Brought to you in living color by Walt Grogan…
By WALT GROGAN
The late Murphy Anderson was born 97 years ago, on July 9, 1926. I’ve always loved Anderson’s style either as a penciller or as an inker, where he excelled by bringing new life to others’ pencils.
Murphy was a DC Comics stalwart and lent his pencils to Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Hawkman, the Spectre, the Atomic Knights, and to several JSA hero team-ups in The Brave and the Bold and Showcase.
He often inked fellow DC artist Carmine Infantino, and though their styles would seem to clash, they often produced masterpieces due to Infantino’s design sense and Anderson’s well-rounded inking.
So, in honor of Anderson’s birthday, here are 13 GORGEOUS ILLUSTRATIONS, including some old favorites and some new discoveries. As I like to do, I’ve added color and vintage trade dress to several of these pieces. Enjoy!
Any artist worth their salt must do a self-portrait surrounded by their most notable characters! Here Murph surrounds himself with the Justice League, The Spectre, Adam Strange, an Atomic Knight, and Zatanna! And don’t forget to call Julie!
I’ve attended many comic conventions in the past 45 years or so and one of my greatest regrets was never getting a Murphy Anderson sketch of the Big Red Cheese, Captain Marvel! I’d see Murph walking around but I was just too shy to approach him. I was surprised to learn that he recreated the cover of Master Comics #21, featuring Cap, Bulletman, and the nefarious Captain Nazi! Is there another Murph Captain Marvel out there? I hope so!
Good Girl art? Murphy Anderson? Yep! Here’s Murphy with a pinup of Connie Rodd, one of the characters from Preventative Maintenance Monthly — the Army’s instructional magazine started by none other than Will Eisner, who served as the art director! Other artists included Joe Kubert, Dan Spiegle, Alfredo Alcala and Mike Ploog.
I was so overjoyed when I stumbled across this pitch piece for a repackaging of Filmation’s greatest DC cartoons! Murph captures the style perfectly and boy, can you imagine a Dollar Comic featuring these three in their own adventures in this style? I’d buy that for a dollar!
I adore the cover of Justice League of America #55! It’s one of my favorites of all time. Here Murph works his magic on Mike Sekowsky’s pencils producing a spectacular Earth-Two Robin in his Bat-duds for the first time! It’s sublime — and makes for a great faux house ad.
Yet, I’ve never understood the hate for this costume! It’s like hating Batman’s costume. Is it the cape, in its bright yellow? Maybe. In this faux ad, I chose to color the cape’s exterior in Batman blue while leaving the inside yellow — a la TV’s Batgirl! It’s Batman on the outside and Robin on the inside!
When I was 6, this costume seemed a natural fit for a grown-up Boy Wonder taking over for The Caped Crusader. And naysayers haven’t changed my mind since, old chums!
No other piece has captured the Dynamic Duo of the mid-1960s so perfectly! It’s probably the most iconic piece of art Murphy ever laid his hand to. And it’s hard to say if this Carmine Infantino piece would be so revered without Anderson’s inks. It always seemed strange to me that it was never colored in more traditional hues of night, so I did the job.
One of the things I loved about Marvel Comics was the use of the corner box to showcase the star of the title when it was racked on a spinner or display! DC gave that a shot by popping their characters in a circle. Murph drew a mysterious Batman and later added Robin (probably as a licensing piece).
One of my all-time favorite DC villains is what seems to be Two-Face’s cousin twice removed… the Composite Superman (even with his riches, Batman couldn’t afford co-billing). He’s got a great split costume plus that slightly ripe skin tone! Sadly, his appearances were few and far between: Murph’s awesome Who’s Who piece seemed natural for this faux house ad!
When DC Direct and later, Funko, created Composite Superman figures, I snapped them up!
There was nothing like the 1960s Joker. He was crazy and kooky and slightly dangerous even when he was pulling boners! Here Murph lends his inks to Carmine Infantino’s pencils and comes away with a decidedly off-kilter Clown Price of Crime!
I’m a huge fan of the Justice League and — when I learned about them — the Justice Society! This pin-up from Justice League of America #76 set my head reeling when I first saw it in 1969. I love group shots and this one doesn’t disappoint. From Ma Hunkel’s side-eye toward her replacement, to Johnny Thunder whispering to Mr. Terrific, to Dr. Mid-Nite and the Atom sharing a word, Murph breathes life into each character. Plus I love the Flash’s shadow silhouetted on Batman’s cape. It was touches like this that made Murph’s art sing!
I’m a sucker for team-ups, so naturally, I loved the brief time in 1971-72 that World’s Finest was a Superman team-up book and precursor to DC Comics Presents. Here’s a Murphy house ad for World’s Finest #200, in which Superman teams up with Batman’s junior partner.
The Silver Age Flash is such a great character and Murph draws him in such a way that he just looks speedy! This apparent licensing piece made a great candidate for a faux house ad!
The annual JLA-JSA team-ups were awesome but writer Len Wein hit on a winning formula with Justice League of America #100-102 back in 1972, when he had the teams locate the missing Seven Soldiers of Victory! Perhaps it was Murphy’s SSV poster in Justice League of America #76 (Nov-Dec 1969) that gave him or editor Julie Schwartz the idea! It’s a great piece although the original is a bit dated. That said, I do have a soft spot for that big lug, Pat Dugan AKA Stripesy, and I think the Golden Age Vigilante is great!
— That Time MURPHY ANDERSON Inked JOHN ROMITA’s SPIDER-MAN. Click here.
— Dig the Bronze Age JOKER and GREEN GOBLIN Team-Up That Should Have Been. Click here.
A 10-year-old, DIY colorist Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.