At one time, inking was simply a necessary step used to prepare the comic page for printing. By using a pen or brush to go over an artist’s pencils, the inker added depth and shading to help turn an image into a finished piece of work. Today, an inker plays an essential role in the comic process. During the Golden Age of comics, Murphy Anderson pulled double duty as an illustrator and an inker. But just who was this award winning creator who helped redesign many of comics’ beloved characters?
Murphy C. Anderson, Jr. was born on July 9, 1926 in Asheville, North Carolina. After briefly attending the University of North Carolina, Anderson moved to New York City to pursue a career in the comic industry. He was quickly hired by Jack Byrne to work as a staff artist at Fiction House, where his first credit was on the aviation featurette “Jet Propulsion” in Wings Comics #48 in 1944. Anderson went on to work on the “Suicide Smith and the Air Commanders” story in Wings Comics #50, before becoming the the regular artist on the Planet Comics features “Life on Other Worlds” and “Star Pirate.”
While serving in the United States Navy from 1944 to 1945, Anderson also illustrated for science fiction pulp magazines. He later served as the artist on the Buck Rogers comic book series between 1947 and 1949. During the 1950s, Anderson began his lifelong association with DC Comics, where he served as both an illustrator and an inker. One of his first assignments was succeeding artist and co-creator Carmine Infantino on “Captain Comet” in Strange Adventures #12. Later on, Anderson collaborated with writer John Broome to create “Atomic Knights” for Strange Adventures, both of whom described it as their favorite assignment.
In 1964, writer Gardner Fox and Anderson launched the Hawkman series and introduced the Zatanna character. “Hawkman really took off when artist Murphy Anderson took over...Anderson came into his own with his elegantly ornamental version of the Winged Wonder,” noted comics historian Les Daniels. Fox and Anderson continued their partnership reviving the Spectre for Showcase, before launching a solo series for the character. Anderson changed the industry standard when he proposed that comic pages be drawn at 10” x 15” rather than 12” x 18”.
Anderson also collaborated with penciler Curt Swan on Superman and Action Comics so frequently that fans began calling them “Swanderson.” Throughout his time at DC, Anderson co-created what many consider to be the defining images of Superman, Batman, Flash, Adam Strange, and the Atom. He also drew Wonder Woman for the debut cover of Ms. Magazine, along with covers for Justice League of America, Detective Comics, Batman, and The Brave and the Bold. For over 50 years, Anderson worked primarily for DC Comics while also contributing to Pines Comics, St. John Publications, Ziff Davis, and Atlas Comics (Marvel Comics).
Over the years, Anderson was awarded Alley Awards for Best Inker, Artist Preferred on Justice League of America, Best Inking Artist, Best Comic Book Cover, Best Inking Artist, and Best Novel. He also received an Inkpot Award and was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, Will Eisner Hall of Fame, and the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame. Although he passed away in 2015, Anderson is fondly remembered within the comic industry for leaving his mark on virtually all of the top DC characters of that time.