Jim Harmon, Author and Comic-Con Guest, Writes About Shel

October 30, 2009

I have known Shel for over thirty years and in that time all he has done was to do special favors FOR me, and never to ask for a thing FROM me. He invited me as a guest to the world famous event he created, the San Diego Comic-Con, and as an invited guest, all expenses paid a number of times. He introduced me to great cartoonists like Jack Kirby and Milton Caniff and Jim Steranko. He invited me a private dinner with himself, Ray Bradbury, Stan Lee and Stan’s lovely British wife. This is the kind of company many would pay money to be with.

One time he took me to a Cinecon with him. We were both using canes by the time, he for his problems with diabetes, and me just because I was getting old. We managed and got front row seats for a talk by Fay Wray, King Kong’s love. Miss Wray was ninety by this time, but still had the same recognizable, beautiful face. Outside there was a long line of fans lined up to get her autograph. I had snatched up a still of Kong on top the Empire State building, with Fay at his feet before leaving home. After she concluded her remarks I said quickly “Miss Wray, could you sign this photo for me? I have a bad leg and I could never last long enough standing in that line outside.” One convention official did an imitation of Franklin Pangborn, fluttery and frustrated. “No, no, no — no signing inside.” Miss Wray gave him a look. “I am going to sign this gentleman’s photo. I have a bad leg too.” And she did. Shel was greatly amused by the whole incident.

Another time, Shel asked me to come over to the home of another great old friend, attorney John Zinewitcz. When I got there I found that John only had a week to live from liver cancer and Robert Overstreet of Comic Book Guide fame was there to buy his comic book collection on behalf of the Geppi organization. They needed another witness to the transfer of money for merchandise, and that John had agreed to the figure. It was substantial and perhaps something certain people would not care for me to broadcast even now. John also revealed that his mother had preceded him in death only a few days before. Most people would have been crushed by what was coming down on him, but John was going to go to another Cinecon during his last few days in this life.

I think Shel is that kind of person too. He will be planning things in his mind to the end. And probably things to help others more than himself.

– Jim Harmon, winner of a Comic-Con award for such books as The Great Radio Heroes

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Culliton November 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Shel did me a thousand kindnesses–at least.
He introduced me to many wonderful people, including many greats.
Thanks to Shel, I got to stand behind Milton Caniff while Milton went from a blank piece of paper to an inked Sunday page while I took slides for a show Shel was preparing for Caniff’s alma mater in Ohio.
We had a great deal of fun together over the years, but, one night stands out for me and that was the night Shel took me and my step-daughter to see Josephine Baker and he introduced us to her.
He was a pioneer. He was a wonderful friend, and he’d sure done his work. I’ve been missing him for awhile because he preferred to be alone which I understood.
He was always organizing these amazingly fun, very educational, kinds of things: a trip to visit the Kirbys or Forrie Ackerman’s, countless fun journeys.
Patrick Culliton

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Wendy All November 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

If Shel Dorf and Comic Con had not existed, I would be a Geologist, not a Toy Designer. That time in the 1970s in San Diego at Comic Con and the El Cortez Hotel were strange, wonderful and amazing. I remember a Saturday with him and a group of fans driving up to June Foray’s house, meeting Ray Bradbury and ending up at Harlan Ellison’s house… (Shel took pictures!)

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Jim Gorham November 4, 2009 at 1:28 am

Shel told me that Fay Wray story too. I was always wanted to go to Cinecon as well, Shel talked how he loved that show.

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Philip Haxo October 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm

What a beautiful tribute. I only knew Shel peripherally through my work with Steve Schanes. I did the color separations for a number of the Dick Tracy reprints…and Shel was always the nicest most generous of souls. Incredibly gracious and complementary of the work I did. I feel lucky to know him.

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