Up in the air


Shane Murphy, a 33-year-old Sacramento artist, has created a mysterious, melodious world. Murphy launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this summer to bring together jazz, the Great Depression and birds as part of an effort to publish his independent comic-book series, Birdland.

It worked—just 12 hours after the campaign was launched on the peer-based financing website, Murphy's $3,000 comic was fully funded. The Kickstarter effort officially ends Thursday, August 22, and the first issue is set for publication in early 2014.

Birdland tells the story of anthropomorphic bird detective Rezno Piano (named after Italian architect Renzo Piano), a green heron attempting to solve a murder that's clouded in musical clues. He enlists the help of a trumpet-playing owl, Benny (after legendary jazz musician Benny Goodman), and becomes entrenched in a mystery straight out of a Humphrey Bogart film.

Murphy, a lifelong fan of comic books, draws inspiration from noir films of the 1940s, and imbues his work with a dark, brooding quality. Large birds in trench coats and fedoras walk slowly from panel to panel as smoke drifts up from long cigarettes, wisping away into the night sky.

“I [was] hitting a lot of [creative] dead ends,” Murphy told SN&R. “So, I decided to do something really simple, tried and true: noir.”

The next step was all too logical—replace humans with a vast array of bird species.

“I liked the imagery of birds in 1930s automobiles,” Murphy said. “It stuck, and I went from there.” www.kickstarter.com/projects/1221541041/birdland.