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In His Words: The Comic-Book Car Art of Sean Gordon Murphy

This Batman artist has become the go-to guy for automotive art.

When you think of someone who works in the comic book world, your first thought may not be "car enthusiast," but stick with us on this one. Sean Gordon Murphy is a popular comic book creator who is currently working with DC Comics and has an extensive portfolio that includes Batman: White Knight, Joe the Barbarian, and Punk Rock Jesus—just to name a few.

Not only does Murphy have an impressive comic book resume and knack for bringing amazing stories to life, he is also a car enthusiast! Owner of a Datsun 280Z with an RB25 that pumps out 500 hp, Sean frequents the highways and byways to chase the love of four-wheeled speed. He's even created a whole comic book world around his Datsun and their shenanigans in a series called Under the Hood, plus did the art for a graphic novel called Off Road.

Merging his love of all things comic and automotive, Murphy has also done extensive work drawing, and even designing, his own versions of the freakin' Batmobile! We got a chance to catch up with Sean to discuss some of his work and have him explain, in his own words, the inspiration behind some of these amazing car illustrations. Click through this gallery to find out what goes on behind the scenes with Murphy's pen or pencil to move across the pages to create some truly awesome art.

How to Support Murphy's IndieGoGo Campaign

Check out Sean Gordon Murphy's latest project, The Plot Holes! The book's IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign has all the details and ways you can support.

Batman: White Knight: Batmobiles Galore!

In Sean's Words: Because I'm such a car guy, I really wanted to write a story that incorporated my favorite Batmobiles. Here you can see the edge of the '89 Batmobile, the Tumbler, the '66 Batmobile, as well as the one from the animated series in the '90s. Batman has just shown up to hand them over to Commissioner Gordon; to fight the villains, Batman is giving Batmobiles to the police so they can assault the bad guys simultaneously. No one has ever done this before—once in a while you'll get a panel of the Batcave and see Easter eggs in the background, but never have all the Batmobiles actually being used in the plot. After I'm done drawing, I'll usually sell my pages, and as you'd imagine, these pages sold very quickly.

Inside Sean Gordon Murphy's Batmobile Design

In Sean's Words: Before they set out, Batman needs to have a heart-to-heart with Nightwing (Robin) and Batgirl in Batman: White Knight. Just like in the movies, he's really grumpy and often drives people away. I always think it looks weird when he hugs people, so I zoomed out to make it feel less awkward. Panel 3 is one of my favorites, but I'm mostly proud of panel 5, where you can see inside the Batmobile I designed—even though it's not the most high-tech option, I insisted Batman drive a stick. I also gave him driving gloves, which I know he doesn't need, but I didn't think many people would read this book. I was stunned when it became a bestseller!

Sean Gordon Murphy's Personal Batmobile Sketches

In Sean's Words: This is my personal Batmobile design—I got to create a new one for the book. It's basically a roadster design with an exposed engine mounted in the front (because it looks cool). The suspension wouldn't be near the wheels—rather each "arm" would act as the suspension, attached to springs mounted near the pivot point below in the main body. I tried to make a mix of all the best parts of previous Batmobiles, including the one from Arkham Asylum, where there are guns mounted between split wheels—the wheels don't steer traditionally on an axle, they "lean" like a Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle. In theory, if you leaned the wheels enough (and didn't mind the curb rash), the car could turn 180 degrees in place. If they ever make a movie using this car, I'll insist they hire engineers to work out the specifics.

Samurais and JDM Drift Cars: An Inside Look at The Plot Holes

In Sean's Words: This is a panel from my new book The Plot Holes! One of the characters is from a world that mixes a variety of different manga themes, including Gundams, samurais, and JDM drift cars. I've always been a fan of the original Celica, so I threw one in there for fun. This one is a custom widebody with a low spoiler in the front. I'm not sure if the frame on the old Celicas are any good for drifting, but whatever—it looks cool!

Batmobile Design and Inspiration: Detailed Notes!

In Sean's Words: These are more detailed notes from my Batmobile design. The trick is to have the car look good from every angle while also making it look like a Batmobile. I mounted the Bat "ears" high on the cockpit so it would read as a Batmobile from most angles. I wanted the profile and stance to look similar to the '89 Batmobile (my favorite). There are spoilers to create airflow around the rear wheels (which look like the spikes on his gloves when viewed from above). The rear tires are racing slicks, while the front wheels have a rockcrawler tread for when the car needs to climb over debris. I imagine this thing can break through walls without much damage, considering the wheels act as the front bumper, like on a motorcycle. But the element I'm most proud of is the Spitfire-style exhaust, shooting fire at the front of the car!

Gratuitous Batman Flyover of Gotham

In Sean's Words: Most people in comics aren't that into cars, so as much as I'd love to draw the Batmobile all day, readers really need a nice, splashy shot of Batman flying over Gotham! This is definitely one of my favorite pages from the book. The coloring is by Matt Hollingsworth from Batman: White Knight.

