Superman Comic Books

Murphy Anderson

Murphy Anderson was born on July 9, 1925 in Asheville, North Carolina, only a stone's throw from Thomas Wolff's birthplace. His father was moved to Greensboro, NC in 1933 and it was here that Murphy spent his years early years.

Murphy became interested in comics as a pre-schooler, asking his mother, an ex-school teacher, to read them to him. Using comics as a learning tool she taught him to read. He started to draw in the third grade, paying close attention to features like ALLEY OOP and Li'L ABNER. At the age of fourteen, Murphy entered, and won, an art contest held by the Greensboro Daily Record, receiving the princely sum of one dollar as a prize. "But, in 1939" said Murphy, "a dollar would buy ten comic books, you know."

Murphy first attempted to enter the comics field in 1943. As Co-editor of the Greensboro Highlife, the school paper, Murphy was invited to New York to attend a convention put on by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. He likes to tell people that he was asked to lecture at Columbia University while only a high school senior. While there, he carried along a number of his drawings and showed them to Busy Arnold, at Quality Comics. While there, he met Lou Fine and Jack Cole. While they encouraged him, they did not give him work. After visiting Holyoke he was given a job to do a cover for BLUE BEETLE, which he unabashedly swiped from Lou Fine drawings. Holyoke liked his work and asked him to do more for them, but Anderson had planned to start college.

Murphy began attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall of 1943. He went with hopes of studying with the famous illustrator, William Meade Prince. At the time Prince was the head of the art department there, and was one of the most prolific magazine cover artist of the time. In addition, Prince drew the strips BIG SISTER and ALADDIN JR. for King Features Syndicate. However, Prince left UNC in early 1944.

Murphy did work for the Carolina Magazine and the Daily Tarheel, two student publications, but had decided that he wanted to try his hand in the comics field. During the second quarter of his freshman year, Murphy borrowed $100 from his father and headed to New York to test his luck. He visited Marvel, Quality and Fiction House with no luck. As his money was coming to an end, and Murphy was about to give up and return to North Carolina to help with the family business, Jack Byrne of Fiction House called and offered him a staff position. Sitting at a drawing board next to George Tuska, Murphy was assigned the STAR PIRATE feature and worked on it off and on from 1944-1947. Fiction House also had a line of Pulp Magazines, and during this period Murphy produced work for PLANET STORIES. His first work for the magazine was summarily panned by the fans of the magazine. His work appeared here until 1945.

Murphy entered the Navy in 1944. He had qualified for training as a radio technician and did well in the theory, but could not master the benchwork. He pleaded to be allowed out of the program and he was transferred to the Visual Aids Department of the school. As the war came to an end, the school was disbanded and Anderson was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Station, awaiting transfer to the South Pacific. It was at a local dance that he met his wife-to-be, Helen. Her church had sent her to assist at the servicemen's center. She checked Murphy's hat, and he went back several times that evening to make sure it was alright. Soon, he escorted her home and the romance began.

After the war, Anderson returned to New York to work for FICTION HOUSE. However, as their relationship grew more serious, Murphy arranged to free-lance and moved to Chicago to be closer to Helen in early 1946. They married in 1948.

In 1947, Murphy knew that he was serious about Helen, and began looking for a more secure job than a free-lancer to provide for his family. In the want ads of the Chicago Tribune was an ad that said simply, "Artist wanted to do an adventure strip". After a rather secretive interview, it became obvious that the syndicate was searching for someone to replace Dick Calkins on the BUCK ROGERS daily strip, and Anderson was chosen for the position. He worked on this until the middle of 1949, when he moved back to Greensboro to help with the family taxi business. While in North Carolina, he continued to do free-lance assignments for several Ziff-Davis books including AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.

