BRENNAN: How did you first become interested in comics? What were your favorite comics as a kid, and are there any you read these days?
MURPHY: ...Read Superman comics at my piano teacher's and liked them well enough. Didn't collect as a child. Used to like Richie Rich comics--are you sorry you asked now?--until my older sister went through one and imitated the facial expressions in every panel. After that, I... I just couldn't take it seriously.
(I can't play piano either.)
At about age 18 a friend of mine in the wonderful world of Blake's Seven fandom lent me about all of the Claremont/Byrne X-MEN. I tended to ignore the pictures until I kept reading in the letters column (words, you see) how good they were. Comics Education part one. Then one of my first jobs out of acting college was to work in a comic shop, so for about six months I read everything. Unmoved by most of it. (Now probably even less.) Went through the Mage phase, the Cerebus phase, the American Flagg phase, the Frank Miller phase, the Phil Foglio phase... you know. Moved in with Trude and Doug and read a lot more stuff, re-ignited my interest. Read Understanding Comics (Education part two) and started doing it. (Might have been the other way around.)
Now I hardly read anything: Naughty Bits, anything Neil Gaiman cares to write and I really like Box Office Poison. Whenever I go to D+T's in Sydney I'll trawl though the stuff they've got, but the magic isn't there any more.
BRENNAN: What's it like working on Platinum Grit? How much time does it generally take per issue?
MURPHY: It's like a millstone around my neck. Forever.
[Less honest answer for the easily disillusioned: It's Bloody Hard, But Worth It (I think) In The Long Run. cf Dorothy Parker's Hate Writing/Love Having Written quote.
Months. Months of unfunny suet on the screen until the structure turns over in my tarpit brain and at last a scene works _and_ moves the story along. And is funny. Funny's the bitch.]
BRENNAN: Are there other comics projects you've worked on, or would like to work on?
MURPHY: Uh--no. (See previous answer.)
BRENNAN: Who are your major influences as a writer? Do you take the bulk of your inspiration from film writers, comedians, novelists...?
MURPHY: Everywhere... I'll steal anything. My favourite book is probably The Princess Bride. (I can tolerate the movie, but the _book!_ It's the Sergeant Pepper of Books For Actually Reading.) So William Goldman I guess, Douglas Adams of course ("Well, it's your paradigm, not mine."), and the Simpsons is one lesson in good comedy writing after another. Um... How do you separate the people you like from the influences? Is there a cut-off point? Anyone you discover before you're seventeen is formative; after that you're just a fan?
BRENNAN: You're an actor. Have you appeared in anything our readers might have seen? (Weren't you the voice of a parrot, or something?)
MURPHY: "Our Readers." That's lovely. Probably not.
Okay, there is a film called "The Real Macaw" that should be out by Christmas, in which I play the voice of the title character. It was supposed to get an international release, unless Speilberg's scuttled it with "Paulie." Bastard. I've just last week been killed off in a soap opera called Pacific Drive--maybe some backwater cable channel will squirt that your way if you're exceedingly blessed. (Minor minor character: a master assassin who never actually got to kill anyone because they kept giving him lead actors as contracts, poor bastard.) And there was about a minute of an awful series called Time Trax in which I enacted the part of "Bum."
BRENNAN: How does your experience as an actor translate into your scripts? Are there particular techniques you've learned from working in front of an audience or the camera that have shown up in Platinum Grit?
MURPHY: Well, I read the dialogue aloud... (How sad is that?) And try to write scenes that would be fun to play... Hrm. Apparently a lot of the story techniques that we use and abuse in PG come from our experience as improvisors. (Or maybe that's how we work so well together. Can't remember now.) Working in front of an audience really comes down to first, being heard, and second, timing; both of which, when translated into their comics counterparts, become Trudy's problem. Refreshing, that.
BRENNAN: What else do you contribute your writing skills to? Any screenplays or novels in the works?
MURPHY: I'm much better at starting things than finishing them. A kids' play, and an unproduced film version of same; a kid's book review series on TV in the eighties (When _anything_ was possible); a ground-breaking digital puppetry series that's been in pre-pre-production since before everyone else did it first; a short play for grown-ups; a rough rough rough (but finished) draft of a fin-de-siecle movie which is probably already out of date; about a sixth of a novel and a third of the Great Australian Vampire Musical. And some other stuff.
BRENNAN: What do you make of Nils, Jeremy and Kate? If they were flesh-and-blood, would you invite them in for tea or cross the street and hope they didn't notice you?
MURPHY: I thought I loved this question, but now it's being difficult.
I think I'd rather fancy Kate, which is a worry. (Because really she's me, and that's just icky. Besides, what if she hated me?)
The sight of Jeremy would probably make me dive for cover beneath something sturdy. (He's a dangerous boy to be around.) If I had a spare ten bucks I might take him for a coffee and apologise for being so relentlessly cruel to him. Or just give him a hug.
Nils is easy. I'd run up to her, and declaim in my best Tim Curry voice: "I made you! And I can break you just as easily!" Then I'd run away.
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