Moldoff at a convention in his later years.
|Born||April 14, 1920
New York City, New York
|Died||February 29, 2012
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
|Notable works||Batman, Poison Ivy, Hawkman|
Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff (April 14, 1920 – February 29, 2012) was an American comic book artist best known for his early work on the DC Comics characters Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and as one of Bob Kane's primary "ghost artists" (uncredited collaborators) on the superhero Batman. He co-created the Batman supervillains Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Matt Hagen (Clayface), and Bat-Mite, as well as the original heroes Bat-Girl, Batwoman and Ace the Bat Hound. Moldoff is also the sole creator of the Black Pirate (Jon Valor). Moldoff is not to be confused with fellow Golden Age comics professional Sheldon Mayer.
Early life and career
Born in Manhattan, New York City but mostly raised in The Bronx, he was introduced to cartooning by future comics artist Bernard Baily, who lived in the same apartment house as Moldoff. "I was drawing in chalk on the sidewalk—Popeye and Betty Boop and other popular cartoons of the day—and he came by and looked at it and said, 'Hey, do you want to learn how to draw cartoons?' I said, 'Yes!' He said, 'Come on, I'll show you how to draw.'"
Moldoff sold his first cartoon drawing at age 17. "My first work in comic books was doing filler pages for Vincent Sullivan, who was the editor at National Periodicals", one of the three companies, with Detective Comics Inc. and All-American Comics, that eventually merged to form the modern-day DC Comics. Moldoff's debut was a sports filler that appeared on the inside back cover of the landmark Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the comic book that introduced Superman.
During the late-1930s and 1940s Golden Age of comic books, Moldoff became a prolific cover artist for the future DC Comics. His work includes the first cover of the Golden Age Green Lantern, on issue #16 (July 1940) of All-American's flagship title All-American Comics, featuring the debut of that character created by artist Martin Nodell. Moldoff created the character Black Pirate (Jon Valor) in Action Comics #23 (April 1940), and became one of the earliest artists for the character Hawkman (created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville, though sometimes misattributed to Moldoff). Moldoff drew the first image of the formerly civilian character Shiera Sanders in costume as Hawkgirl in All Star Comics #5, based on Neville's Hawkman costume design.
Beginning with Flash Comics #4 (April 1940), Moldoff became the regular Hawkman artist, following Neville's departure from the feature the issue before. Moldoff recalled in 2000 that All-American publisher Max Gaines
...took a shine to me. ... He's the one who said, 'We're going to put you on "Hawkman", and do whatever you want with it. Do a good job; I know you can do it." And that was it! ... But when I looked at 'Hawkman' and read a couple of stories, I said to myself, 'This has to be done in a[n Alex] Raymond style.' I could just feel it.... I [had] saved [Raymond Flash Gordon] Sunday [comic strip] pages and the daily papers for years! ... [Gaines] liked my style; he liked the realism. We were competing with the newspapers. When he picked up the Sunday papers, he saw Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates. When he picked up a comic book, there was a tremendous difference in the quality of the art. And then, all of a sudden, he saw me—an 18-year-old coming around, and I'm almost a student of Raymond, and by God, the stuff looks good—it looks like Raymond! We all leaned on these guys to learn—and we were very lucky, because while we were learning, we were selling the product... I spent a lot of time on it. I had books on anatomy and shadows and wrinkles; I studied, and I worked very hard on it, and I think it showed.
Drafter into World War II military service in 1944, Moldoff returned to civilian life in 1946, drawing for Standard, Fawcett, Marvel and Max Gaines' EC Comics. For EC he drew Moon Girl, continuing with that character for Bill Gaines.
When superhero comics went out of fashion in the postwar era, Moldoff became an early pioneer in horror comics, packaging two such ready-to-prints titles in 1948. He recalled in 2000 that, "I had shown This Magazine Is Haunted and Tales of the Supernatural to [Fawcett Comics'] Will Lieberson before I showed them to [EC Comics'] Bill Gaines, because I trusted Will Lieberson much more. He showed it to the big guys at Fawcett, and he said, 'Shelly, Fawcett doesn't want to get into horror now; they don't want to touch that'".
