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John Cullen Murphy Cartoons

An inventory of his cartoons at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MD
Date: 10 Dec 2008

Biographical History

John Cullen Murphy (1919-2004) was an American cartoonist and illustrator. He co-created the newspaper story strip Big Ben Bolt with writer Elliot Caplin and was Hal Foster's successor on the widely acclaimed Prince Valiant.

Born in New York City, Murphy attended the Phoenix Art Institute and the Art Students League of New York. His initial professional work included sports cartooning and magazine illustration. While in uniform during World War II, Murphy did spot illustrations of war scenes for the Chicago Tribune and painted portraits of military brass, including Gen. Douglas MacArthur. After the war, Murphy largely made his name as a magazine illustrator, placing work with many of the major publications of the time. It was his sports illustration work that brought him to the attention of writer Elliot Caplin, who was looking to launch a new boxing strip for King Features Syndicate. In 1950, Big Ben Bolt made its first appearance as a daily strip, and a Sunday feature was soon added a few years later. Ultimately, the boxing/detective drama ran for some 28 years, finally ending its run in 1978.

In 1970, Murphy went to work on the long-running newspaper strip Prince Valiant, initially as an assistant to creator Hal Foster, but eventually taking over the artist duties entirely in 1971 (Foster continued to write the strip until 1980). After many years, and much recognition for maintaining the stellar quality of the Prince Valiant art, John Cullen Murphy retired in 2004, shortly before his death. His son, Cullen Murphy (John Cullen Murphy, Jr.), is an American writer and magazine editor, and worked as a writer on Prince Valiant for a number of years with his father.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John Cullen Murphy Cartoons collection contains 608 original daily cartoons and 101 original Sunday cartoons from the newspaper comic strip Big Ben Bolt (1963-1965). Daily cartoon: traces of graphite, pasteovers, zipatone, brush, pen and ink on illustration board, approx. 5 ½ x 16 ¼ in. Sunday cartoon: traces of graphite, pasteovers, brush, pen and ink on illustration board, approx. 13 x 19 ¼ in.

Arrangement of the Collection

Daily and Sunday cartoons are grouped separately in chronological order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

For additional material related to Prince Valiant, see the Harold R. (Hal) Foster Papers.

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred other cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Caplin, Elliot.
Murphy, John Cullen.

Corporate Bodies

King Features Syndicate.

Associated Titles

Big Ben Bolt (comic strip)


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John Cullen Murphy Cartoons,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of John Cullen Murphy, 1968.

Table of Contents

Big Ben Bolt