Sean Murphy is joining Scott Snyder on this fall's All-Star Batman as part of DC's Rebirth, but before that he wants to take readers - and Snyder - for a ride.
Murphy and his art dealer Essential Sequential have announced the artist's first sketchbook, Under the Hood. Sketches from 2010 to the present are in the 100-page hardcover, as well as a new 8-page comic book story about him and Snyder on a road trip talking about classic cars and comic books. Under the Hood is on Kickstarter now, with the book's release scheduled for August.
Newsarama spoke with Sean Murphy about Under the Hood, and got 'under the hood' with the artist about All-Star Batman. Although there's not much he can say at the moment, he does reveal how it ties into another story he and Snyder did years ago, and his big plans for the Batmobile.
Newsarama: Sean, what exactly is Under the Hood?
Sean Murphy: It's my first-ever sketchbook - for years people have been shaming me for not having one, so finally I've put one together. But to break it apart from other sketchbooks, I've included an eight-page story about me and Scott Snyder driving through New York and talking about cars (he was kind enough to let me exploit our friendship for profit). Other cameos in the book include Fiona Staples, Dustin Nguyen and Matteo Scalera. It's an idea I haven't seen done before, and I think people are going to like it.
Nrama: Although your sketches are pretty popular online, you've never done a sketchbook before. You see them all over cons - why haven’t you done one until now?
Murphy: I've been fortunate enough to have back-to-back project for many years, and have never found the time to put one together. Then my art dealer showed me the backlog of work we had filed away and I finally had to submit.
Nrama: Given the news coming out this month about you taking part in Rebirth’s All-Star Batman with Scott, are there any Batman drawings in here?
Murphy: He might be in the comic at the beginning! Throughout the story, Scott is hounding me to draw Batman. Then he makes Batman show up just off-panel. I don't have permission to draw Batman outside of DC of course, but it's a gag and you can barely even see him.
Nrama: How far back do the sketches go?
Murphy: Some are as far back as Joe the Barbarian—the book with Grant Morrison that put me on the map for most people.
Nrama: Are these all sketches you continue to have now, or are they from pieces now sold?
Murphy: Most of it's old. But there might be a few piece available—you'll have to ask my dealer at Essential Sequential.
Nrama: Let's get into the story inside Under the Hood. Was this story of you and Scott inspired by a real life drive?
Murphy: Scott and I have become close over the years. Family dinners, birthdays, soccer games with his kids, etc. He's also a car guy, which is another reason we clicked (his pride and joy was a '67 Mustang that he swears he'll buy back one day). Our funny, back-and-forth dialog is heavily based on conversations we had about me drawing Batman. We've been trying to make our schedules work for years, and it looks like it's finally happening.
Funny anecdote: I wrote this before I knew I'd be drawing Batman with him. So the story was meant as kind of a tease. But then DC made me a great offer to put on the cowl, and I took it. So now people will read it and go, “but I thought he was drawing Batman?”
Nrama: Speaking about that, Snyder has been openly courting you to do more work with him on Batman for years. How'd it finally come together to make it something you were wanting to do?
Murphy: Yes, he's been very openly courting me - dropping my name into interviews, panel discussions, turning up the pressure. [Laughs]
And I'm extremely happy that we finally made our schedules work. Batman the Animated Series meant the world to me as a kid, and the chance to finally leave a lasting impression on Bats is a dream come true. But the best part is that I'm working on it with friends: both Scott Snyder and Mark Doyle are close friends of mine.
Nrama: Snyder's described your arc of All-New Batman as "[his] Dark Knight Returns," with the idea of an elder Bruce Wayne as Batman. That's something you two have touched upon in the past, but what is this story-arc for you?
Murphy: We did a short story together in Batman #27 - it was a futuristic story about where Scott's version of Batman was headed. These six issues will expand that idea. I'm not sure of the details yet, and but if I had them I wouldn't want to spoil it.
Nrama: Do you intend for it to be its own story, with a collected edition?
Murphy: It's going to be connected to the stuff Scott's doing with Jock and John Romita Jr., but it'll also be self-contained and likely collected as a trade in the future. I'm hoping for a giant artist-sized uncolored edition, but we'll see what DC says.
Nrama: Slowly getting back to talking about Under the Hood, since it’s about cars, do you get to take some liberties with the Batmobile or the other Bat-vehicles in All-Star Batman?
Murphy: Yes, I'll be super charging the hell out of every vehicle Batman owns. The toy and merchandising department at DC is going to love me.
Nrama: I've talked with artists who say that drawing cars is tough - for getting the accuracy, but also drawing them in motion properly. For those that have read your work, you seem to dive into those challenges head on. What do you say to artists about drawing cars in comic books?
Murphy: I basically have 2 big tips:
1) It's easier to draw cars if you love them. Even if you don't love cars, you likely have an emotional connection to your first car, the romantic dates you had in it, the time the tape player broke, etc. You can't have a driver's license without liking cars at least a little, so the trick is to tap into that.
2) Learn the tools (ellipses, rulers, french curves, computer 3D programs, etc). It's daunting, but those tools will help you produce the drawings you're looking for. And the payoff is worth it (for you and your readers). Master one 3D vehicle, and the others will start falling into place.
Nrama: I just talked to Scott at C2E2, and you nailed his likeness and expressions very spot-on. You have only rarely done licensed work, so people haven't been able to see how well you nail likenesses. Is it a skill you've had to practice?
Murphy: [Laughs] I've had a lot of practice looking at Scott's face throughout all his moods: happy, drunk, angry, incredulous, manic, etc. The trick is to understand his right eyebrow and how high it jumps off of his face. His fans call it the Sny-brow, I discovered.
Nrama: If the Kickstarter is successful, do you plan on selling additional copies of the book at conventions or anywhere else after that?
Snyder: Yes, we'll have extra copies for people at shows. But I don't know how many and for how long. So it's probably best to order it now because this isn't a mass produced book.