Moldoff then did approach Gaines with the package, signing a contract stipulating that he would be paid a royalty percentage if the books were successful. Several months later, when EC's Tales From the Crypt hit the newsstands, Gaines reneged on the deal, Moldoff recalled in 2000, with EC attorney Dave Alterbaum threatening to blacklist Moldoff if he took legal action. Afterward, said Moldoff, "Will Lieberson said, 'Let me bring it back to Fawcett again, and see if they'll take the title'. And so they did; they took This Magazine Is Haunted and Worlds of Fear and then Strange Suspense Stories. What they did was pay me $100 for the title, and give me as much work as I wanted, and I also did the covers. So that went on that way".
Moldoff, who received no royalty there, either, created the cadaverous host Doctor Death.
1950s and '60s
In 1953, Moldoff became one of the primary Batman ghost artists who, along with Win Mortimer and Dick Sprang, drew stories credited to Bob Kane, following Kane's style and under Kane's supervision. While Sprang ghosted as a DC employee, Moldoff, in a 1994 interview given while Kane was alive, described his own clandestine arrangement:
I worked for Bob Kane as a ghost from ' 53 to ' 67. DC didn't know that I was involved; that was the handshake agreement I had with Bob: 'You do the work don't say anything, Shelly, and you've got steady work'. No, he didn't pay great, but it was steady work, it was security. I knew that we had to do a minimum of 350 to 360 pages a year. Also, I was doing other work at the same time for [editors] Jack Schiff and Murray Boltinoff at DC. They didn't know I was working on Batman for Bob. ... So I was busy. Between the two, I never had a dull year, which is the compensation I got for being Bob's ghost, for keeping myself anonymous.
Kane and Moldoff co-created the original Bat-Girl (teen Betty Kane), as well as the novelty characters Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound. All three were largely phased-out in 1964 after a change in editors. Writer Robert Kanigher and Moldoff co-created the supervillainess Poison Ivy in Batman #181 (June 1966).
Moldoff was let go by DC in 1967, along with Golden Age artists George Papp and Wayne Boring. He turned to animation, doing storyboards for such animated TV series as Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, and wrote and drew promotional comic books given away to children at the Burger King and Red Lobster restaurant and fast-food chains, as well as through the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team. When Moldoff illustrated a chapter of the Evan Dorkin project Superman and Batman: World's Funnest in 2000, it was his first work for DC Comics in over 30 years.
- Inkpot Award: 1991
- "In Memory of Sheldon Douglas Moldoff April 14, 1920 – February 29, 2012". Coral Springs, Florida: Kraeer Funeral Home and Cremation Center. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
- Sheldon Moldoff at the Lambiek Comiclopedia
- "A Moon... A Bat... A Hawk: A Candid Conversation With Sheldon Moldoff". Alter Ego 3 (4). Spring 2000. Archived from the original on January 15, 2011.
- 1994 Sheldon Moldoff interview, first published in Alter Ego # 59 (June 2006), p. 15
- Sheldon Moldoff at the Grand Comics Database
- Hawkgirl at the Grand Comics Database
- Ringgenberg, Steven (March 7, 2012). "Sheldon Moldoff, April 14, 1920 – February 29, 2012". The Comics Journal. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012.
- Irvine, Alex; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1950s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "Batman #92 (July 1955) Once Superman had a dog, Batman got one too, in "Ace, the Bat-Hound!" In the story by writer Bill Finger and artist Sheldon Moldoff, Batman and Robin found a German Shepherd called Ace."
- McAvennie, Michael. "1960s" in Dolan, p. 118: "Poison Ivy first cropped up to plague Gotham City in issue #181 of Batman. Scripter Robert Kanigher and artist Sheldon Moldoff came up with a villain who would blossom into one of Batman's greatest foes."
- Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff at the Comic Art & Grafix Gallery, n.d. (site maintained 1992-2006). WebCitation archive
- Sheldon Moldoff interview, Alter Ego #59, June 2006, pp. 14–23; previously unpublished interview conducted in 1994 for Comics Interview magazine.
- Schoellkopf, Andrea. "Convention Indulges Comic Book Addicts," Albuquerque Journal (16 Jan 1995), p. A1 — profile of Moldoff
- Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff (official site). WebCitation archive
- Sheldon Moldoff interview (July 1999). "'I Never Went a Day Without Work'". The Comics Journal (214). pp. 90–107. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012.