Sophia Murphy is the artist behind the cover of the Origins Anthology, and has created guest art for Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter, Act 1 (Kickstarting now!). We talked to Sophia about trans representation in media, why escapism through entertainment is essential, and her favorite horror films!
Hi, Sophia Murphy! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to create the cover art for the Origins Anthology and guest art for Mr. Guy?
I’m an artist and writer, living and working in Scotland. My background is in theatre; I worked as an actor for six years and four as a director. Even during that time though, the first thing I would do on a project is draw the character I was playing or design the logo for the show or the set if I was directing; so art has always been with me, even throughout my theatrical life.
I came across the Oneshi community through Jayel’s stream on Twitch and got sucked into the worlds you had created in Tracy Queen, PACK, and Children of Gaia through everyone’s passion in the community. It’s amazing.
I found myself doing Tracy Queen fan art pretty soon after that. That was published in the back of Tracy Queen Vol. 2. It was my first published piece. I’ll always be grateful for your generosity to budding artists.
When Mr. Guy came along, I loved the tone of it immediately, and it seemed ripe for the movie-poster treatment. Given its constant references to zombie pop culture, I picked movies like George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and turned it into a Mr. Guy movie poster. Luckily they turned out well enough that Jayel wanted to include them in the first volume of Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter, which will come out after the current Kickstarter!
All this led to you giving me the opportunity to illustrate the cover for the 10th Oneshi Press Anthology! It took a while and I really pushed myself to live up to the standard of all the other cover artists you’ve featured so far, and I’m really proud of the result. I hope the readers will love it too!
I’m hoping one day we could do a comic based on the poster I made of Bela Lugosi playing Mr. Guy, who played Dracula in the 30s!
You’re also a writer! Can you tell us more about your writing projects, goals, or publications?
I’m currently writing and illustrating two short comics for two different anthologies; one is pulp/noir and the other is a cold war thriller. They’ll be published in October.
However, my main writing focus right now is a fantasy, action-adventure set in ancient Scotland. It’s filled with monsters and magic, witches and warlocks, and stars a young trans woman on a journey to find her place in the world.
I’m a trans woman myself, and I’ve committed myself to only writing stories with trans leads. I grew up without any representation of other trans people in the world around me, and it had a severe impact on my life. I didn’t come out till I was 26, simply because I didn’t know I could.
The visibility of people like Laverne Cox, the Wachowski sisters, and Janet Mock (all of whom are superb writers in their own right) changed my life. Our visibility in media and in real life changes hearts and minds and saves lives. It’s my goal to be a part of that mission.
And you’re a director of theater, too! That’s so different from the somewhat lonely pursuit of art-making and writing. How do you handle moving between these different parts of the creative world?
Writing in particular; writing characters and locations, setting the tone and pace of a scene, are all pretty much the acting and directing processes done internally. If you’re the illustrator, too, like most comic makers you’re also the prop department, continuity, costumes, lighting, and cinematography department too!
It’s a lot of fun. It’s also a lot of work! Whichever medium I’m working in, I try to include all my other passions with it. If you bring your whole self to whatever you’re doing, it’ll always be more fulfilling and probably more successful in the end.
Given the breadth of your creative experience, do you think, we’ll see a comic or graphic novel written by Sophia Murphy in the future?
Fingers crossed! I’ll be posting the Scottish fantasy comic online, once the pages are illustrated, and that’ll hopefully culminate in a Kickstarter to publish the book physically. That should appear online in November.
But who knows…there might even be a top-secret comic in the works, that takes place in the Oneshi Press world! But keep that between you and me.
Who are your art heroes? Who Inspires you?
First would be John Buscema, most famous for his run on Conan, Thor and Silver Surfer. He takes everything about the Golden Age of comics—the work of Jack Kirby and his peers—and turns it up to eleven with peerless draftsmanship.
Next is a modern artist Tony S. Daniel. He’s been doing mostly Batman the last few years and his art has changed a lot over time, but his run on Superman/Wonder Woman (written by Charles Soule) is one of my favorite-looking books of all time.
