Shel Dorf

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Shel Dorf
Shel Dorf (2085929919) (cropped).jpg
Dorf in April 1988
Born Sheldon Dorf
(1933-07-05)July 5, 1933
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died November 3, 2009(2009-11-03) (aged 76)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Area(s) comic book convention pioneer, letterer
Notable works
San Diego Comic-Con International
Steve Canyon (lettering only)
Awards Inkpot Award, 1975

Sheldon "Shel" Dorf (July 5, 1933 – November 3, 2009) was an American comic book enthusiast and the founder of the San Diego Comic-Con International.[1][2][3] Dorf was also a freelance artist and graphic designer, who lettered the Steve Canyon comic strip for the last 12 to 14 years of the strip's run.[4][3][5]

Early life[edit]

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Dorf was a fan of comic books and comic strips, particularly Chester Gould's work on the daily strip Dick Tracy.[2][6]

Dorf studied at Chicago's Art Institute before moving to New York and beginning his career as a freelancer in the field of commercial design.[2] In the 1960s, Dorf had made the acquaintance of a number of creators working in the two fields, among them Jack Kirby, upon whom Dorf would occasionally call.[7]



In 1964 back in Detroit, teenager Robert Brusch organised a convention for fans of the comics medium, which Dorf and Jerry Bails, the "father of comics fandom," attended.[6] The next year Dorf and Bails took over the event, christening it the "Detroit Triple Fan Fair" (referring to fantasy literature, fantasy films, and comic art)[8] and organizing it as an annual event. The Detroit Triple Fan Fair (DTFF) is credited as being the first regularly held convention featuring comic books as a major component.[9] Dorf went on to produce the DTFF in 1967[10] and 1968 as well.

In 1970, Dorf moved to San Diego, California,[11] to take care of his aging parents. Almost immediately, he organized a one-day convention "as a kind of 'dry run' for the larger convention he hoped to stage,"[3] with Forrest J Ackerman as the star attraction.

Dorf's first three-day San Diego comics convention, the Golden State Comic-Con,[11] was held at the U. S. Grant Hotel[11] from August 1–3, 1970.[12] It would eventually grow into the San Diego Comic-Con International,[13] now considered the standard bearer for U.S. comic conventions. The convention moved in subsequent years to the El Cortez Hotel; the University of California, San Diego; and Golden Hall, before settling into the San Diego Convention center in 1991.[14]

Later endeavors[edit]

As "'Founding Father' of San Diego Comic-Con," Dorf received an Inkpot Award at the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con.[15]

In 1984 Dorf began compilation and editing of the Dick Tracy comic strips in comic book format for Blackthorne Publishing, "proudly"[16] publishing ninety-nine issues and collecting the material again in twenty-four collections.[16]

Chester Gould's daughter, Jean Gould O'Connell credits Dorf with bringing "Tracy out to another generation."[16] Comics historian Mark Evanier said Caniff "honored Shel by making him into a character. It was a well-meaning football player named "Thud Shelley" who appeared a few times in the Canyon strip. Jack Kirby also made Shel into a character ... a father figure named Himon who appeared in Mister Miracle.[3] In 1990, Dorf was employed as a consultant on Warren Beatty's big-screen adaptation of Dick Tracy.[2][17]

Dorf would also contribute interviews to the comics press and movie collector magazines (including for The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom [TBG] and Film Collector's World), and his conversations with Milton Caniff and Mort Walker have both been collected in the University Press of Mississippi's Milton Caniff: Conversations and Mort Walker: Conversations respectively. His interview with Wally Wood (among the few to see print) for TBG was reprinted in Comic Book Artist #14 (July 2001).

Death and legacy[edit]

Dorf died at age 76 on November 3, 2009, from diabetes-related complications[18] in Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego. He was survived by his brother, Michael.[19]

Since 2010, the Shel Dorf Awards have been presented at conventions in Michigan, including Detroit Fanfare and C4 (the Cherry Capital Comic Con).[20]


General references[edit]

Inline citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Founder of San Diego Comic-Con dies at 76", Associated Press, 4 November 2009. Accessed 4 November 2009. Archived 4 November 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Spurgeon, Tom. "Shel Dorf, 1933-2009", The Comics Reporter (self-published), 4 November 2009. Accessed 4 November 2009. Archived 4 November 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Evanier, Mark, "[1]", POV Online (self published), November 3, 2009. Accessed 4 November 2009. Archived 4 November 2009.
  4. ^ Although R.C. Harvey gives it as 12 years in the 2002 Milton Caniff: Conversations, Mark Evanier states 14 in his 2009 tribute to Dorf.
  5. ^ Caniff, Milton and Harvey, R.C., Milton Caniff: Conversations, University Press of Mississippi, 2002, p88. ISBN 1-57806-438-4
  6. ^ a b "Historian Collects Comics: They Are Works of Art," Detroit News (1965).
  7. ^ Morrow, John and Kirby, Jack. Collected Jack Kirby Collector: Volume 2 of The Collected Jack Kirby Collector, Morrow, John ed. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004, p 48. ISBN 1-893905-01-2
  8. ^ Detroit Triple Fan Fair program book (Detroit Triple Fan Fair, 1972).
  9. ^ Henrickson, Eric. "New comic convention, Detroit Fanfare, coming this fall," Archived 2012-07-08 at Detroit News blog (July 7, 2010).
  10. ^ Thompson, Maggie. Newfangles #2 (May 1967), p. 2.
  11. ^ a b c "Founder of Comic-Con Dies at 76" Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine., City News Service via, November 4, 2009
  12. ^ Rowe, Peter. "Obituary: Sheldon Dorf; Comic-Con co-founder, The San Diego Union-Tribune / Sign On San Diego, November 4, 2009
  13. ^ Harvey, Robert C. The Art of the Comic Book, University Press of Mississippi, 1996, p47. ISBN 0-87805-758-7
  14. ^ Malloy, Elizabeth (2008-04-18). "Charting Comic-Con's Hulk-like growth". The Daily Transcript. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 
  15. ^ "Comic-Con International's Inkpot Awards",, 2009. Accessed 4 November 2009. Archived 4 November 2009.
  16. ^ a b c Gould O'Connell, Jean and Locher, Dick. Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy, McFarland, 2007, p.203. ISBN 0-7864-2825-2
  17. ^ John Wilkens (16 July 2006). "Comic-Con's Dorf watches sadly from the sidelines as T-shirts trump talent". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 27 May 2013. When Warren Beatty turned Dick Tracy into a movie in 1990, Dorf was a consultant. 
  18. ^ "RIP Sheldon Dorf, San Diego Comic-Con Co-Founder". DreadCentral. 
  19. ^ "Shel Dorf dies at 76; architect behind San Diego's Comic-Con". Los Angeles Times. November 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ Shel Dorf Awards official site. Accessed Feb. 9, 2016.

External links[edit]