SEAN MURPHY On BLOOD VIOLIN & Cancelled Apprenticeship

"Blood Violin" cover by Sean Murphy
Credit: Sean Murphy
Credit: Sean Murphy

On Thursday, Sean Murphy cancelled his planned second artists' apprenticeship due to unforeseen circumstances. Last year as part of the inaugural Sean Murphy Apprenticeship, five aspiring artists lived and worked in Murphy's Maine home as a kind of finishing school for comic book art. Each of the five applicants have since found professional work, including Corin Howell (DC's Bat-Mite), Tana Ford (Marvel's Silk) and Jorge Coelho (BOOM!'s John Flood).

Murphy is currently working on a new series with Rick Remender for Image called Tokyo Ghost, having recently completed Chrononauts, along with an original new graphic novel Blood Violin with his wife Colleen.

Murphy talked with Newsarama to discuss the apprenticeship, the success of the original program and the reasons for the second edition's cancellation. The artist also talked about his new projects and his Hollywood experiences.

Newsarama: Sean, I'm surprised to hear you've decided to cancel the second apprenticeship. Can you tell us what happened?

Credit: Image Comics

Sean Murphy: I breaks my heart to cancel it, especially after receiving so many great portfolios from a few dozen men and women.

The biggest reason is due to scheduling concerns. With the commitments to both Tokyo Ghost and a Chrononauts movie, I've decided I need to focus on the work at hand rather than adding more. Readers and comic shops deserve timely publishing schedules, and I never want to be responsible for any delays.

There's also the legal aspect. My wife and I spoke with our lawyer at length, and she recommended shutting the program down due to the increasing risks. What was initially meant to be a small operation to support up and coming artists has beautifully grown into something larger than we ever imagined. But with this, along with our pressing schedules, we feel that we are unable to keep up with the daunting legal responsibilities associated with this sort of growth.

Nrama: But it's encouraging to see that DC asked for samples from all of your applicants.

This is an obvious question, but why did you do the apprenticeship in the first place? Couldn't you draw nearly a complete book in the time that the apprenticeship takes?

Murphy:We started it because my wife and I thought it was a creative and progressive way to help affect positive change and encouragement. It was also a way to give back to the business that's done so much for us. With any endeavor such as this, there will always be people who question intent. We were aware of some negativity circling the internet, however, the positive experience from last year made it easy to ignore the naysayers. Yes, we could easily have completed a small Kickstarter project a year ago in the same time as it took to do the apprenticeship, but we knew having our Maine house filled with eager students would be more spiritually fulfilling.

Credit: Sean Murphy

Nrama: So this one is cancelled -- but is the door completely closed to doing another one down the road?

Murphy: I hope we can do this again someday. Writing this year's class and telling them the bad news wasn't fun. Hopefully, when the timing is right, we can reopen the Apprenticeship.

Nrama: So the apprenticeship fades for now, but you're continuing with plans to do a creator-owned book with you and your wife Colleen. What's the book shaping up to be now?

Credit: Sean Murphy

Murphy: Colleen and I outlined a script called Blood Violin—the story of a violinist/assassin that takes place during the final days of the golden age of train travel. We had a lot of buzz about the project, so we're still going to release it as a graphic novel/art book which Colleen will write and I'll draw.

We both love the story of Blood Violin so much that we wanted to see it come together. Even if that means drawing it little by little over a few months. This way we won't disappoint the people who wanted to support the Blood Violin Kickstarter. Maybe I'll reach out to my old students for pinups and such.

Nrama: And are you still going to use Kickstarter to raise funds for it? If so, what are the goal and the rewards?

Murphy: Yes, that's the plan. We'll ask for the basic costs of printing and shipping, nothing extravagant. The tiers will include prints, special editions of the book, having a cameo within the pages, stuff like that. Probably a few commissions as well, but we'll have to see what my schedule allows.

From left to right: Sean Murphy, Jorge Coelho, Clay McCormack, Corin Howell, Stephen Green, Tana Ford.
From left to right: Sean Murphy, Jorge Coelho, Clay McCormack, Corin Howell, Stephen Green, Tana Ford.
Credit: Katana Collins.

Nrama: Getting back to the apprenticeship, some of your original students have gone on to get gigs at DC and Marvel. Have you kept in touch with them?

Murphy: All five students are working professionally now (a couple had already been published, so I can't take full credit, haha). Tana is doing an upcoming issue of Silk for Marvel. Corin is working on Bat-Mite. Jorge is drawing Johnny Flood for Boom! Studios, while Clay and Stevo are also working on professional projects, which I'm not sure I'm allowed to mention yet. But when they announce, I'll tweet the hell out of them.

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