RIP Sheldon Dorf, San Diego Comic-Con Co-Founder

Around these parts you’ll hear us bitch and moan a lot about the San Diego Comic-Con and how much it takes out of us each year, but there’s no denying the impact the event has had on the film industry and pop-culture as a whole … nor how much fun is derived from it year after year. It’s with a heavy heart that we pass on the news that SDCC co-founder Sheldon “Shel” Dorf has passed away at age 76.

Here’s an excerpt from The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s lengthy tribute to Shel:

Dick Tracy, Charlie Brown, and the entire comic strip pantheon lost a friend yesterday, with the death of a Comic-Con founder. Sheldon “Shel” Dorf succumbed to diabetes-related complications at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Mr. Dorf, a resident of Ocean Beach, spent 15 years as a leader of the annual convention, serving on its organizing committee. But even before and after his time with the Con, Mr. Dorf was a tireless promoter of comics, their creators, and fans.

“The guy just lived and breathed comics his whole life,” said Mark Evanier, a TV and comic book writer. “The Con was built on his passion and his cheerleading.”

RIP Sheldon Dorf, San Diego Comic-Con Co-Founder

A prominent collector of “Dick Tracy” comics and memorabilia, Mr. Dorf had run Detroit’s “Triple Fan Fest,” a convention dedicated to comics, science fiction, and movies. When he met Ken Krueger, owner of Alert Books in Ocean Beach, they and a band of teenaged enthusiasts began planning something similar for San Diego. This unpaid, ragtag group organized the first Golden State Comic-Con, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, Aug. 1-3, 1970.

“He was a completely generous person who was wholly devoted to furthering the comic arts, bringing the fans and the professionals together,” said J.M. “Mike” Towry, a computer programmer who was a young comics dealer at that first Con. “He never made a dime off Comic-Con.”

In fact, Mr. Dorf walked away from the Con in the mid-1980s, as it was beginning to become the nation’s foremost pop-culture extravaganza. Today, Comic-Con is San Diego’s largest convention, annually drawing 125,000 attendees.

“We had no idea it would get this big,” Mr. Dorf told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a 2006 interview. “To me, it’s just become an ordeal. I don’t know of any way to make it smaller, though. I guess in some ways it’s become too much of a success.” But he remained a friend of comic creators, and often attended the Con to cheer them on.

Mr. Dorf, who never married, is survived by his brother.

Uncle Creepy

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

  • The Woman In Black

    As a San Diego resident since 1979, I can’t remember a time when Comic-Con wasn’t a huge part of this city. Long before I became involved with Dread Central, my friends and I spent many happy hours at the event. RIP, Mr. Dorf — your gift to San Diegans will never be forgotten and your legacy will never die!