “plastic bag tax,” which you would presumably seek to eliminate. What are some other areas of unjust taxes you’ve identified and how would you apply your skills as a cartoonist to abolish them?

SM: All taxes are unjust! Except for the ones that help pay our boys in blue, a.k.a. the Real Heroes, and also my forthcoming mayoral salary. How will I use my cartooning skillz [sic] to combat taxation? Well, I have a few ideas up my sleeve, like a comic where a disheveled man, labeled TAXPAYER, is having his pocket picked by an elephant, labeled GOVERNMENT, being ridden by a fat cat in a top hat, labeled FAT CAT. The money will also be labeled “HARD-EARNED MONEY,” in case the audience misreads that as just cash the man begged for, or received as a present from an uncle.

CA: No comic book creator has ever held elected office. What do you think it is is about writing and drawing comic books that has historically turned voters off?

SM: Typically debates between comic creators can seemingly last forever, even if the topic is something stupid. I think the public can smell the message-board rhetoric on us and chooses to not inflict that on their high-functioning government.

CA: Comic books and politics have experienced some crossover in recent years, particularly in the area of highly dubious biographical comics and a vulgar amount of Barack Obama-themed variant covers. As a cartoonist, surely you’ve imagined where a victorious Steve Murray might fit into this tired trend?

SM: I would very much like it if Bluewater did a “Female Force: Steve Murray” comic book! I would only sign off on it if Warren Ellis wrote it and Richard Stevens 3 illustrated it. People sign off on those books, right? Right?

Also, I would be open to appearing on the cover of a superhero comic book, but I would want to make sure it was tasteful and was with a hero who I align myself with politically, like Aquaman or Silver Surfer.

CA: What comic book superhero or villain best embodies your approach towards municipal government?

SM: I refuse to be pigeonholed like the forgotten ’70s hero, Pigeonhole, so I’ll give you a list of several characters that I feel kinship towards.

  • Galactus: He hungers, the way I hunger and wish to devour city council, converting them into the Power Cosmic, AKA previously allocated funds which can now go towards building that freeway.
  • Batman: I want unions to fear me and my bat-costume when we’re negotiating. See, unions killed my parents when I was a lad, because pappy refused to pay them a “living wage” at the coal mine/shoe factory we owned. Well, it’s payback time…
  • Wolverine: I too am the best at what I do, and what I do is manage municipal finances and murder people.
  • Kingpin: Like Wilson Fisk I have a bit of weight to lose and I hate lawyers. I also run a tight ship and have been portrayed by a black man on film before, though mine was more of a home video my wife made for my birthday, even though it was actually her birthday.
  • Green Lantern: We both overcame years of poor characterization (drunk driving, murdering a city) and were resurrected through grassroots movements (S.E.A.T.: Steve’s Electoral Advancement Team).

CA: Much has been made in recent days over Marvel and DC Comics’ plans to reduce the average comic book’s cost to $2.99 from $3.99. In any event, comics cost more in Canada. Where do you stand on the issue?

SM: I think it’s an international disgrace that people are being asked to pay that much for a comic book! Why, in my day, comics less!

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