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Biographies of the Stars

Interview with Murphy Anderson .. part one (1994)

COMIC-ART.COM: You're originally from North Carolina aren't you, how did you wind up in New York City?

MURPHY: Well, I just had a great interest in comics and I was around when the first comic books started appearing and I sort of grew up with them, you might say. I guess the first book appeared, I was eight or nine years old. COMIC-ART.COM: And did that have a big impact on you?

MURPHY: Yeah, well, of course I was following the newspaper strips probably a little more carefully than the early comic books.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, Buck Rogers. That was an obvious favorite, and there there was Tarzan, and Flash Gordon when he came along and whatever was available, Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom. I used to get an out of town edition of the New York General American and they had a Saturday paper at the time which carried Buck Rogers and the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician, so I latched onto those very early.

COMIC-ART.COM: Okay, so it seems like you were always drawn to the science fiction strips.

MURPHY: Yeah, more or less. They aare actually fantasy to a degree, and I mean Tarzan is a fantasy. So I love that kind of stuff and then I found out about the science fiction magazines. I could get the same type of material then in those early pulps of the day.

COMIC-ART.COM: So you were reading the science pulps at the same time you were looking at the comics.

MURPHY: Well, yeah. A little later because I would say '38, '39 I'd started to read pulps.

COMIC-ART.COM: I've read that you didn't have much formal art training. Were you drawing as a kid?

MURPHY: Yeah, yeah. I just loved to draw, and my mother was an art school teacher who wasn't working at it. You know she was a housewife. But I used to bother her so much it was sort of a family joke, to read the comics to me, that she got tired of it, the daily comic, and sat down and taught me to read by reading comics.

COMIC-ART.COM: After your childhood, where did your life take you?

MURPHY: Well, I started at the University of North Carolina, and this was wartime, and I decided that I wanted to pursue a career before I went into service if possible, and I talked my father into giving me a hundred dollars. Well, that's all he would give me and he said, `When that's gone, you'll have to come home'. So I made a stab at New York and actually got a job

COMIC-ART.COM: Where was your first job?

MURPHY: At Fiction House. You did a number of different strips for them, didn't you?

MURPHY: Well, basically, I did Star Pirate, but I did a couple of other things. I did a Suicide Smith and then I did filler material, some for Wings comics, and a lot of filler material for Planet . I did pulp illustrations for them also. COMIC-ART.COM: Right, because Fiction House also did a line of pulps.

MURPHY: Right. I illustrated some stuff in Planet Stories , and some of their sports magazines, I did a few illustrations.

COMIC-ART.COM: With your penchant for science fiction, that must have been fun for you to do that stuff.

MURPHY: Oh yeah. Well, of course, and I hit it off with the editor right away and he was looking for art anyhow and even though mine wasn't up to the standards that I think they normally wanted he felt my enthusiasm made up for some of it. COMIC-ART.COM: Were you pencilling and inking?

MURPHY: Yes. Both.

COMIC-ART.COM: You also did a small amount of writing for Fiction House, didn't you?

MURPHY: Right. I wrote, there was a filler...

COMIC-ART.COM: Were those the little two page text stories?

MURPHY: Right. They were not text stories, they were Life on Other Worlds was the title and then I did a, I remember doing a three page similar article for Wings comics on the possibility of jets in the future. Jet planes were something that really came along after the war. The Germans had experimented some and the English were experimenting but none of them actually, I don't think, actually got into combat and they supplied me with some copies of the London Illustrated News I think it was that had some information on jets and I developed an article for them on that, you know, a story.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's interesting. So, back to your stint at Fiction House. You moved on to some other companies like Ziff? Davis, I believe.

MURPHY: Well, yeah. I worked for Ziff Davis, freelancing. When I lived in Chicago, basically and I was stationed out there in the Navy and I called on the editor, Ray Palmer at the time.

COMIC-ART.COM: So you were actually freelancing when you were still in the service?

MURPHY: Yeah. Yeah. Well, they didn't really care. I mean, the particular situation I was in at that time I had like a regular job with the Navy, you know, eight to four. That was the situation, with a lunch hour, and I went over, only a two or three block walk to the Ziff Davis offices and I talked to the editor and he gave me an assignment and Fiction House sent me some work right along, when I had the opportunity. They did that with a number of their artists.

COMIC-ART.COM: Would you mail your work in?


COMIC-ART.COM: Well, I also see here that you did a bit of work on Buck Rogers in '49.

MURPHY: Yeah, well that was actually I started with them in '47, they hired me on retainer. COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, that's right.

MURPHY: I would come in and work in the offices there and I did work on designing things for Buck, you know, in preparation for taking over, and I actually worked on the strip at that time for a little over two years I think. COMIC-ART.COM: So were you handling pencils and inks on the strip?

MURPHY: Right.

COMIC-ART.COM: Were you doing the daily and the Sunday, or just the Sunday?

MURPHY: No, just the dailies.

COMIC-ART.COM: Just the dailies?


COMIC-ART.COM: Was Rick Yager still doing the Sundays?

MURPHY: Yeah, he was doing the Sundays. He was writing and drawing the Sunday page. COMIC-ART.COM: Would he write the continuity for the daily page also?

MURPHY: No, there was a writer, Bob Williams, who used the pen name Bob Barton on that. COMIC-ART.COM: How did you feel about doing your old hero, Buck Rogers ?

MURPHY: Oh, that was just, you know, a dream come true you might say.

COMIC-ART.COM: Why did you only do it for a couple of years?

MURPHY: Well, I'd rather not get into that. That was a personality conflict you might say over some promises that were made and I felt weren't being kept.

COMIC-ART.COM: I see. Okay. So, back to Buck Rogers . You went on to do a little work for the Pines publisher, some science fiction stuff?

MURPHY: Well, no. When I moved back to New York, I started to work for, I came back basically to work for Ziff Davis. They had, they were moving their offices to New York, and they had appointed Jerry Siegel as a director, editorial director of a comic

book line that they were proposing, planning. They contacted me from Chicago. I had moved back to North Carolina at the time to work with my father. That's after Buck Rogers and they made it interesting enough and they wanted me enough that I moved to New York to work for Ziff Davis basically. The Fiction House thing was already pretty much a dead issue. They were having a lot of troubles, and they ultimately, a year or so later, closed.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, a lot of the science fiction pulps went under i n the fifties, didn't they?

MURPHY: Right, right and their comic book line wasn't doing well, either.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, how did it come about that you worked for National?

MURPHY: I came back to New York basically, you know, newly married. My wife and I married in '48 and I came to New York about 1950, I think it was and we took on an apartment and all the things that go with it, set up, you know, housekeeping in Bayside, New York and I brought a job into Jerry Siegel one day and he said, `Murph, I'm sorry. There are no more scripts. The writers haven't brought the work in and it might be as much as a week before I get a script for you.' Well, I panicked because I was counting on steady work, so I went home and got my portfolio and called on several publishers and one of those that I called on was DC and they asked me to come back the next day. Murray Boltinoff interviewed me and he said Julie Schwartz is not in today but I'm sure he'd like to talk to you and so that's how I got started with DC. The next day I did see Julie and he gave me work. Ironically, the same day Jerry called me and the work had come in from his writer, so I was suddenly swamped with work.

COMIC-ART.COM: What was your first job for DC?

MURPHY: It was a story, I believe, for, Gee, I'm not sure if it was Mystery in Space, I believe. Mystery in Space was new then and I started to work in either the first or second issue. Strange Adventures had already been running for a few issues, so I got into that around issue six, something like that.

COMIC-ART.COM: You did a fair amount of work for those anthologies, didn't you? MURPHY: I'm not sure I follow.

COMIC-ART.COM: Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space they were anthology titles. MURPHY: Oh yeah, well several stories in an issue, you mean, yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah and I have seen a lot of reprints of that stuff.

MURPHY: Yeah. I became part of Julie's team of artists, you might say. I mean he basically had four or five artists and kept them busy. He had them categorized, even at that time, into pencillers and inkers and I was sort of a little different in that I pencilled and inked and even then, when the deadline would be a little closer, he needed me for something else, he would have me just pencil and then someone else would ink the

work, or in some cases because I wanted to ink the stuff, he would let me work with another inker and we would alternate pages, that kind of thing.

COMIC-ART.COM: At the time what did you prefer doing, pencilling or inking?

MURPHY: Well, I preferred doing both. I still do.

COMIC-ART.COM: After handling those noncseries stories you went on to do Adam Strange for DC. MURPHY: Well, that's much later. But during those early days I did Captain Comet. COMIC-ART.COM: Right. That's a character you don't hear much about these days.

MURPHY: No. Well, he wasccJulie likes to think of him as actually the first of the moderncday superheroes. He had these mental powers and so forth. He was the first mutant in a way. COMIC-ART.COM: So, you did Captain Comet.

MURPHY: And there was another series that Edmond Hamilton wrote. I did two or three of those for Strange Adventures I believe it was, called Chris KcL 99 I think..

COMIC-ART.COM: That's one I've not seen.

MURPHY: You'd have to go back and look at the early Strange Adventures or at least I think it was Strange Adventures.

COMIC-ART.COM: A couple of the old pulp writers wound up working for DC.

MURPHY: Oh, yeah. Julie had mostly pulp writers. Gardner Fox even was a pulp writer.

COMIC-ART.COM: You worked with Gardner Fox quite a bit, I understand.

MURPHY: Yeah, well not with him, but I mean knew Gardner very well because we'd often go to lunch with Julie you know when Gardner would come in, and I'd be in, and we'd go to lunch and the same for John Broome. John was another pulp writer and most of Julie's writers were pulp writers.

COMIC-ART.COM: Right, and you wound up working on a fair number of stories that those gentlemen scripted.

MURPHY: Oh, yes.

COMIC-ART.COM: Hawkman, The Flash

MURPHY: Right. Well, Gardner did the Hawkman. He did the very first Hawkman, I think. It was a natural for him to continue on when they revived the character

COMIC-ART.COM: Right, he was doing it in the forties, and then in the early sixties, I believe. Now you were working on the early Flash stories for Showcase weren't you?

MURPHY: Well, I had gone back to Buck Rogers for a time.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, about '58 or so?

MURPHY: Yeah and I had been slated, I think, to work on Adam Strange but of course when I took the Buck Rogers assignment I couldn't. As a matter of fact I worked on the first cover for, I guess it was Showcase . No, it was in Mystery in Space wasn't it? I get confused a little bit. Anyhow, I had worked on the first cover and Julie, I came up from North Carolina maybe two or three times a year to work on covers and I had worked up a design for a cover that we couldn't quite, Julie couldn't quite approve and I said, well I think I know what you want. I'll go home and I'll do the cover. I'll send it in to you. If you can't use, then you don't use it. Well, I did it, and he still wasn't happy with it, so he had Gil Kane redaw the cover. The same idea, that was the Pit and the Pendulum, the first appearance of Adam Strange. So basically the costume is like I designed it for Adam Strange.

COMIC-ART.COM: And was the character supposed to be intended as kind of a Buck Rogers?

MURPHY: Yeah, right, exactly.

COMIC-ART.COM: There was also a little bit of John Carter of Mars in that character in the way that he kept going back and forth between the planets.

MURPHY: Yeah, well I mean that's true. I mean he was a modern?day man but was a, you know, I mean, what was he? An archeologist I believe with a museum. Sort of, what do you call it? You have to wonder if perhaps they didn't base, oh, gee, words are

failing me now, the, you know, the pulps, the movie that they brought out. You caught me at a time when I'm sitting here half asleep. Anyhow, I think what a lot of the movies were based on comic books. That's coming out more and more that a lot of today's big producers, were, directors and producers were comic books fans.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh sure. I know George Lucas was a big Flash Gordon fan. MURPHY: Right.

RINGGENNBERG: Yeah, a lot of that stuff.

MURPHY: Yeah. Can you hold just one second?

COMIC-ART.COM: Certainly. (Tape pauses until MURPHY's return) You actually designed Adam Strange's costume?

