Short, blond, perpetually stoked cartoon surfer created in 1961 by 16-year-old California artist Rick Griffin. Murphy made his debut in the third issue of Surfer magazine. He was "the archetypal Everysurfer," as surf journalist Steve Barilotti wrote in 1988. "A potbellied little grem, and an instant surf world hit."
Surfer published 28 Murphy strips between 1961 to 1987; he was featured in every issue of Surfer, save one, until early 1965. For Griffin and Murphy both, the early '60s consisted mainly of a long series of surf adventures ("Murphy and the Caveman," "Murphy and the Surf Spy," "Murphy and the Lost Continent of Atlantis"), with Murphy often shouting out "Cowabunga!" and "Yes, I'm stoked!" As Surfer founder John Severson later recalled, "It was hard to tell where Griffin ended and Murphy started." Murphy made the Surfer cover in 1962; Murphy stickers, T-shirts, and coffee cups were soon available; and Murphy was used on handbills for Southern California surf bands like the Challengers and the Belairs.
Murphy went on hiatus in 1965, just before Griffin moved to San Francisco where he helped create the psychedelic rock-art poster genre. Murphy returned in 1969, still upbeat, but reconfigured, as Griffin had been, by drugs and born-again Christianity. In a 1969 strip, Murphy rips into an overhead wave while wearing a stylized Hopi Indian mask, is visited by human-size rats, and briefly turns into a flaming eyeball.
For his final appearance in 1987, Murphy was sadly pushed to the background of his own strip as Griffin's pen-and-ink panels wandered from astrology to mermaids to Easter Island tiki heads, vortex theory, Alfred Tennyson, Merlin the Magician, and other "geographistoric enigmas." In the final panel, Murphy walks into a new morning, surfboard under arm. "But enough for now!" he exclaims. "It's dawn . . . I'm goin' surfin!"
Griffin died in a 1991 motorcycle accident.
In 2010, the Laguna Art Museum presented Chronicles of a Subculture: Rick Griffin, Murphy, and Surfer Magazine.