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A Moon... A Bat... A Hawk

A Candid Conversation With Sheldon Moldoff

Interview Conducted and Edited by Roy Thomas
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson

From Alter Ego Vol. 3 #4

Shelly Moldoff with a recent re-creation of his first Hawkman cover for Flash Comics (#8), and what he calls "my favorite cover." [Photo courtesy of Sheldon Moldoff; Hawkman, Flash, Johnny Thunder, Whip, King, and Cliff Cornwall ©2000 DC Comics Inc.]

Presented here are excerpts from the interview. To read the full text, be sure to get a copy of ALTER EGO #4!

[Editor's Note: Under his quasi-pseudonym Shelly, Sheldon Moldoff would be the Hawkman artist from Flash Comics #2-61 and in All-Star Comics #1-23. But Shelly's accomplishments go far beyond even the Winged Wonder.]

ROY THOMAS: I understand another well-known comic book artist had something to do with your starting cartooning... Bernard Baily [artist of "Hour-Man," "The Spectre," et al.].

MOLDOFF: Yeah, he lived in the same apartment house I did in the Bronx. He was a few years older than me; he went to James Monroe High School, and he was also his school's newspaper cartoonist. He was a very good-looking guy, and I think he was class president. I was drawing in chalk on the sidewalk-Popeye and Betty Boop and other popular cartoons of the day-and he came by and looked at it and said, "Hey, do you want to learn how to draw cartoons?" I said, "Yes!" He said, "Come on, I'll show you how to draw."

So we went across the street and sat on a bench in the park, and he showed me how to start with a circle, and how to make the body, and how to make a smile, and the proportions for cartoons. He said, "Keep practicing. I live on the fourth floor, and if you want to show me some of your work, I'll be glad to look at it." So we became friendly, and I'd periodically go up and show him my stuff, and he would help me and criticize me.

Then he moved away while I was still in high school, and then a few years later I was at National bringing in some filler pages for Vin Sullivan and in walks Bernard Baily! He looked at me, and he said, "Sheldon?" I said, "Yeah, Bernie, how are ya?" He said, "Well, you made it, huh?" [laughs] I said, "Yeah, yeah, thanks to help from you and other people, I'm a cartoonist!"

RT: As of Flash #3, Dennis Neville, the first "Hawkman" artist, was gone, and Harry Lampert had left "The Flash," and you and E.E. Hibbard were doing those features. Did you ever find out why these big changes?

The Flash in a patriotic mood (against the stripes of the U.S. flag) in a 1993 drawing. [Art ©2000 Sheldon Moldoff; Flash ©2000 DC Comics Inc.; Flash illo courtesy of Scott McAdam. Scott's store, Treasures of Youth, in Hayward, California, has a website we encourage you to visit at]

MOLDOFF: I had met M.C. Gaines when I first walked into Sheldon Mayer's office, and he took a shine to me. I started working. Later on, I did special things that Gaines had me do... not in comic books, but publicity-type things. He's the one who said, "We're going to put you on 'Hawkman,' and do whatever you want with it. Do a good job; I know you can do it." And that was it!

RT: How did the idea come to you to employ the Alex Raymond approach? Neville hadn't done the strip that way.

MOLDOFF: No, his version was completely different. But when I looked at "Hawkman" and read a couple of stories, I said to myself, "This has to be done in a Raymond style." I could just feel it, like Raymond-or Foster.

RT: How did you work it? Had you kept a collection? Because you obviously couldn't go out and buy a collection of Flash Gordon or Prince Valiant in 1939 the way you can now.

MOLDOFF: Oh, I saved those Sunday pages and the daily papers for years! There isn't an artist around that does not have a file... a "morgue."

RT: Arlen Schumer discovered, while composing a cover for A/E V2#5, that even the very first "Batman" cover by Bob Kane [for Detective Comics #27, 1939] was a Flash Gordon swipe-which nobody ever seems to have noticed before! Kane's cartoonier style hides it, but the pose is a swipe. Which is okay. Everybody uses swipes; there's nothing wrong with that.

MOLDOFF: As a matter of fact, I met Albert Dorne early in my career; he had a cousin my age who introduced me to him. At that time he was considered the top commercial artist in New York City. He did ads for everybody; he was unbelievable. He had several different styles. He had a tremendous drawing board, and on it were tacked different swipes. When he got a job from an agency, regardless of what it was, he'd first get swipes. That would bring him up to date on every possible angle that would benefit the illustration. Then he went to work! Dorne was a master craftsman, but he found that, using swipes, you had something to lean on, and it could enhance your work! It could be photographs, it could be drawings, it could be color, it could be anything! But it helps you to get a better finished product.

RT: What was the first cover you did?

MOLDOFF: It was for More Fun Comics. A scene of a hunter being attacked by two wolves. Another early one was a pirate cover for Adventure Comics. [See illustrations on p. 8.]

RT: What quality do you think your work had-like that of Creig Flessel, Howard Purcell, Irwin Hasen, a few others-that made DC's editors say, "We want you, rather than the interior artist, to do the cover of Flash Comics #1 or the first Green Lantern cover on All-American [#16]?"

MOLDOFF: As I said, M.C. Gaines took a shine to me. He liked my style; he liked the realism. We were competing with the newspapers. When he picked up the Sunday papers, he saw Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates. When he picked up a comic book, there was a tremendous difference in the quality of the art.

And then, all of a sudden, he saw me... an 18-year-old coming around, and I'm almost a student of Raymond, and by God, the stuff looks good-it looks like Raymond!

We all leaned on these guys to learn-and we were very lucky, because while we were learning, we were selling the product, and I guess I was probably one of the best at that. I spent a lot of time on it. I had books on anatomy and shadows and wrinkles; I studied, and I worked very hard on it, and I think it showed.

RT: You probably didn't turn out that much work in any given month.

MOLDOFF: No. As a matter of fact, that was a problem. At one point Gaines said he wanted to put out a quarterly of Hawkman, but he said, "I want you to do the whole book!" [laughs] And the problem was that, doing all these other covers and all these other things, I just couldn't do a whole book of Hawkman!

RT: This must have been soon after Flash and Green Lantern got their own titles. It was clear that "Hawkman" was next in line (along with maybe "The Spectre," briefly), because he was on every second Flash cover. There's always been a question about why Hawkman didn't ever get his own book. Perhaps you've answered that. I've never heard that before.

"Hawkman" was generally nine pages in Flash Comics, and since All-Star was quarterly, later bimonthly, you were doing maybe three or four pages a month there of "Hawkman," too. When you were doing "Hawkman," were you still doing "Black Pirate"?

MOLDOFF: I was doing both at the same time. I was working seven days a week, trying to keep up with the deadlines!

RT: But we're still talking about trying to draw 15 or 20 pages a month, tops, right? Did you ever consider having someone else ink your pencils or assist you in some other way?

MOLDOFF: After I came out of the service and was working for other companies, I had fellows ink my stuff when I had a deadline or something. But up until the time I went into the service, I was a one-man show.

RT: For the first five issues, every Flash cover features a different hero-first Flash, then Hawkman, then Cliff Cornwall, The Whip, and The King. The Flash didn't repeat until #6, when he and Hawkman started alternating. Do you feel the publishers didn't know right away that it was Flash and Hawkman selling their book? That, even a year or two after Superman had debuted in Action, they still hadn't figured out what sold?

MOLDOFF: Well, I guess they weren't geniuses around there. [laughs] I do know that Gaines liked the Flash and Green Lantern covers; I did, I think, seven or eight of each of those. All he was interested in was, "Shelly, your covers are selling. Get an exciting scene in there." The covers often had nothing to do with the inside of the magazine!

But then Sheldon Mayer started getting letters from readers saying, "I bought the magazine, but I couldn't find that scene in any story!" So Gaines and Mayer decided the cover better represent one of the stories.

RT: It's interesting to hear you say they were getting letters, because they had no letters pages in those days, so no fans would have known if there was anyone besides themselves reading the things!

MOLDOFF: No, there were plenty of letters that would come in. I remember M.C. Gaines told me once, "You know, Shelly, you get a lot of fan mail." I said, "I do?"

In fact, I got a letter in those early days from the NEA Service Syndicate in Cleveland, Ohio. It went to National [DC], and they forwarded it to me. I opened it, and they were offering me a job in the syndicate, cartooning! I got all excited about it!

A few days later, I was bringing some work in to National, and Gaines was there. He said to me, "Shelly, I see you got a letter from NEA Syndicate in Cleveland. What did they do, offer you a job?"

I said, "Yeah, they did. And I'm thinking about it, because every artist wants to work for a syndicate, hoping for a newspaper strip."

So he said, "Shelly, I think your future is really in comic books, you know? Think about it."

At that time I'm still living with my parents-and a week later I got a letter from National, and it's to my mother! She read it and she said to me, "Sheldon, look at this beautiful letter I got!" And it was typed and signed by Jack Liebowitz and M.C. Gaines, and they said they liked me, and they would like me to stay in comic books, and that my future was in comic books, and that they would match any offer that NEA gave.

My mother said, "Isn't that wonderful? You don't have to go!"

I said, "Yeah, but that's a syndicate, so I'm really seriously considering it."

She said, "Well, you'd be away from home... you're going to go out to Ohio, and I'll miss you," and all that kind of parent stuff. The next time I went down to the office, I said, "Thank you for that letter."

M.C. Gaines said, "Sheldon, we'll match anything they offer you; you're going to have a big future in comic books and we think you should stay here."

Jack Liebowitz came out. Both of them talked to me. From then on, I decided to stay, and I have to say that-until Gaines' accident-they always treated me wonderful. I never asked for any favors. I never went to them and said, "I need more work," or anything like that; I respected them. I'm grateful to them.

RT: I know Gardner Fox wrote all, or nearly all, of those early "Hawkman" stories. Did you ever work directly with him, or did you just get your scripts from Mayer?

You can't beat this combo! A 1994 Hawkman-Flash illo by S.M. [Art ©2000 Sheldon Moldoff; Hawkman & Flash ©2000 DC Comics Inc. Courtesy of Jerry Boyd.]

MOLDOFF: The only contact I ever had with Gardner would be on the telephone, or if I met him in the office by accident. We were friendly. Then I started "The Black Pirate." I wanted my own idea, my own creation, and there was a silent picture with Douglas Fairbanks by that name I must have seen as a kid. I wanted that swashbuckling type of guy. I loved the name "The Black Pirate," and who knows from copyrights?

I wrote the first half dozen "Black Pirate" stories in Sensation Comics. And then Sheldon Mayer said, "You know, you've got too much to do. You can't handle all this, and Gardner Fox is going to write 'The Black Pirate.'"

You know, it's always a search for sales, and when a character isn't doing well, then the editors and the writers get busy seeing how they can hype it up. None of us knows the answer; otherwise we'd all be geniuses. You just have to keep trying.

RT: So having Gardner write the feature just saved you time?

MOLDOFF: Yes. But you know, Roy, it was also a question of everybody trying to make a living. Maybe Sheldon Mayer figured I had enough to do drawing, and Gardner Fox could use a little more work, and gave him the writing. You know what I'm saying? These things all come into consideration.

RT: Did you know Dennis Neville, your predecessor on "Hawkman"?

MOLDOFF: No. But I used to watch when some of these artists and writers came in, and some of them were older people. And there would be friction between the editor (and sometimes even between Gaines) and some of these people, because they couldn't produce that much work. They weren't used to it, and there was a heavy demand, and now there was a lot of competition coming up. I saw some of them treated pretty shamefully.

Sheldon Mayer was very tough on a lot of people. That's why we had our parting of the ways.

RT: What kind of editor was Shelly Mayer? I realize in retrospect that he edited many of my favorite comics in the last half of the '40s... All-Star, Flash, Green Lantern, All-American, Wonder Woman... but naturally you hear stories, both good and bad, from different people... as you would about nearly anybody, I guess....

MOLDOFF: Sheldon Mayer was very clever, a very good cartoonist, and he knew what he wanted. He was never crazy about adventure stuff. He preferred the "Scribbly" type of thing. Unfortunately, those things weren't selling; the bread-and-butter was the adventure stuff, the super-heroes. He was a very eccentric guy, and we were friends for years. We double-dated-my Shirley, who I was not married to then; and he had a couple of different girlfriends-and we went horseback-riding together. And then Shelly and I had a falling out before I went into the service.

RT: What happened?

MOLDOFF: I came into the office one day and I said, "Shelly, I'm really working hard, and I'd like a raise." And he said, "Oh, no, you're getting top dollar now." I said, "Well, I think I deserve it. I've worked very hard, I'm doing all the covers and things like that. Would you mind if I asked Mr. Gaines?" He said, "Well, I can't stop you if you want to see Mr. Gaines."

So I went to Gaines' office, and asked the secretary sitting outside if I could see Gaines. And he heard my voice from the hallway-you know, the office had walls that went only halfway up, there were glass partitions; everything was like cells, separated, so it was easy to hear somebody if they were outside. He said, "Is that you, Shelly? Come on in!" So I walked in and said, "How are you, Mr. Gaines?" He said, "Fine, what's up?" I said, "I would like a raise." He said, "You want a raise? How much do you want?" I said, "I'd like another five dollars a page." He said, "You've got it!"

