Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sheldon Moldoff

Sheldon Moldoff, one of the architects of the comic book Golden Age, died from kidney failure on 29 February 2012, aged 91. Mark Evanier noted in a tribute published on 3 March 2012 that Moldoff was the last surviving artist to have contributed to Action Comics #1, perhaps the most collectable of all comic books; although Moldoff did not contribute Superman's debut, he did contribute artwork to that issue – a sports strip filler on the inside back cover. It was his first professional appearance.

Born in Manhattan, New York, on 14 April 1920, Sheldon Douglas "Shelly" Moldoff was the son of Russian-born immigrants Ben Moldoff (Baruch Moldanski) and his wife Kate. He was raised in The Bronx. After teaching himself to draw, he was introduced to comics by illustrator Bernard Baily, who lived in the same apartment house as Moldoff and his family. At 17, he broke into the comic book industry, selling his first strips to Vincent Sullivan, the editor at National Periodicals.

Moldoff drew covers for the first appearances of The Flash (Flash Comics #1) and Green Lantern (All-American Comics #16) in 1940. In April 1940 he created the character Jon Valor, The Black Pirate, for Action Comics (#23) and took over the artwork (from Dennis Neville) for Hawkman (in Flash Comics #4). In All Star Comics (#5, Jul 1941) he introduced Hawkgirl.

Drafted in 1944, Moldoff returned to drawing in 1946, working for Standard, Fawcett, Marvel and Max Gaines' EC Comics. In 1948, he packaged two horror titles (This Magazine is Haunted and Tales of the Supernatural) which he first took to Fawcett Comics; when Fawcett turned them down, he took them to Max Gaines at EC who offered him a percentage of the profits. Gaines launched Tales from the Crypt a few months later and Moldoff was threatened with blacklisting if he tried to take legal action.

Moldoff subsequently took his dummies back to Fawcett, who paid him $100 for the titles (the latter became Strange Suspense Stories when it launched in 1952) and offered him as much work as he wished to take on. Fawcett folded the titles in 1953 and Moldoff became the assistant to Bob Kane, ghosting Kane's Batman comic strips. Although the work was anonymous – the strips were signed as by Kane – it was steady work; Moldoff also sold strips to DC Comics independently and thus kept himself busy until 1967.

During this period, he helped create the original Bat-Girl (Betty Kane), Batwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface and, as the stories began to grow more outlandish, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound, Zebra Batman and the Merman Batman.

In the 1960s, DC made an effort to update Batman and a number of other long-term artists, were let go. Kane's contract was renegotiated in 1967 and he moved into TV animation where he created Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, for which show Moldoff produced storyboards. He was also the writer, producer and storyboard director of Marco Polo Junior versus the Red Dragon (1972) and Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu (2001).

Moldoff also continued to draw the occasional strip, drawing giveaway promotional comics for Big Boy and Red Lobster restaurants, Blockbuster Video and others. His last work for DC Comics appeared in 2000's World's Funniest one-shot where he illustrated a chapter of Evan Dorkin's Superman and Batman tale.

Moldoff was "outed" in 1991 when Julius Schwartz admitted at a convention "All the years I was buying artwork from  Bob Kane, I wasn't buying it from Bob Kane, I was buying it from Shelly Moldoff." Moldoff became a regular at conventions, selling drawings and signing autographs.

Moldoff and his wife, Shirley, retired to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he died. Shirley predeceased him in 2002; he was survived by his children, Richard Moldoff, Kenneth Moldoff, Ellen Moldoff Stein and seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Examples of Sheldon Moldoff's artwork can be found at the Illustration Art Gallery.

No comments:

Post a Comment