Big Ben Bolt
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Characters and story
In 1950, writer Elliot Caplin (brother of Li'l Abner cartoonist Al Capp) suggested that Murphy illustrate a boxing comic strip he had in mind. The strip followed the adventures of boxer and journalist Ben Bolt. Murphy was the artist of Big Ben Bolt from 1950 to 1978. Comics historian Don Markstein wrote:
- King Features Syndicate launched Ben's daily strip on February 20, 1950 and the Sunday version on May 25, 1952. The character's name was probably taken from Thomas Dunn English's poem, "Ben Bolt", which has remained popular since it first appeared in 1843. This wasn't the first cartoon to appropriate that name—there was also a single-panel feature titled Ben Bolt, by cartoonist Fanny Young Cory (Other People's Children, Little Miss Muffet), which started in 1916 as a parody of English's "Ben Bolt". It didn't last long and was quite forgotten by the time Caplin and Murphy came along. Ben himself ran against stereotype. Instead of a big, dumb hitting machine, he was an articulate college graduate who had chosen a boxing career because he enjoyed and was good at it (winning the world heavyweight championship early on), not because other fields weren't open to him. In fact, when, in 1955, an injury took him out of the ring, he went into journalism. For decades, his adventures revolved around writing about, rather than practicing, his chosen sport.
Murphy occasionally used assistants, including Al Williamson (Flash Gordon), Alex Kotzky (Apartment 3-G), Neal Adams (Deadman), John Celardo (Tarzan) and Stan Drake (The Heart of Juliet Jones). In 1971, Murphy took over Prince Valiant, and Gray Morrow stepped in to draw Big Ben Bolt, eventually signing the strip starting August 1, 1977. Big Ben Bolt ended during the first half of 1978.