MURPHY: Well, I can't say that Gil did it exactly like I'd draw it. But I know I worked on that cover and I don't have it anymore. The only thing that survives is a letter that I wrote to Julie at the time to accompany it. But as I recall the belt and the helmet, the headgear were basically as I drew them.

COMIC-ART.COM: I always thought that he had one of the most attractive costumes of any DC character. It was very clean.

MURPHY: Well, it was based more on you know, my concept of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon type material.

COMIC-ART.COM: Was the jet pack your idea?

MURPHY: Yeah, well no, it was Julie's, and he didn't go for having the Buck Rogers type jet pack or flying belt. He wanted it, you know, closer to the back, even though I used to kid about it, he's going to have a hot rear end, you know? But that was just overlooked, of course. I mean the reality, I don't think you'd ever wear a jet pack that close to your body, but anyhow, that was, that was not quite the way I would have done it, but that was the way he wanted it, so...

COMIC-ART.COM: Let's talk a little bit about working on The Flash .


COMIC-ART.COM: Now, when that character was revived, were excited about working on superheroes, or was it just another job?

MURPHY: No, that was revived when I was not in New York and I had very little to do with it other than when I did move back to New York, that was in the late fifties, I became involved in inking a lot for Julie. That was the only work that they had available at the time. So he put me on The Flash almost immediately. But I came in after two or three issues had already been done.

COMIC-ART.COM: And how did you like working on Infantino's pencils at the time?

MURPHY: Well, it was a challenge. He was the first, he and Gil Kane were the first artists I had ever inked. You know, I had never inked anyone before, so it was quite an experience for me. Gil's stuff was a little more like my own work, so it wasn't as difficult, but Carmine is more of a designer, and I had to, in a lot of cases, do things that I didn't quite agree with, you know like abstract blacks and that sort of thing. But I found that if I didn't follow his pencils that the whole thing would start to fall apart. So, basically I followed what he put down, and if I didn't quite agree with some of the anatomy or construction of buildings and things like that I would, you know, just automatically, not automatically, but straighten them out without repencilling.

COMIC-ART.COM: In the inking process?

MURPHY: Yeah, right. Well, I think it was a little bit more of a collaboration than I guess most inkers are collaborators rather than followers. You know? COMIC-ART.COM: So you'd say that was the case with Infantino but not with Kane?

MURPHY: Yeah, I would say so. Some other artists that I've inked I've really just inked what they put down, you know?

COMIC-ART.COM: Was Infantino's work fairly tight?

MURPHY: Yeah, yeah, it was tight. That wasn't the thing. But he was, as I say, a designer, and he would bend reality, very often just to get an effect, which was against my nature. I was never in the Jack Kirby school, and Carmine was somewhere in between

strict realism and the Kirby approach.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, some of the things he did to show the Flash's speed, I thought, were very creative.

MURPHY: Oh yes. Oh yes. Carmine is a genius at storytelling. There's no question about it. His layouts, especially on covers and all, he puts an idea across very simply and directly and you understand it. COMIC-ART.COM: You wound up working with him quite a bit, didn't you, once you guys went on to Batman ?

MURPHY: Yeah, well I only did covers on the Batman stuff over stuff. People seem to think that I did a lot of work on Batman but really it was mostly covers.

COMIC-ART.COM: I think what it was is that some of the covers you did were so striking.

MURPHY: Well, perhaps.

COMIC-ART.COM: They really were interesting and very different than anything else that was being done at the time.

MURPHY: Well, that's very nice of you to say.

COMIC-ART.COM: I remember a particular one that was a closeup of Robin's face crying and he had a crushed newspaper with a headline about Batman being dead.

MURPHY: Yeah, I vaguely remember that one.

COMIC-ART.COM: Let's talk a little bit about working with Gil Kane on Green Lantern . That was really beautiful work. MURPHY: Well, thank you. You have to understand that Julie had a series of books to do and a stable of artists and he'd push you in and use you where he needed you at the moment. I mean it was more or less secondary that you showed an aptitude or a liking for a particular character. He took that into consideration, of course, and, but the main thing was to get his books out, and out on time.

Part Two of this Interview

We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript

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