Jerry Siegel was heading up a new line of Ziff-Davis comics, and invited Murphy to work for him full-time. Ziff-Davis moved their headquarters from Chicago to New York, and Anderson followed renting an apartment in Bayside, NY. Siegel meant to keep Anderson busy, but when Anderson turned in a story and was told that there wouldn't be a script for a week, he began calling on other publishers. He visited DC, EC, Marvel and Avon. By the time Siegel called Anderson back, he was too swamped with work to return to Ziff-Davis. Murphy did one story for Stan Lee at Marvel, turned down a job at EC and did some work for The Pines before starting at DC. During this time, his most famous work appeared in STRANGE ADVENTURES, doing the Capt. Comet strip.

Once again, Murphy left the industry to help his family business. For all intents and purposes, he was out of the field, save for freelancing covers for DC's STRANGE ADVENTURES and MYSTERY IN SPACE titles, from 1953-1957.

As the taxi business began to bottom out Anderson took more and more assignments from Julie Schwartz. In the late 1950's, after the first Sputnik was placed in orbit, interest rose in sci-fi strips. Trouble with the senior John Dille had forced Anderson to leave his initial run on BUCK ROGERS. But Dille's son was easier to work with and convinced Anderson to return to the strip to take over for Rick Yeager, and did both the daily and Sunday strips from 1957-8.

Even then, he was doing more and more work for Schwartz at DC. One afternoon, while in Schwartz's office, Julie mentioned a character that he was working on. Anderson did a number of sketches for a cover, completed it at home and sent it in. Julie had some problems with the work and called Gil Kane in to solve the problems but this was the first cover for Adam Strange. After problems with the syndicate, in 1958, Anderson moved again from Greensboro to New Jersey to work full-time for DC. While he was finishing his final BUCK ROGERS dailies, Murphy began inking the FLASH over Carmine Infantino's pencil's in SHOWCASE. He then inked Mike Sekowski's pencils for Justice League of America in BRAVE & BOLD. Murphy tells the story of Julie coming into the office. "He had ideas, and we'd bat 'em around. Usually it was a marriage of ideas. Often I would spend a day making sketches. Then go home, do the pencils and maybe have to make changes in the pencils before inking the cover; and all that for a flat page rate."

Julius Schwartz's genius was not only in revitalizing golden age characters to create "The Silver Age", but in his teaming of artists. He took pencillers who were stylized, and teamed them with Murphy Anderson, the epitome of the realist. The combination was nothing less than spectacular, and some of them modern-day classics. In those years Anderson was teamed with Carmine Infantino on the Flash, Batman, Elongated Man and Adam Strange, then with Gil Kane on The Atom and Green Lantern. He was later tapped to replace Joe Kubert in both penciling and inking Hawkman, as well as working on such other famous characters as Atomic Knights, The Spectre, and Dr Fate.

In the mid-60's, Anderson left DC as a full timer to work with Will Eisner on PS MAGAZINE. This was an informational magazine produced for the armed forces, and was useful experience in not only drawing, but producing a complete magazine. During that time, Mort Weisinger had retired and Schwartz had become the editor of the Superman line. Again, in a stroke of genius, Julie asked if Anderson could ink Curt Swan's work. Anderson inked a few of Swan's covers, then some stories. Soon, they were inseparable, and the "Swanderson" team was born; a name made by combining Swan and Anderson. It was their Superman that was the inspiration for the first 1978 movie, and after whom Christopher Reeve's character was designed.

Murphy's love for science fiction was well known and when DC was offered the opportunity to adapt several Edgar Rice Burroughs characters, Murphy jumped at the chance to work on John Carter, Warlord of Mars. He also contributed to the Korak, Son Of Tarzan series. Later, when DC acquired the rights to the Quality Comics characters, he had the opportunity to draw some of his favorite Lou Fine/Reed Crandall characters, Black Condor, Uncle Sam, and Dollman.

In 1973, Murphy bid for, and won the contract to produce PS Magazine. He produced this magazine for nearly ten years performing a duty that he claims, "Saved the taxpayers many hundreds of thousands of dollars". In the time since, Murphy has founded his own company, now headed by his son, which does color separations for many of the major comic companies. He also finds time to do illustrations and free lance jobs for a number of companies.

Copyright © 1997-98, Wallace Harrington (
Used with kind permission from the author.