Sheldon Mayer self-portrait from the cover of The Amazing World of DC Comics #5 (March–April 1975)
|Born||April 1, 1917|
|Died||December 21, 1991 (aged 74)|
Copake, New York
|Area(s)||Writer, Penciller, Editor|
Sugar and Spike
The Three Mouseketeers
|Awards||Jack Kirby Hall of Fame|
Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame
Sheldon Mayer (//; April 1, 1917 – December 21, 1991) was an American comics artist, writer, and editor. One of the earliest employees of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, Mayer produced almost all of his comics work for the company that would become known as DC Comics.
He is among those credited with rescuing the unsold Superman comic strip from the rejection pile.
Mayer was inducted into the comic book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2000. Mayer is not to be confused with fellow Golden Age comics professional Sheldon Moldoff.
Early life and career
Mayer was born in Harlem, New York, to a Jewish family. Sheldon Mayer's career in the days before comic books was a diverse one. He worked as writer and artist on "scores of titles" for a juvenile audience circa 1932–33, before joining the Fleischer animation studios as an "opaquer" in 1934.
He began working for National Allied Publications (Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's initial company, later known as DC Comics) shortly after it was founded, in 1935, writing and drawing stories and "thus becoming one of the very first contributors [of original material] to comic books."
Between 1936 and 1938, Mayer worked for Dell Comics, producing illustrations, house advertisements and covers for titles including Popular Comics, The Comics and The Funnies. Also in 1936, he joined the McClure Syndicate "as an editor working for comics industry pioneer M.C. Gaines." While working for the McClure syndicate, Mayer came across Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's unsold Superman comics strip, which he "immediately fell in love with." He recalled in a 1985 book that, "The syndicated press rejected it about fifteen times. I was singing [its] praises so much that in 1938 Gaines finally took the strip up to Harry Donenfeld, who was looking for original material to run in his new title, Action Comics," where the soon-to-be iconic character debuted as the lead feature of the first issue. Action Comics editor Vin Sullivan is also among those credited with discovering Superman. Mayer said,
I was crazy about Superman for the same reason I liked The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, and The Desert Song. The mystery man and his alter ego are two distinct characters to be played off against each other. The Scarlet Pimpernel's alter ego was scared of the sight of blood, a hopeless dandy: no one would have suspected he was a hero. The same goes for Superman.
In 1939, "Gaines left McClure to enter into a partnership with [National Periodical Publications]," and Mayer went with him, becoming the first editor of the All-American [Publications] line, then run as a separate entity from National/DC, publishers of Superman and Batman. Mayer edited and participated in the creation of - among others - the Flash (in Flash Comics), Green Lantern, Hawkman, Wonder Woman and All-Star Comics, home to the Justice Society of America. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that "This was obviously a great notion, since it offered readers a lot of headliners for a dime, and also the fun of watching fan favorites interact."
Among his non-superhero work, Mayer assisted with lettering and logo creation on several All-American titles, and drew a number of covers for the "Mutt and Jeff" reprints appearing in the companies flagship title All-American Comics (1939–1958). Having created the semi-autobiographical strip "Scribbly", "the trials of a novice cartoonist," for Dell Comics in 1936, where the feature appeared in The Funnies #2–29 and Popular Comics #6–9), Mayer moved "Scribbly" to All-American Publications in 1939. Soon afterward, the featured included the supporting character of "Ma" Hunkel, who would go on to become the Golden Age incarnation of the Red Tornado, with Mayer writing, penciling and inking the renamed Scribbly and the Red Tornado for All-American Comics between 1941 and 1944 when All-American merged with National. Mayer launched several funny animal titles including Funny Stuff (Summer 1944), Animal Antics (March 1946), and Funny Folks (April 1946).
Mayer retired from editing in 1948, "to devote himself full-time to cartooning". He began to write and draw a number of humor comics for National, including the features The Three Mouseketeers, Leave It to Binky, a teenage humor book, and Sugar and Spike. Leave It to Binky debuted in February 1948 while Scribbly received its own title in August 1948. He also created the funny-animal backup feature "Doodles Duck", starring a dimwitted, easily angered instigator and his smarter, calmer nephew Lemuel, in Animal Antics #40 (Sept. 1952). This is unrelated to Howie Post's early DC creation Doodles Duck.
Sugar and Spike proved to be one of Mayer's longest-lasting strips, starring two babies who could communicate in baby talk that adults could not understand. Mayer even signed the stories he drew, something rare at National Periodical Publications in the late 1950s when Sugar and Spike debuted.