Next is John Romita Jr. His seminal work, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, written by the incomparable Frank Miller, is utterly superb. Its beautiful, and Romita’s sense of storytelling through his page layouts is flawless. Even he says it’s the best work of his career! That said, he’s recently finished work on the Justice League and in my opinion, it’s some of his best work in years.
Lastly, I’ll mention a couple of books, Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli; and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson should be on every comic maker’s bookshelf. They’re all watershed moments in the comics industry for their depth of storytelling. All masterpieces and all published in and around 1986! There’s a lifetime of learning in them for writers, artists, inkers, and colorists. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
What fictional character (comics, books, movies, stage etc.) do you most identify with and why?
There are a ton of characters I could choose who I think I have more in common with, but for me, it’s always been Superman. It’s what he signifies: hope, light, optimism, caring, and empathy; determination in the face of adversity; dealing with loneliness. He’s a country bumpkin and immigrant taking on the world, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. “Supes” is inspirational and radical in care for others, and it’s something we all need more of in our lives.
What does the world need that comics, or art more generally, can provide?
This is a really important question. To quote Shakespeare, we must continue to “hold a mirror up to nature.”
Comics can give us so many things; an escape, an emotional release, identification [with] the characters we read about and see. They can give us hope or consolation, power fantasies or a sense of justice in an unjust world. All of these things are essential. It’s essential that comics remain a medium of entertainment, otherwise no one will want to interact with them.
There will always a need for escapist entertainment. I don’t mean that to sound frivolous. Escapism through entertainment in many mediums has been critical to me in maintaining my mental health. It’s gotten me through a lot of difficult times. Don’t ever doubt the power of entertainment and the arts.
However, the advantage comics have, is that they don’t take millions of dollars or a team of hundreds to create. So if I don’t see a representation of myself in the world, I can create it. I can give that to the world for other people like me to find and others to learn from.
To give a personal example, I hadn’t seen another trans person until I saw Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black. It changed my life. Recently, Nicole Maines, who plays, Dreamer on Supergirl has been hugely influential for young trans people and parents around the world. It all helps destigmatize and separate us from the lies the world around us wants you to hear.
Another great example is your own comic Tracy Queen. It’s hilarious and exciting but what it really does, just though the reader enjoying the story and being invested in her current situation, it helps to destigmatize sex work and sex-positivity for women. In doing so it humanizes the character and her real-world counterparts. It’s important and groundbreaking work.
What seems to me to be missing from the world is understanding, or a willingness to understand and storytelling, in any form, is a great way to get others to care about things they normally wouldn’t interact with or care about. Exposure is key to understanding and that can only happen when we tell our own stories and get them out into the world.
The importance of telling our own stories is that, when we do, they’re accurate and that accuracy is essential to understanding. There’s a new documentary on Netflix called Disclosure. If you want to understand the importance of accurate representation and the consequences of inaccuracy, go watch it. It’s great.
What are you currently reading, listening to and watching, Sophia?
Right now, I’m reading various webcomics like ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman and ‘Castle Swimmer’ by Wendy Lian Martin. They’re on Webtoons, they’re free, the drawing and storytelling is gorgeous and they update in weekly installments so they’re easy to keep up with. They’ve been a huge inspiration to me.
I’m listening to the audiobook of The Outsider by Stephen King. I’m a big King fan and this book is one my favorites of his in quite some time.
Watching wise, I’m going back through a lot of my movie collection. My favorites being Road to Perdition, the Alien or Terminator franchise, The Hitcher, The Thing, the original Godzilla and King Kong from the 1930s, and the animated version of The Dark Knight Returns.
And what are some other projects you’re working on right now?
I’m in the middle of illustrating the cast [of] characters for a brand new DnD podcast called No Small Rolls, which launches its first episode on August 2nd! You can find them on all the usual social media apps.
I just want to say a huge thanks to the Oneshi community for their support and love. It’s been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Find Sophia Murphy on Instagram, then support her work at the Kickstarter for Mr. Guy and the Origins Anthology! We’ve added some amazing last-week bonus rewards to the campaign, so support now for oodles of goodies!