Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I'm a bit embarrassed to have not posted this sooner (partly because I was trying to track down the graphic above to include with this blog), but I thought it was important to mark the passing of Shel Dorf, who died this past November. Shel was the quintessential comics fan: he was fully committed to boosting comics as an artform (and way before it was fashionably to do so!) and was a major contributor to what today is comics fandom. While he would be the first to say that he was foremost a fan, he also served as an industry professional, serving as the letterer of one of his idols, Milton Caniff, for the last 14 years of Caniff's adventure strip, Steve Canyon.
In the days when fandom was a much smaller concern, he helped build a sense of community among fans and, due to his work befriending of the many comics professionals he admired, he bridged a connection between cartoonists and comic-book artists and the fans. The friendships he formed with many great cartoonists enabled him to invite them to attend the earliest comic-book shows, which have become the template for nearly all subsequent conventions. His legacy is nowhere more apparent than in the San Diego Comic-Con, which he often is credited with founding (or at least co-founding), and played a major role in its development, growth and character in its early years. Although Shel became somewhat disappointed into what Comic-Con had morphed into, the strong intermingling among fans and professionals at the show are part of Shel's legacy.
There are others who can speak more knowledgeably about his legacy and impact, and I have linked to them below. Though I didn't know Shel as well as I could have, I'm glad to say that I did know him and that he was a fan of my work.
If I recall correctly, knowing his connection to Caniff, I initially reached out to him by sending him copies of Rob Hanes Adventures, mentioning that my work was inspired by Caniff. He sent me back a very kind note and after that we stayed in touch periodically.
Though reports state he had not attended the San Diego Comic-Con since 2000 partly for health reasons, I occasionally saw him at the show in some earlier years. He often introduced me to new artists and asked me to give them advice and critique their work.
One year at Comic-Con, Shel even invited me to join him and several others for a dinner in honor of several Golden Age cartoonists. I was honored to be asked to attend.
I'm glad to know that many of Shel's peers acknowledged him and his contributions to comics in his final months, and that his achievements are receiving the recognition they deserve now that he has passed on.
Included with this tribute above is a scan of a holiday card to me from Shel. (As mentioned above, this blog was partly delayed because I wanted to include this scan with this card!)
Shel Dorf Tribute Page
Shel Dorf in his own words
Coverage at the Beat
Coverage at the Comics Reporter
Mark Evanier tribute
San Diego Union Tribune Obituary
R.C. Harvey Tribute (from the Comics Journal website)