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Happy Birthday, Murphy Anderson: A Modest Tribute To An All-Time Great


An artist who played an integral role in the superhero renaissance of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and whose line lent a smooth and elegant air to every character he touched, Murphy Anderson is one of the true living legends of the comic book business. This week sees the artist’s 88th birthday.

Anderson began his career in comics in the mid 1940s, and worked on titles for a number of different publishers over the next decade, including Timely/Atlas, Ziff Davis, Pines, and the company that would prove to be his primary home for the next four decades – National/DC Comics. In the 1950s, DC increased his assignments and he became a fixture of the company’s sci-fi and superhero titles, pencilling a number of different features and providing inks for many of the early Silver Age’s most enduring and influential stories, working over artists such as Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Mike Sekowsky.

While best known for his brush skills, Anderson is also one of the industry’s most spectacular pencillers and designers. He handled the art for the first 21 issues of Hawkman’s solo series, designed Adam Strange’s costume for the character’s first appearance in Showcase #17, produced a number of memorable covers and interiors for DC’s anthology titles, created the Atomic Knights with author John Broome, helmed 1966′s revival of the Spectre, and, perhaps most auspiciously, co-created Zatanna with writer Gardner Fox.

 

Hawkman #4, the first appearance of Zatanna

 

In the ’70s and early ’80s, Anderson regularly inked Curt Swan’s pencils on Superman and Action Comics, and helped define the look of Krypton’s last son for a generation of readers. He continued to work regularly up through the ’90s, with his polished figures and crisp inking appearing in books from DC, Comico, Image, and other publishers. Up until a couple years ago, Murphy was still a regular presence on the convention circuit – appearing on panels, sketching and signing. Convention-goers know the artist as a much-beloved and immaculately attired presence, a perfect gentleman in suit and tie, always unfazed by the comic con chaos.
Anderson’s drawings capture a similar sense of refinement, and that’s part of what I love so much about his work. No matter how absurd the subject, a piece of Anderson art possesses a style and sophistication all its own. Whether it’s the armored warriors and giant dalmatian-steeds of Atomic Knights, the aerial acrobatics of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, or the endless succession of aliens and gorillas that populate the weird ’50s anthology titles, Anderson’s drawings express feelings of excitement, adventure, and pure insanity with unparalleled grace and finesse.

Particularly memorable is Anderson’s design for Adam Strange, which mixed the classic art deco look of Buck Rogers with 1950s space-age modernism. What emerged was something unique (if not entirely timeless) that set a new standard for sci-fi heroes of the time.

On behalf of all of us at ComicsAlliance, it’s my pleasure to wish Mr. Anderson a happy 88th birthday. Thanks for all the great work.

 

 

Showcase #34, the first appearance of the Silver Age Atom – pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Murphy Anderson
The Brave & The Bold #28, the first appearance of the Justice League Of America – pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Murphy Anderson

Image via Dial B For Blog (click to enlarge)
Murphy Anderson inks over Curt Swan pencils (click to enlarge)

Image via Dial B For Blog (click to enlarge)
Image via Dial B For Blog
Image via Dial B For Blog (click to enlarge)

 

Some original art images via Dial B For Blog

 

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