Batmobiles From the Past and Appreciating Land Yachts

In Sean's Words: So I've never been a fan of the '66 Batmobile—the open bubble roofs, the police light, or its absurdly long rear end. I was an '80s and '90s kid in love with the version Michael Keaton drove, so the Adam West version never really appealed to me. However, I really enjoyed drawing it in this page from Batman: White Knight—I have a better understanding of cars from the '60s and '70s now that I'm older and a real appreciation for large American land yachts. So I embraced the absurd length of the '66 Batmobile and emphasized it in the two wide panels where it's pictured. And I really think it worked.

Under the Hood: A Sketchbook Appreciation of Cars

In Sean's Words: Under the Hood is a sketchbook I published a few years back. At the time, I didn't have the Datsun—I was actually debating on whether to buy a 280Z or a De Tomaso Pantera. But then the Pantera started getting a lot of attention from places like Jay Leno's Garage, which drove up prices. Plus, I didn't have any local mechanics who would be able to work on it, so I went with the cheaper 280Z. Which, ironically, has also skyrocketed in value.

A Look Inside Sean Gordon Murphy's Under the Hood

In Sean's Words: Inside Under the Hood is a short story I wrote—it's actually meant to be a tutorial on how to draw cars in comics, starring me and my close friend Scott Snyder (the biggest Batman writer in the world). There are supposed to be word balloons, but we removed them so you can see the artwork more clearly.

The Plot Holes Series Introduction and Background

In Sean's Words: This is a panel from The Plot Holes—the main character is Cliff, a failed comic book creator (with a sweet collection of toys in his studio). He's about to learn that his world isn't real, that he exists inside of a book, but that book sucks and is about to be deleted. So he agrees to join The Plot Holes—a squad of heroes collected from other books whose mission is to jump from book to book and "edit" them in order to save them. That way, they can be published and live on forever.

Under the Hood: Discussing the Datsun 280Z

In Sean's Words: Here's another page from Under the Hood, where my character talks about the Datsun. I know the preferred version is the coupe, but I bought the 2+2 instead—once you remove the awful bumpers (safety regulation in the U.S. ), lower the car, and widen it, I think it looks like a better version of the coupe. I've never liked the egg-shaped rear slope of the coupe, and the 2+2 doesn't have that.

Sean Gordon Murphy's Fantasy Garage!

In Sean's Words: The last panel is my fantasy garage from Under the Hood. But you'd need Jay Leno money to be able to afford this. In the background is a ton of cool stuff: a Ferrari, a Skyline, and a Porsche. But some of them are made-up cars, probably because I was getting tired of drawing that day.

Surprise Batman Appearance? Nope…

In Sean's Words: Because Scott and I are both Batman guys, I really wanted an appearance of Batman in Under the Hood. But he's owned by our employer (Warner Brothers), and we can't use him. What's that—you think he's in panel 5? Nope, that just a guy in a similar car, wearing a spiky glove. Sorry man, it's all in your head. No Batman here. Nope, nope, nope.

Drawing and Rendering Cars: Experiments in Under the Hood

In Sean's Words: The hard part of drawing cars is learning how to render them so they don't look stiff. It took me a while to learn how to throw them in the air and spin them around in a cartoony way that still felt somewhat grounded. In this page, I took liberties playing with the bend of the tires, "sinking" the car into the pavement (an old concept artist trick), and playing with smoke and skid marks. I forget why Elvis is in there—I think Scott is a fan.

Designing and Coloring Comics: Colors Set the Tone

In Sean's Words: Dave McCaig is the artist who colored these pages (I did the writing, the penciling, and the inking—then scanned and emailed the files to Dave) from Under the Hood. He used a really nice warm palette of colors. My favorite part is how he highlighted Scott's eyes in the 4th panel with the reflection of the rearview mirror.

Panels of Dream Cars from Under the Hood

In Sean's Words: A lot of my other friends made it into the book as well, all driving their dream cars. Luckily, they all have good taste: a CRX Si (my first car), an NSX, an '86 Celica, a Dodge Charger, and...a '66 Impala? Not sure about that last one.

Adding a Friend's Fantasy Mustang

In Sean's Words: My friend went to buy a classic car earlier that year, hoping to find his first car: a classic Mustang convertible. We visited this dealer in Long Island that had all kinds of classic and modern stuff. The highlight was sitting in a Testarossa, which was a dream come true. Sadly, my head hit the ceiling and the driving position is weird—but, who cares, it's a Testarossa. While he wasn't able to find his Mustang (which I have him driving in Under the Hood), he did walk away with an SS Camaro with original paint.

Featured illustration composition by Ryan Lugo.