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Former Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writer holds comic workshop

  • A card from The Brink of Oblivion, a card game illustrated by Andrew Del Valle, who expects the game to soon hit the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Cards from The Brink of Oblivion, a card game illustrated by Andrew Del Valle, who expects the game to soon hit the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • At left, Greenfield Public Library assistant Stephen Murphy, who once worked as a writer for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic book series, surveys a comic drawn by an attendee of a workshop hosted by the Greenfield Public Library’s Graphic Novel and Fan Fiction Club. At right, two youngsters draw their own comics. Recorder Staff PHOTOS/Domenic Poli

  • Stephen Murphy, rear, still works as a comic book writer. Ten years after becoming familiar with Andrew Del Valle’s work through an old UMass friend, who was working as Del Valle’s professor at Holyoke Community College, Murphy is teaming with the 27-year-old on a monthly comic called “The Howlers,” which they hope to start publishing in the fall. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Greenfield Public Library assistant Stephen Murphy, who once worked as a writer for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic book series, surveys a comic drawn by an attendee of a workshop hosted by the Greenfield Public Library’s Graphic Novel and Fan Fiction Club. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Young readers look at a book at the Greenfield Public Library’s Graphic Novel and Fan Fiction Club. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli



Recorder Staff
Friday, February 09, 2018

GREENFIELD — Comics are a lot like click bait.

Though they’re not outrageous online content with the sole purpose of attracting attention and inflating web traffic, good comics must hook you in, intriguing you enough to have you wanting more.

“Any comic, the key to get people to continue reading is … something that is going to keep you wanting to turn to the next page,” Stephen Murphy says. “As with anything, the more you work at it, the better you get.”

Murphy’s words of wisdom come the day after Christmas during a comic book workshop he hosted as the head of Greenfield Public Library’s Graphic Novel and Fan Fiction Club. Murphy, a library assistant, even invited friend and collaborator Andrew Del Valle to dole out his illustrating expertise to the roughly 15 young budding comic book artists who visited the library.

“I attempt to (finish a comic) and then I give up after the first panel,” one boy says. “Gosh, darn it, I can’t do it.”

But Murphy and Del Valle are quick to reassure their guests that quality comics are about a blend of writing, drawing, and creative ideas. One does not need to be the best scribe or illustrator to tell a beautiful story.

Murphy said comic books and graphic novels can heighten children’s interest in reading and in libraries. He saw proof of this when his 13-year-old daughter, Lola, was little.

“Comics provided a really nice jumping point from picture books to reading books. She was always looking over our shoulder — my wife and I — and (Lola) was always looking over our shoulder at what we were reading … and she was all about, ‘What are you looking at? What are these little pictures?’” he recalls.

The kids’ conversations about their favorite comics are enough to illuminate for a layman all the medium has in its arsenal. Comic books, graphic novels, comic strips, anime and manga don’t even begin to scratch the surface of this corner of the artistic world.

“There is no set way of making comics,” Murphy says.

And Murphy, 58, knows what he’s talking about, having worked as one of the writers for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic book series for 21 years. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and worked with artist Michael Zulli to produce “The Puma Blues” before becoming a writer for the pizza-loving reptilian crime fighters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. Murphy was laid off when Viacom bought the rights to the Turtles in 2009.

But Murphy still works as a comic book writer. Ten years after becoming familiar with Del Valle’s work through an old UMass friend working as Del Valle’s professor at Holyoke Community College, Murphy is teaming with the 27-year-old on a monthly comic called “The Howlers,” which they hope to start publishing in the fall. The premise, according to Murphy, circles around a musical band of supernatural creatures in a fictionalized Worcester called Blackstone City.

“There’s something brewing around them,” Murphy said.

The band has just finished a tour and one musician, who is recently out of rehab, hears a rumor of an old blues musician locked up in a state hospital.

“They want to break the blues musician out, because they think there’s nothing wrong with him. But he actually houses a demon,” he says. “It’s a convoluted story.”

Murphy is the story’s writer, while Del Valle does the illustrating and lettering (taking the script and fitting it into a comic panels). The eight anticipated issues of the series will be in black and white.

Del Valle is also the illustrator for The Brink of Oblivion, a card game Del Valle believes will soon hit the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.