Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NCS Luminaries: John Cullen Murphy

Past president of the National Cartoonists Society (1979-81), John Cullen Murphy, in his own words from the NCS website:

"Born in N.Y.C. 1919, raised in Chicago. Studied at Art Institute age 9. Moved east 1930, studied with Booth, Rockwell, Bridgman, Dickson, etc. Did covers for Liberty, Collier's. Spent 6 years in army, '40 - '46."

"After war, illustrations, covers for Sport, Holiday, Look, etc. Started 'Big Ben Bolt' with E. Caplin '49."

John Cullen Murphy, in his own words from an interview in The Comics Journal #253, when asked why he switched from magazine illustration to comic strip art:

"I saw that most of the advertising dollars were being pulled from magazines and going into television. The strip work was steady income."

When interviewer Brian M. Kane asks how he approaches black and white illustration, Murphy replies, "I look for the drama in the panel. It's like being a stage director. You're competing for the reader's attention so you need to get in some good blacks -- some high contrast."

Kane asks, "What would you say is your trademark? If someone looked at a John Cullen Murphy pen-and-ink piece, how would they know immediately that it's yours?"

Murphy replies, "I would hope it to be that the drawing's all there -- the figures, the hands, the faces, the emotions."

You'll find a thorough interview and plenty of art by John Cullen Murphy at Keefe Studios.com

My John Cullen Murphy Flickr set.

* An addendum to yesterday's post on Hank Ketcham:

Jason Chalker discovered a rare old WWII U.S. Navy newsletter with some very cool early Hank Ketcham cartoons on it. Many thanks to Jason for sharing these with us... he has posted the scans here.


  1. it's interesting, Leonard Starr gave the exact same reason for getting out of illustration and into his syndicated comic strip, On Stage, in the 1950s. He looked at the magazine illustration market beginning to taper off as television gained momentum and decided that in the long term, a syndicated strip would provide a more stable source of income.

  2. I worked at King Features on staff when John Cullen Murphy was the artist on Prince Valiant. Always looked forward to his originals when they arrived - the packages still had the scent of pipe tobacco. The artwork on the originals was FAR superior to the shrunk, cut up and reformatted version that ran in the paper. A fantastic artist.