Happy birthday to Mr. Murphy Anderson

There’s an impressive parade of artists born in July. Of present concern is the birthday of one Murphy Anderson, who came into this world on July 9th, 1926 (and ceased to exist in 2015, at 89, no doubt moving into some parallel dimension).

His work on the Atomic Knights or Hawkman is fondly remembered…  but I’ll concentrate on some covers dear to my heart from DC’s science-fiction titles because sci-fi + great art = squeals of enjoyment. Anderson had no trouble portraying any number of far-fetched monsters or depicting incredible situations in his crisp, clean style that made his audience willingly suspend disbelief. Ah, okay, I called it “science-fiction”, but it often crosses the line into fantasy, or horror, with occasional detours into superhero, or just plain quirkiness. To follow the loopy logic of the stories contained in the pages of the following publications, one has to abandon the notion that A leads to B, and prepare oneself for a wild romp through the whole alphabet. Great art certainly facilitates this – the story may leave me scratching my head, but Murphy Anderson’s illustrating chops provide a firm ground to anchor to.

Without further ado, the great Murphy Anderson and some of his artwork!

For instance, take a look at some of the creatures featured in DC’s Strange Adventures through the decades. Anderson’s gallery of characters includes, but is not limited to, startled fishermen, anthropomorphized atomic clouds, and Middle-Age barbarians from another planet, all impeccably drawn.

StrangeAdventures21-MurphyAnderson
“But I tell you I actually hooked one on my line… THIS BIG!” It’s only fair. I guess you don’t even need to use bait for this type of fishing. Strange Adventures no. 21 (June 1952). Cover by Murphy Anderson.
StrangeAdventures143-MurphyAnderson
There’s no head-breaking over what title to give these stories… “The Face in the Atom Bomb Cloud” it is! Pencils and inks by Murphy Anderson, grey tones and colours by Jack Adler, lettering by Ira Schnapp. This is Strange Adventures no. 143 (August, 1962). Edited by Julius Schwartz.
StrangeAdventures160-MurphyAnderson
Strange Adventures no. 160 (January 1964), cover by Murphy Anderson. This issue is a treat, featuring two parts of an Atomic Knights story (“Here come the Wild Ones!”, written by John Broome and illustrated by Anderson).
StrangeAdventures222-MurphyAnderson
I promised barbarians, didn’t I? Strange Adventures no. 222 (Jan-Feb 1970), art by Murphy Anderson. I have a love/hate relationship with Adam Strange, often loving the art and hating the stories. It’s been a while – I have to re-read this stuff and see if I still find it indigestible.

Another favourite series for its oft-striking covers is Mystery in Space. I love it when Anderson invents “space” animals composed of body parts from several Earth species. It’s indubitably fun, and children often have a great time inventing new creatures, but it takes chops to draw the result and make it work, anatomically and aesthetically.

MysteryinSpace21-MurphyAnderson
Damn, the safety regulations for those carousel things are really lax these (future) days.  It might not be science-fiction per se, but it sure is fun! Mystery in Space no. 21 (August-September 1954), with a cover by Mr. Anderson.

Despite my general resistance to superhero stuff, here’s a cover featuring the Spectre, whose classy costume is easy on the eyes.

Showcase61-MurphyAnderson
When you have to boink your arch-enemy on the head with a whole planet to knock him out and it still doesn’t work, you know you’re dealing with a pro. Showcase no. 61 (March-April 1966), cover by Murphy Anderson.

And one for the road…

TalesoftheUnexpected94-MurphyAnderson
Goofiness or social commentary? Frankly, the green “president” looks a lot friendlier than most current politicians. Tales of the Unexpected no. 94 (April-May, 1966). Cover by Murphy Anderson.

~ ds

11 thoughts on “Happy birthday to Mr. Murphy Anderson

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