Last week, the comics community lost another of its foundational talents when Sheldon Moldoff passed away at 91 from kidney failure. Writer and historian Mark Evanier broke the news and offered an appraisal of the career of one of DC Comics early titans.
Born on April 19 of 1920, the artist known affectionately as Shelly found his early interest in comics and cartoons turn to professional work at a young age. Like many other up-and-coming New York City comics talents of the era, Moldoff began freelancing for DC during the Depression when at 17 he began selling one-off strips and other short works to the publisher. As Evanier notes, the artist was the last surviving creator who contributed to the landmark "Action Comics" #1 – the first appearance of Superman – with a one-page sports strip that graced the inside back cover.
Soon, Moldoff became one of the go-to cover artists for DC's earliest days as well as an inker and production artist that saw him riding the line between freelancer and staffer in a way that drew more work with less credit than many of his contemporaries may have had. He drew the covers to both "Flash Comics" #1 and "All-American Comics" #16, which featured the debuts of the Flash and Green Lantern respectively. Soon after, All American Comics publisher Max Gaines tapped Moldoff to take over the Hawkman strip where the artist introduced Hawkgirl to the mix – one of the first of many characters whose look he would originate or whom he'd create whole cloth.
After defining a lush, illustrative style indebted to newspaper great Alex Raymond for many years on DC's early books as both a penciler and inker, Moldoff went on to create his own pre-code horror comics including "This Magazine Is Haunted" and "Strange Suspense Stories" for Fawcett Comics before teaming with Batman creator Bob Kane's shop in 1953. While Kane had employed ghost artists for years to complete Batman pages for DC, Shelly swore that his former employers were often unaware of how much work he did for them on their star through the '50s and early '60s. During his tenure signing Kane's name to his work, the artist co-created a number of characters and concepts including Bat-Girl, Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze and Ace The Bathound as well as pencilling memorably zany stories involving things like Zebra Batman and The Mermaid Batman.
By 1967, Modloff was pushed out of DC as the style popularized by Kane's shop was set aside in favor of a more modern feel. The artist continued to work with the Batman creator over the coming years on animation projects including "Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse" on top of other animation and commercial art work. He also continued to do some limited comics work, drawing giveaway promotional comics for the likes of Big Boy and Red Lobster restaurants before being rediscovered by the fan community at comic conventions in the '70s where he remained a presence for the rest of his life. His last work for DC came with 2000's "World's Funnest" one-shot.
“When you think of the Golden Age of comics, you think of the work of Sheldon Moldoff," DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio & Jim Lee said in a joint statement. "His early drawings of Green Lantern, Flash and most especially Hawkman set the tone for these bold new heroes. Throughout his career, Sheldon Moldoff made a lasting contribution to the comic book industry and what would later become the DC universe. We salute the career and legacy of one of the greats.”
Moldoff is survived by his sons, Richard Moldoff and Kenneth Moldoff, daughter, Ellen Moldoff Stein and seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren.