Comics | Artist Biographies |
Collecting How To
Museum of Comic Art | Search this Site | Web Links
About Comic-art.com | Art For Sale | Comics For Sale
Comics On CDRom | Movie Posters | Pulps For Sale
We Buy Collections | Contact Us |Home Page
|Interview with Murphy Anderson .. part two (1994)|
COMIC-ART.COM: It seems like during your career at DC you were working mostly with Schwartz.
MURPHY: Right. Right. I mean each editor had his own crew of artists.
COMIC-ART.COM: Would they ever share people?
MURPHY: Yeah, occasionally, occasionally. I mean the company's interests were in there, too but basically they had the freedom to hire their own artists and most of the time each editor tried to keep his artists busy. COMIC-ART.COM: It seemed like you were very busy in the early sixties. Running down the list of strips you worked on, there's Green Lantern you worked on The Atomic Knights .
MURPHY: The Atomic Knights was formed basically because I bellyached so much about not being able to pencil and Julie finally came up with that. He may have had the idea in the back of his mind but that was a story that appeared only in every third issue of Strange Adventures .
COMIC-ART.COM: Did you have anything to do with conceiving the strip or did you just draw it?
MURPHY: No, I had very little to do with the conception of that because he had that in the works, gee, maybe I'm wrong in what I'm thinking about him doing it as a sop for me, but he just asked me if I'd be interested in doing a strip like that and of course that sounded great to me. It was a very difficult strip to do because of all the suits of armor and so many characters involved.
COMIC-ART.COM: Did you do much research on different kinds of
MURPHY: Yeah, yeah. I tried to make the armor as realistic as possible, although it's not at all like the armor they wore in the middle, in the dark ages, or right after, you know. In the days of well, Robin Hood and King Arthur, are identified with it but armor actually wasn't in use during those periods, not like it was a little later.
COMIC-ART.COM: During your whole career how much influence did research play on your work?
MURPHY: Well, I tried to research everything, and when I'd draw a specific thing try to make it as accurate as possible. COMIC-ART.COM: Would you work from photo reference?
MURPHY: Yeah, partly
COMIC-ART.COM: One thing I noticed from looking at some of your old work from Planet Comics, and the work in the sixties, is that it really changed, the way it looked. Was that due to just learning more techniques, or did your approach to the art change?
MURPHY: Well, it wasn't a conscious change. To me it was just an evolutionary thing as I sharpened my skills I think I, you know, became a better draftsman and so forth, that was reflected in the artwork. COMIC-ART.COM: It seemed like you were employing a finer line as you went on into the sixties, seventies and eighties.
MURPHY: Oh, gee, I don't really think so, but I can't be that objective about my own work. There was no conscious effort on my part other than to just sharpen my skills as a storyteller and as a draftsman. COMIC-ART.COM: On the early work were you, say, employing more brush in your inking?
MURPHY: Yeah, well, now that may be what you're picking up on.
COMIC-ART.COM: I think maybe that's what I was thinking of.
MURPHY: Well, initially, I worked with a brush almost exclusively, you know, did penwork of course just to crosshatch and special effects, you know and then, in the sixties I was having difficulty getting my work out and I evolved a method that saved me some time, and that was to pencil with a darker pencil on plate finish. Now the plate finish you could erase the pencil line off withoutccI mean the pencil line didn't penetrate the
paper so much as when you worked with a soft pencil, but that meant that brush lines would come off very easily, off the plate finish. So I started working with a pen and I did most of the work, I used a very fine point pen and then I was able to erase and just put the big, solid areas of black in with a brush. Once in a while, just to prove to myself I could, that I hadn't lost my brush feeling I would take a job and ink the entire thing, like I remember doing one of Gil Kane's Atoms. I took a brush only and did the entire job, even ruled the lines in with a brush.
COMIC-ART.COM: Sort of as a challenge to yourself?
MURPHY: Yeah. Just I didn't want to lose that ability and then when I started to work for Will Eisner, oh in the mid to latter part of the sixties I had to go back to brush because everything that he did was inked on velum. COMIC-ART.COM: Now what were you doing for Eisner?
MURPHY: I worked on P.S. magazine.
COMIC-ART.COM: Doing technical illustrations?
MURPHY: I was a staff artist. No, not doing technical things as much as just doing illustrations. The articles involved animating equipment and doing serious illustrations as well as humorous illustration.
COMIC-ART.COM: Was it all illustration for Eisner, or did you do any little comic strips as well?
MURPHY: Yeah, well that's what I'm saying. I worked on the continuity some, I inked over a lot of his continuities.
COMIC-ART.COM: And you were doing this at the same time you were still working for DC?
MURPHY: Yeah, well I had cut back on my work at DC. I held a staff position with Will.
COMIC-ART.COM: And how long did the position with Eisner last?
MURPHY: I'd say approximately two and a half years.
COMIC-ART.COM: When you were inking Superman over Curt Swan that seemed like that was a pretty steady assignment. Were you doing any other work besides that?
MURPHY: Oh, yes, yes. I was inking stuff until it was coming out of my ears. They wanted more and more inking out of me so they would find background people for me. I didn't have to even look for them. They would line up people that they thought had the neccessary ability and if I agreed then I would use that person as a background artist and as a result I had, oh many, I guess maybe, if you counted it all up, somewhere on the order of eight to ten different background artists working with me over that period.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you remember any of their names? MURPHY: Oh, sure. There's, let's go back and start at the beginning I think and I guess Jack Abel was one of the first and Vinnie Colleta did some. Vinnie Colleta did some of the backgrounds on the very first Superman stuff I did, the new
Superman, when they were trying to update the character. Vinnie, and John Cellardo did some, Alan Milgrom did a lot, and Dave Cockrum did a lot for me.
COMIC-ART.COM: Would they just get the pages from you or were you working in kind of a studio setcup?
MURPHY: No, no. They would get the pages from me and take them home and do them, usually, although Dave Cockrum worked with me some in a little studio I had. COMIC-ART.COM: It sounds like you had good people working with you.
MURPHY: Oh, yeah, well they trying to break into the field, some of them, and some of them were older pros that were having difficulty finding work at the moment. COMIC-ART.COM: I remember seeing Celardo's Tarzan God, ages ago.
MURPHY: Yeah, well this after he gave up the Tarzan strip, I think.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, and Jack Abel's been around the business for ages, too.
MURPHY: Oh, yeah. Well, Jack had been doing Superman you know, inking the entire job over Curt, but they were trying to change the direction of the character, the whole look and Carmine was actually behind a lot of that because he was, I guess, the editorial director, maybe already president of the company by that time, I'm not sure.
COMIC-ART.COM: And what year was it that you took over inking Superman ? I was thinking about 1970, is that correct?
MURPHY: Yeah, that's approximately right. That's when they updated Superman, made him a television reporter rather than a newspaper reporter, introduced a lot of new characters at that point. Denny O'Neill took over writing.
COMIC-ART.COM: You know the Superman that you and Swan did for so many years has been called the definitive Superman. How do you feel about that characterization?
MURPHY: Well, that's, that's sort of in the eyes of the beholder. I think Curt's had many good inkers over the years and I personally liked a lot of the stuff that George Klein and Stan Kaye, well there were a couple of others. I think Shelly Moldoff even inked some of the, Curt's pencils. So, he never really had bad inking. I think he always had good, and it depended on the tastes of the individual looking at the stuff.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. After you had worked on it I know they brought Al Williamson in for a couple of years. How did you like Al's inking?
MURPHY: Oh, I liked Al's very much. He's one of my favorite artists, you know. He's a very good friend and also a favorite artist.
COMIC-ART.COM: You did Superman with Swan until, what, was it the early eighties, or longer?
MURPHY: No. Off and on I would, I worked on Curt up until I took over the P.S. Magazine contract, which was in 1973, and at that point I was doing a lot of the Superman inks, and I was also inking a lot of Bob Brown on Superboy and doing some work on inking Batman over Irv Novick and Bob Brown and so forth. I only inked one Batman story over Carmine and that was a commercial story. It appears in one of the anthologies, or collections of Batman . Batman I guess with the Joker, Batman/Joker stories and it was picked up and ran like it had been in a comic book, but it never had been.
COMIC-ART.COM: Was that like in a giveaway comic or something?
MURPHY: Yeah, something like that.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, and I remember seeing some pinups that you did over Infantino pencils of the Batman villains.
MURPHY: Oh, yeah. We did those and that was something, a project that was a very good idea, but it was ahead of its time and they couldn't sell those. They wound up having contests, giving them away and they ran special ads and selling them at a discounted price and so forth. It was a very elaborate project and I thought they were quite successful artistically.
COMIC-ART.COM: I agree, and I know that somebody must have liked them because they've been reprinted so often.
MURPHY: Yeah, well they were used a lot. As a matter of fact, the one is sort of a classic, of Batman and Robin on a rooftop and it served as a, line art from it served as a wall decoration in the lobby of 909 Third Avenue. You get off the elevator in there and that thing blown up to eight or nine foot height was staring you in the face.
COMIC-ART.COM: That must have been kind of gratifying to see your work blown up like that.
MURPHY: Yeah, yeah. I mean you always appreciate anyone that you know indicates positive feelings for your work.
COMIC-ART.COM: What are you currently working on, Mr. MURPHY?
MURPHY: Well, currently I'm just running a business and I'm also doing a little bit of work on the side, but not too much. I'm working on a project right now for a movie outfit called, oh, Full Moon. Are you familiar with the firm? COMIC-ART.COM: No, I can't say I am.
MURPHY: Well, Deni Loubert is working with them and they're producing a special comic book, well it's not really a comic book. It'll be a coffee table, a large size book. I think the size will be something on the order of eleven by seventeen, in that range and I'm doing one story in it and there are several other artists that I've helped Deni find and she also found a couple on her own. Howard Chaykin is writing the series and what
it is is there's a series of six, for video stores only, movies being made and this will be part of a promotional thing. There'll be a hard bound coffee table type book that will be given to video shop owners as part of a promotional thing.
COMIC-ART.COM: And are you pencilling and inking?
COMIC-ART.COM: From what you're saying, are you still doing any work at DC?
MURPHY: A little bit, I inked a six page Curt Swan Superman contribution that's part of the issue seven hundred is it, that's coming out. The six pages are interspersed throughout the entire book. There wasn't a story exactly. It's a part of the overall story.
COMIC-ART.COM: But now it seems like you're concentrating on doing work for your own firm?
MURPHY: Right, and we have some things that we're working on right now.
COMIC-ART.COM: Are you mostly doing commercial art, like advertising art?
MURPHY: No, we've been doing color separations for the last ten years. See, I held the P.S. Magazine contract for some ten years, and up until 1983, and since then we've been doing basically separations for comic books and I do an occasional art job. COMIC-ART.COM: If you've been doing it for ten years it must be going over pretty well.
MURPHY: Well, it has been, yeah, but the technology is changing so much, you know, things are going more and more to computers and they're, and more and more colorists are actually doing the separations as a color on a computer. So, that's changing the complexion of what we do.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you think you'll go into the new technology?
MURPHY: Well, we're working on it, yes. That's one of the things we're working on. We have done some computer separations, and we're doing more, but it's a totally different beast than it has been. COMIC-ART.COM: It seems like many aspects of the business are changing now, you know, with the new printing technologies. I know that they're starting to do some of the lettering on computers. MURPHY: Right.
COMIC-ART.COM: And it seems like every aspect is changing.
ANMDERSON: Oh yeah, well, it's affecting everything from inserts, you know, advertising inserts like the supermarkets and so forth do, or the Sears and Bradley's and so forth, all that's being done on computers now. It's already been typset, all that sort
COMIC-ART.COM: What do you think of the new comic books that have computer generated art?
MURPHY: Well, I don't know. Imean it depends on which one you're talking about. Some of them are quite ambitious and some kind of leave me cold. But for special stories they work fine. COMIC-ART.COM: Did you see the Batman: Digital Justice book?
MURPHY: Well, I think I know the one you're talking about, by Pepe Moreno?
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, that was computer generated.
MURPHY: Yeah, yeah. We've worked with that film here a great deal, you know. One of the things we've done for DC over the years is regenerate a lot of film for their foreign sales and that film has been in here a number of times for us to different things with, and so I'm familiar with it. It shows one of the problems with that kind of material because if you want to change balloons and so forth, where there's color in the balloons you
right away get into trouble. So, sound effects can't be changed easily, and you know, that sort of thing. Where if it's line art, done the conventional way, you could go into it and in the dark room do some things to it, delete and add and so forth. But when it's computercgenerated, it's very difficult to do anything.
COMIC-ART.COM: You know, that's an interesting take on that. That's something I've never even considered. MURPHY: Well, yeah, now, of course if they keep all the electronic data they can go back and put it back on the screen and work on it from that end and then generate new film, which is what will have to be done, but in the beginningj when they started using computercbased stuff, no one was saving that material and a lot of it couldn't be saved. So, I think as time passes they're going to start archiving a lot of the books that way and they'll be able to pull them out and make changes on them if they need to. It's just another way things are changing.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yes. An electronic library instead of a paper one.
MURPHY: Yeah, well it makes a lot of sense if you stop to think about it and of course a lot of the artwork is probably not, if they do it the most economical way, they'll probably make a lot of changes in artwork and so forth and put it together on a computer and there may not be any original art as such at that point.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you think the business will ever reach a point where rather than an artist, you'll have a technician at a console or do you think the comic book business will always need artists?
MURPHY: Well, when you say artist, if you're talking about creative people, you'll always have to have creative people. As to where it's going ultimately, who knows? They're already able to take stuff and change it, twist it, and so forth. A lot of art is
prepared and given to people and they put it on the computer and make it change it around and so forth. Some of the computers we've been looking at over the years, I mean as much as five or, five years or more back, I've seen photographs taken then on the computer and they can actually alter a face. I remember seeing a
technician take a portrait of a girl who had a Mona Lisa kind of smile and he actually opened up her mouth, gave her teeth, gave her dimples, everything, you know, right on the computer and you couldn't tell it.
COMIC-ART.COM: I saw one in Scientific American that was a picture of Marilyn Monroe holding hands with Abe Lincoln.
MURPHY: Yeah, well that's the kind of thing and put in the hands of a creative technician, although there again, you have to have someone that's an artist and creator, but not in the sense that he could sit down and draw a comic book page. That's a different discipline and , so I don't know. Who knows where it's going, and you see all these animated features now that would have been impossible before the computers. You couldn't have hired enough people to do them. Now, this stuff, I don't know exactly how they do all that, but I can see, you know, from the computer stuff we study here, the possibilities of doing all this stuff on a computer. You know, doing the animation starting with a basic figure and just changing it a little as you go along, changing backgrounds and all that sort of thing right on the computer, so it's made possible all this fantastic amount of
material that's coming out now. In the old days, you know, it took Disney three or four years to produce a feature film, you know, Snow White or what have you. Those were projects that were in the works for sometimes eight or ten years. Fantasia and all that sort of thing took a tremendous amount of effort and planning. Now, it seems to be duck soup for a computer.
COMIC-ART.COM: Mr. MURPHY, just in closing, I was wondering, just in closing, who have been some of your favorite writers who've scripts you've worked on in the past and maybe give me a reason why you liked that person's work.
MURPHY: Well, I must say I've always been blessed with good writers, going back I would say, I'll go back to a story, with DC days, with when I started in 1950. I worked with Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, John Broome, Gardner Fox, of course. John Broome was quite a good writer and he wrote a lot of stuff for Julie, but he was never able to match Gardner in production. His stuff showed a lot more contemplation and he worked very hard to edit copy down to small balloon size and so forth. I mean to edit it down to where you didn't have so much verbiage, and still say what you wanted it to say and a lot of writers I think just write what pops into their heads, you know. That doesn't mean it's not good, but it's sort of like writing poetry if you're just going to edit it down to its just bare essentials and Denny O'Neill was another favorite.
COMIC-ART.COM: What about other artists you worked with?
MURPHY: Well, I guess Curt Swan was a perhaps, the easiest all around one I was in tune with.
COMIC-ART.COM: What did you like best about Curt's work?
MURPHY: Well it's just that he puts everything in, you know, he doesn't get hurried or anything. Everything's done at a certain pace and it's very conscientiously done and that seems to be the way that I like to work, too. Other artists are more stylized
and sometimes I'm not as in tune with them as I am with someone that draws very realistically like, I think, Curt does.
COMIC-ART.COM: How did you like inking Gil Kane's work?
MURPHY: Well, that was very easy because Gil was basically a realistic artist and only in recent years he's gone, you know, a little more for the Kirby kind of thing, but he's still basically very straight.
COMIC-ART.COM: Looking back on your whole career, were there any jobs or characters that you had a particular fondness for?
MURPHY: Well, my favorite character in all the comics that I've worked on are read over the years, would have to be Buck Rogers . That's partly because I grew up on Buck, maybe when I was eight or nine years old I became aware of the strip and it was a dream come true when I worked on the feature. A dream come true.
We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript