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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 11/ 7/2009

Remembering Comic-Con co-founder Shel Dorf

By The Reliable Source

In this June 29, 2006 picture, Sheldon Dorf holds a Dick Tracy comic book in Ocean Beach, Calif. (AP Photo / San Diego Union Tribune)

I met Shel Dorf just once, in the mid-'90s in San Diego, but boy, did his reputation precede him.

Sheldon Dorf seemed to be within six degrees of separation -- and much of the time, just a single degree -- from all things comics in Southern California. Dorf, who died this past week of diabetes-related complications at age 76, devoted a life to promoting cartoons and comics culture.

In the headlines, Dorf is most often hailed as the co-founder of the world-famous behemoth that is San Diego Comic-Con. Strangely, on the floor of this year's 40th Comic-Con, Shel's name went little mentioned. That was likely for two main reasons: (1) The Con was begun in 1970, as the Golden State Comic Con, by a "band of enthusiasts" and not just one man; and (2) By the mid-'80s, Dorf parted ways with the Con, before it began attracting more than 100,000 fans a year.

Dorf -- a onetime comics letterer himself -- told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006 that Comic-Con had gotten too big, become too much of a personal ordeal. But still, as comics and TV writer Mark Evanier told my former Union-Tribune colleague Peter Rowe, The Con "was built on his passion and his cheerleading."

Comic Riffs asked several cartoonists about Dorf and his legacy. Here's what they said:

STAN LEE, Marvel Comics legend: "What he achieved with Comic-Con stands for itself, as a monument."

MARSHALL RAMSEY, political cartoonist (Jackson Clarion-Ledger):
"Shel was an amazingly modest man for all that he had accomplished. But he loved his craft. And was very good at it. He used to ride me pretty hard about my lettering. Yet, I had to listen [because he was right].
I wanted to listen, too. He was a great storyteller. He wrote a story for the old Cartoonist ProFiles magazine about me. I am very proud of it and remember the interview fondly. The world is less accomplished today with his passing. Cartooning lost a giant."

BRIAN CRANE, creator of "Pickles": "I was sad to hear about Shel's death. I never met him, but he began writing very kind and encouraging letters to me shortly after my comic strip became syndicated, and we corresponded back and forth for several years after that.
It was he who convinced me to join the [National Cartoonists Society] and he became my sponsor. I still have several of the letters he wrote me and some 'Dick Tracy' memorabilia, which he gave me over the years. My sincere condolences to all his friends and family."

By The Reliable Source  | November 7, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  General, Interviews With Cartoonists  
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