Almost Famous, Thanks to Shel

December 8, 2009

by Charlie Roberts

I detailed our friendship with Shel in another posting on this site, but here’s a follow-up to the birth of the “Baby Thid Thez” panel cartoon in the Point Loma “Beacon” bi-weekly newspaper.

Baby Thid in Ocean Beach by Charlie Roberts (Inked by Shel Dorf)

Baby Thid in Ocean Beach by Charlie Roberts (Inked by Shel Dorf)

As mentioned, “Baby Thid” was originally done as a simple sketch and a word balloon on a few notes left on my future wife Joan’s work locker in 1980 and early 1981. A lisping baby going on 40 may not seem like the best road to romance, but the little fellow did help me out a bit. We moved in together in 1981, married in 1982, and moved to San Diego in 1983. “Baby Thid” was our love child.

I worked at Shel’s Ocean Beach studio apartment for several months ruling the pencil lines for Shel’s lettering, and we took several trips together for Shel’s interviews for “The Comic’s Buyer’s Guide” and other publications. We shared a common love of anything cartoon related.

Somewhere along the line “Baby Thid” came up. My drawing skills are somewhere between slim and none, the latter being most appropriate. Shel said he would help with inking, and we might be able to get it published.

Call me sentimental (just don’t call me a cab), but sugar plum fairies, moonbeams, and big comic strip syndicate contracts began dancing in my head.

“Baby Thid” comic strips, comic books, lisping dolls, and (good goth!) Hollywood were just around the corner (wowther!).

Shel took me to a paper company where we got a ream of Moistrite Mat finish thin art boards, then pressed type lettering for the logo. We took the art boards to a copy shop and ran off 100.

Voila! “Baby Thid Thez” was ready for his debut. I wrote the gags, did roughs, Shel inked the panels, and I did the lettering. I took it down to the “Beacon” office, and they actually accepted it in 1984. No payment of course; that would have been too easy.

After we had completed 20, I made copies and sent off groups to various syndicates. Over several weeks, the only mail I received were rejection slips along with the usual bills.

I’m writing this 25 years later, and found out a few years ago that we did actually have one fan. Cartoonist Tommy Thompson, a member of our “Southern California Cartoonist’s Society” (SCCS) told me he loved “Baby Thid”. I guess it’s just as well Tommy didn’t call me in 1984-1988 while “Baby Thid” was being published, as I would have snuck up to his house and painted a wall mural in the moonlight to thurprise him.

“Baby Thid” lives on with our annual Christmas card, and Rob Stolzer has a Baby Thid site (should that be “Thid Thite”?) on the Comic Art Fans website.

The bottom line here is: Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Shel was pretty much fearless in everything he attempted. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Have some fun along the way, and keep a sense of humor at all times.

Shel should have been a millionaire, but he did the best he could and made many of us richer with his presence. Bless you my friend.

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