Monday, March 4, 2013

Larry's Cartoon Vault: Remembering Willy Murphy

Cartoonist Willy Murphy died 37 years ago this month on March 2, 1976.
from Artists in Print

He was part of the underground comix movement in the late ‘60’s-early ‘70’s in San Francisco.
San Francisco Comic Book #4 1972

Of all the notable underground cartoonists of that era, Murphy is perhaps one of the most under acknowledged. That’s truly too bad because he was one of the best. Willy Murphy was the Milt Gross of the underground.  Seriously wild and wacky (and an all around good guy).
I first remember seeing Murphy’s work in the Berkeley Tribe underground paper and immediately took to it. ( I mostly remember a wonderfully devastating cartoon of Richard Nixon).
As a youngster-neophyte cartoonist in San Francisco,  I looked up to Willy  and he was very supportive of my early scribblings. In fact, I saw print a couple of times in those early days because Willy was in charge of editing the project (such as the San Francisco Sunday Paper and perhaps an early issue of San Francisco Comic Book).
As I understand it, before cartooning Murphy had worked in advertising. I believe he did photography as well.  I recall him once saying to me that he had loved photography but it didn’t love him.
Willy Murphy died young. He was truly building a head of steam by the late 70’s creating and contributing to a number of projects including the Give Me Liberty, Two Fools,  Arcade Comics Revue and his own title Flamed Out Funnies.

He was also just beginning to contribute to National Lampoon at the time of this death.  In fact, his Lampoon deadline played a role in his demise.
Willy was working on a piece for Lampoon and had a cold that turned into pneumonia while he  continued to work to meet his deadline. He was found unconscious in his room and taken to the hospital but never recovered. He was 39 years old.
We’ll never know how good he could have been. He did some awfully funny stuff that deserves to be remembered.
Here are a few odds and ends (some odder than others) by Willy Murphy. 

from Arcade #3

from the short lived San Francisco Sunday Paper 1972


from Snarf #6

Again from San Francisco Sunday Paper

A nutty parody of the long ago Terry and the Pirates type strips

Arcade #4

Ted Richard's piece from Arcade #6


  1. Thanks for posting the Willie Murphy work.

    I was huge Willie Murphy fan and used to have a lot of his stuff. Unfortunately over the years some of my collection has gone missing.

    I have been looking for a strip featuring his Arnold Peck (the human wreck) that has Arnold Peck on a wine tasting panel. Do you have it by any chance?

  2. You query has sent me off on a (thus far unsuccessful) quest for the Willy Murphy cartoon you described.

    In the process I've discovered I can't find some things I used to have in my collection by Willy.

    The page that most resembles the wine tasting gag you ask about that I've aware of is an Arnold Peck story, “Any Place I Can Crash?” which was published in Murphy’s comic book Flamed-Out Funnnies.

    This story however, is about Peck attending a Rolling Stone magazine party. He winds up engaging in wine-snob talk and ultimately getting plastered. Ring any bells?

  3. Sorry for being so late in replying.
    The panel I am thinking of has Peck attending a wine tasting event of some kind. There were 3 wine tasters on the panel. Two of the tasters are from hoity toity wine magazines and the other taster is a French sommelier (who looks like a French lumberjack). I remember the dialogue being really funny.

    That having been said, it has been a lot of years since I have seen this.

    1. I don't know where the story was originally published, but it is reprinted towards the end of Flamed Out Funnies #2

    2. Thanks Greg. I believe I'm missing that issue. This reminds me that I should I have to re-purchase it.


  4. I saw it in the "funnies" section of a natlampoon magazine. Funny as hell.