In the 1970s, when failing eyesight limited his drawing ability, he continued to work for National/DC, contributing scripts to the companies horror and mystery magazines, including most notably House of Mystery, House of Secrets and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion. With artist Tony DeZuniga, he co-created the "Black Orchid" feature which ran in Adventure Comics #428-430 in 1973. Mayer wrote and drew several "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" treasuries starting in 1972. These were published as Limited Collectors' Edition C–24, C–33, C–42, C–50 and All-New Collectors' Edition C–53, C–60. Additionally, one digest format edition was published as The Best of DC #4 (March–April 1980). In 1978, Mayer wrote and drew a "How to Draw Batman Booklet" as part of an ongoing debate with DC editor Paul Levitz regarding continuity in comic books. In the 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great, Mayer is cited as still writing and drawing "for the company that first published his great discovery, Superman, forty-seven years ago."
After successful cataract surgery, Mayer returned to drawing Sugar and Spike stories for the international market and only a few have been reprinted in the United States. The American reprints appeared in the digest sized comics series The Best of DC #29, 41, 47, 58, 65, and 68. In 1992, Sugar and Spike #99 was published as part of the DC Silver Age Classics series; this featured two previously unpublished stories by Mayer. DC writer and executive Paul Levitz has described Sugar and Spike as being "Mayer's most charming and enduring creation" while novelist and Sandman creator Neil Gaiman has stated "Sheldon Mayer's Sugar and Spike series...is the most charming thing I've ever seen in comics."
DC attempted to license Sugar and Spike as a syndicated newspaper strip but was unsuccessful. Sales on the "Sugar and Spike" issues of The Best of DC were strong enough that DC announced plans for a new ongoing series featuring the characters. The project was never launched for unknown reasons.
- Comics Magazine #1 (1936)
- Adventure Comics #428–430 (Black Orchid); #431 (writer) (1973–1974)
- All-American Comics #1–5 (writer/artist) (1939–1944)
- All New Collectors' Edition #C–53, C–60 (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) (writer/artist) (1977–1978)
- All Star Comics #3–6, 8 (Justice Society of America) (artist) (1940–1941)
- Best of DC #4 (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer); #29, 41, 47 (Sugar and Spike) (writer/artist) (1980–1984)
- Big All-American Comic Book #1 (writer/artist) (1944)
- Buzzy #32–34, 39 (writer/artist) (1950–1951)
- Comic Cavalcade #4, 7, 40–63 (artist) (1943–1954)
- DC Silver Age Classics #10 (Sugar and Spike) (writer/artist) (1992)
- Dodo and the Frog #80–81, 83–90, 92 (artist) (1954–1957)
- Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #12 (writer) (1973)
- Funny Stuff #1, 3, 5, 18, 28, 55, 57–58, 61–62, 64–65, 68, 70, 72, 74–79 (writer/artist) (1944–1954)
- Ghosts #111 (writer) (1982)
- Hollywood Funny Folks #28–35, 37–40, 43–46, 48–51, 53, 56–57, 60 (artist) (1950–1954)
- House of Mystery #207, 211, 217, 219, 224, 243, 258, 283, 317 (writer) (1972–1983)
- House of Secrets #101, 103–104, 120 (writer) (1972–1974)
- Leading Screen Comics #45–48, 50, 54–57, 60, 62–77 (writer/artist) (1950–1955)
- Leave It to Binky #1 (writer/artist) (1948)
- Limited Collectors' Edition #C–33, C–42, C–50 (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) (writer/artist); #C–36 (The Bible) (writer) (1975–1977)
- Movietown's Animal Antics #28–33, 35, 37–41, 43–44, 47, 49–51 (artist) (1950–1954)
- New Comics #1–4 (writer/artist) (1935–1936)
- Nutsy Squirrel #61–62, 65, 67–72 (artist) (1954–1957)
- Peter Porkchops #30–38, 40–42, 44, 46–52, 61 (artist) (1954–1959)
- Phantom Stranger #31, 35–36 (Black Orchid backup stories) (writer) (1974–1975)
- Plop! #1 (writer) (1973)
- Raccoon Kids #52–62 (artist) (1954–1956)
- Scribbly #1–15 (writer/artist) (1948–1951)
- Secret Origins #29 (original Red Tornado) (writer/artist) (1988)
- Secrets of Haunted House #43 (artist); #44 (writer) (1981–1982)
- Secrets of Sinister House #6–7, 9 (writer) (1972–1973)
- Sensation Comics #84 (Wonder Woman) (writer) (1948)
- Sugar and Spike #1–98 (writer/artist) (1956–1971)
- The Three Mouseketeers #1–8 (writer/artist); 19, 24 (writer) (1956–1959)
- Time Warp #5 (writer) (1980)
- The Unexpected #217 (writer/artist); #219 (writer) (1981–1982)
- Weird Mystery Tales #5 (writer) (1973)
- Weird War Tales #10–11, 14, 18, 21, 42–44 (writer) (1973–1976)
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch : Sheldon Mayer, December 21, 1991 accessed March 13, 2013
- Bails, Jerry (2006). "Mayer, Sheldon". Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012.
- Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Sheldon Mayer Superman Discovered" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 13 (1985), DC Comics
- Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1930s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
It was editor Sheldon Mayer, working at M. C. Gaines' McClure Syndicate, who suggested Superman to DC as a potential filler feature for Action Comics.
- Wallace "1930s" in Dolan, p. 24: "Jack Liebowitz partnered with publisher M. C. Gaines (who brought with him his sharp young editor, Sheldon Mayer) to launch a new line of comics under the All American Publications banner."
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 33: "DC took the 'greatest hits' premise of the comic to its logical conclusion in All Star Comics #3 by teaming the Flash, the Atom, Doctor Fate, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hourman, Sandman, and the Spectre under the banner of the Justice Society of America for an ongoing series."
- Thomas, Roy (2000). "The Men (and One Woman) Behind the JSA: Its Creation and Creative Personnel". All-Star Companion Volume 1. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 1-893905-055.
- Daniels, Les (1995). "The Justice Society of America All American's All Star Team Up". DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 54. ISBN 0821220764.
- Scribbly at the Grand Comics Database.
- Sheldon Mayer at the Grand Comics Database
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 46: "Edited by Sheldon Mayer, the anthology title showcased a number of new animal humor features."
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 50
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 51: "Editor Sheldon Mayer launched yet another funny animal title. Like the newly launched Animal Antics, the features in Funny Folks were originals, not based on characters from animated movie shorts."
- "Sheldon Mayer". Lambiek Comiclopedia. December 20, 2006. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013.
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 58
- Wallace "1940s" in Dolan, p. 59
- Markstein, Don. "Doodles Duck". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
- Markstein, Don. "Sugar and Spike". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on December 14, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
Sugar Plumm and Cecil "Spike" Wilson had to make sense of their environment without assistance from those who already knew their way around it, because everybody but their fellow babies spoke in the incomprehensible gobbledygook of grownups.
- McAvennie, Michael "1970s" in Dolan, p. 156: "Very little was known about the Black Orchid, even after writer Sheldon Mayer and artist Tony DeZuniga presented her so-called 'origin issue' in Adventure Comics."
- Markstein, Don (n.d.). "Sheldon Mayer". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on December 3, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
[Mayer] also worked on several tabloid-formatted comic books for DC in the mid-1970s, including the company's first use of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer since the early '60s.
- Arnold, Mark (December 2012). "You Know Dasher and Dancer: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (61): 7–10.
- Limited Collectors' Edition #C–20, #C–24, #C–33, #C–42, and #C–50 at the Grand Comics Database
- All-New Collectors' Edition #C–53 and #C–60 at the Grand Comics Database
- The Best of DC #4 at the Grand Comics Database
- Greenberger, Robert; Manning, Matthew K. (2009). The Batman Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles from the Batcave. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press. p. 49. ISBN 0762436638.
Mayer objected to the idea of continuity in comic book stories...this eighteen-page story, written and penciled by Mayer arrived as an instructional component to the debate.
- Markstein "Sheldon Mayer": "He continued to write and draw Sugar & Spike until 1971, when failing eyesight forced him to abandon cartooning...Mayer's sight was restored a few years later, and he went back to producing new Sugar & Spike stories. But the American comic book market was no longer able to support such a feature, so these were mostly published overseas."
- DC Silver Age Classics Sugar and Spike #99 (1992) at the Grand Comics Database
- Levitz, Paul (2010). 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. p. 64. ISBN 9783836519816.
- Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion. New York, New York: Vertigo. p. 154. ISBN 1563894653.
- Wells, John (July 2012). "The Lost DC Kids Line". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (57): 47.
Did you know that DC tried to sell Shelly Mayer's Sugar and Spike as a syndicated newspaper strip? [A] sample, ca. 1979–early 1980s was one of three DC concepts unsuccessfully pitched to papers.
- Wells p. 46–47: "In a 'Meanwhile' column in several Aug. 1984-dated titles...DC vice-president-executive director Dick Giordano tentatively announced Sugar and Spike #1 as appearing 'sometime this fall or early winter'...Ultimately, for reasons virtually no one recalls, DC quickly got cold feet on the project even as Marvel's Star Comics rolled out in 1985."
- "Inkpot Award Winners". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
- "1992 Harvey Awards". Harvey Awards. 2013. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013.
- "Will Eisner Hall of Fame". San Diego Comic-Con International. 2014. Archived from the original on January 10, 2014.