The second member of the DCCS team we have profiled is Operations Director Dr Chris Murray – here is his interview with Caitlin Mitchell!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Dr Chris Murray, I’m from Dundee, and I’m 41.
What do you do on a day to day basis?
I’m a senior lecturer of Comic Studies at the University of Dundee. I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. My role at DCCS is the Operations Director – I have overall responsibility for the Space.
How did you get to where you are today? (Note to readers – better get comfortable!)
I’ve been reading comics my whole life, my first memory is of reading comics which my mum bought me from when I was about 3. There’s a funny story about my entrance into the world of comics – my uncle was lorry driver and he used to go to a pub in the Hilltown, where there was a guy who had his comics delivered to the pub so his wife wouldn’t find out he read them. The guy would turn up, sit with a pint and read his comics then give them to my uncle Dougie for him to pass on to me to read! I have no idea who this mysterious benefactor was but thanks to him and his grumpy wife, I was reading a lot of comics when I was young.
I did think about drawing and going to art school but I was never good enough so went the other way and did an English degree. I felt the comics I was reading were as good and as worth studying as those I was reading on my course, so wondered why we couldn’t study them. I found my supervisors were very supportive of this and had no objection to comics. I went on to do a PhD on comics and the relationship between propaganda and comics during World War 2. Over the course of doing that, I did teaching in the English department and at Duncan of Jordanstone. I also started to teach film studies.
I got a full time job as a lecturer after my PhD and I thought I want to teach a module on my specialist subject – British comics – it was well received with lots of students so I made the case to the uni to start a comics Masters project. They took a bit of convincing but after we got good numbers they were sold on it. From there, it was about making the right connections, like with Phil from the art college, and everything started to take off, and we later launched the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies. The origins of DCCS are in Dundee’s bid to be the City of Culture a few years back, for which we sought funding, and the comic school was part of that idea. The funders were keen on this and we were put in touch with The Rank Foundation. We were delighted when our bid was successful! It’s been up and running for a year now and things are going well.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
One of the thing I’ve been doing recently is combining creative work with research. I’ve started drawing again, doing thumbnails for comics I’ve been writing – I find doing comic strips and drawing thumbnails very relaxing. I also love handing it over to an artist who can draw properly, who bring them back completed. That’s an important part of what we do at Dundee – the critical and theoretical on one hand, and the practical on the other.
What is your favourite comic of all time?
I’d have to say The Invisibles, I have to say that because that’s where my tattoo comes from. I’m very interested in British independent comics from the 1950s, and also 2000AD – gotta love 2000AD. I should say in particular obviously Dredd, but also Zenith is one of my all time favourite things.
What is the best thing about working in DCCS?
The opportunities to be working with all the talented people in the studio, and also to see how enthusiastic the kids who come into the workshops are. Lots of them pick it up intuitively and it is really fun to see.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got a book on The British Superhero which I’ve just finished. I’m working on the Being Human festival which is in November of this year, the theme is HG Wells and there’s several lectures and talks I’ll be doing. I’m also working on a collaborative project about organ donation, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding that. My next research work is going to be on the relationship between the British pop art movement of the 1950s and British comics round about the same time.
How can we follow you on social media?
I’m not really on social media but other people run the accounts for projects I’m in charge of.