Shel Dorf, comics fan, letterer, and the driving force behind the early years of the San Diego Comic-Con, passed away yesterday from complications related to diabetes. He was 76.
Growing up in Detroit, the young Dorf organized fan gatherings and conventions, including the “Triple Fan Fest”, an interest he took with him when he moved to California in the late Sixties. Together with Ken Krueger and other enthusiasts, Dorf put on what become the mighty San Diego Comic-Con. As Mark Evanier writes in a personal reminiscence:
It was his friendship with so many heroes that led him to help put on the Detroit Triple Fan-Fairs in the sixties and then, when he moved to San Diego, to rally fans there to start something similar. I met him in late 1969 or maybe early 1970, shortly before a one-day con that he organized as a kind of “dry run” for the larger convention he hoped to stage. He was enthusiastic. He was optimistic. He was passionate, not just about the convention but about the wonders that could occur just by assembling so many talented creators and fans in the same building. As it turned out, he was right.
Dorf remained Chairman or president of the show for many years, although he was estranged from the show and those running it in recent years. His health had been poor for quite a while, and he was hospitalized for the last year of his life; he died with his brother Michael at his side.
Dorf was also the letterer for Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon newspaper strip for the last 14 years of its run, something he was very very proud of, and he was the inspiration for the character Thud Shelley. Jack Kirby, with whom Dorf is pictured above, on the right, included him in Mister Miracle as Himon.
There’s a Shel Dorf Tribute website, which was set up during his illness, with remembrances of the early days of the con, photos and more. The Comics Reporter and The San Diego Tribune have further obituaries.