RT: That was a lot of money then!

MOLDOFF: So I walk out, and I've got a big smile, and Sheldon Mayer is there, and he says, "What happened?" I said, "I got the raise." He said, "How much?" I said, "I got another five dollars a page." And he looked at me and said, "You son of a bitch. You're making more money than I am." And that was the end of our friendship!

I went into the service two or three months after that, and when I got out, he wouldn't give me back "Hawkman" or "The Black Pirate." He would have nothing to do with me. You know, Irwin Hasen tells a similar story.

RT: For the most part, I discovered your "Hawkman" work in the early 1960s when I started to collect old issues of All-Star, but I liked it at once. Hawkman was my favorite comic character. And it seems he was almost always blessed with better artwork than most features had.

In terms of sales, I guess the period when you were drawing it was when Flash Comics was at its height, because it was the early- to mid-'40s. Between you, you and Joe Kubert did the great, great majority of "Hawkman" stories in both Flash and All-Star.

MOLDOFF: We were the base for it. Sometimes I've seen some of the stuff that's been done lately with the characters, and I can't criticize, because I'm not really "with it." I don't know what the demands are today, what type of person is buying or reading it, but I just find that the books themselves, in general, don't put enough attention to a good story. The stories have a lot of flair, but there's nothing on the page!

RT: I know what you mean. Anyway, around 1942, in addition to all the work you were doing for DC, you drew the first "Kid Eternity" story for Quality, for Busy Arnold, didn't you? [See p. 11.]

MOLDOFF: Yeah. I was always a freelancer. I never had a contract, and DC didn't prohibit you from doing anything. Quality called me, and I took a shot at it, but it didn't work out, and I just did maybe a couple of stories, and that was it.

RT: About that situation with Shelly Mayer-companies were really supposed to give veterans their old jobs back after the War, weren't they?

MOLDOFF: Not only publishers-everybody was supposed to give servicemen their jobs back. But Mayer said, "No, you're not working for me!" I was never on a contract, and that was probably the "out." You know, my nature is, if I feel I'm not wanted, I'm not going to force it, you know what I mean?

RT: What did you do when you discovered you weren't going to get any work at all from DC? Where did you go first?

MOLDOFF: It may have been Fawcett-I'm not sure. I started with them in 1946. I did Captain Midnight, Tex Ritter, the cowboy strip, and I did a few Don Winslow of the Navy, not many.

In those days, the way they worked was so much different from the way they work today. [Fawcett executive editor] Will Lieberson called me in and said, "We want you to do some Captain Midnight stories. We'll give you some of the old issues, and just keep that character." And that's what they did. [Editor] Stanley Kaufman gave me a script and some old back issues for reference. [See p. 12.]

Same thing happened later, when I was with DC again and Murray Boltinoff wanted me to do Blackhawk. He gave me some of Chuck Cuidera's inks and said, "Just follow this style. Dick Dillin's going to pencil them, so just ink it the way Chuck Cuidera would ink it." And that's the way I did it. Today, each artist draws in his own independent, individual style.

RT: You had signed "Hawkman" and "Black Pirate" as "Shelly." Did you have any desire to sign the work at Fawcett later on?

MOLDOFF: Fawcett didn't want you to sign it. But I found working for Fawcett very good. Will Lieberson and I became friends, and we socialized. I did a lot of work for him. I did some comics for a movie producer, some comic books they used in their ads.

RT: Didn't you do "Sargon the Sorcerer" and Mr. District Attorney later? How did you wind up working again for DC after your situation with Mayer?

MOLDOFF: I started ghosting for Bob Kane. And while I was doing all his pencils, he once said to me, "Shelly, could you use more work?" Because "Batman" didn't take all my time, I said, "I can always use work." He said, "I'm going to call Jack Schiff, because he mentioned to me they needed some artists." Jack Schiff and Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan worked in the same cell, and they all gave me work. Then Mort Weisinger came in, and I ended up doing a lot of Curt Swan inking.

RT: This was after Shelly Mayer left in '48?

MOLDOFF: Yeah. He was a head case, and they had sent him home. They put up with him for a few years in the office, and then finally they disconnected him, and he went home to work. He kept working on his own little strips, but he worked at home.

RT: You also did some work for Pines, on "Tigra"?

MOLDOFF: She was like "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle." And for [editor] Dick Hughes I did "The Black Terror."

RT: That was a beautiful-looking hero. I used a lot of his costume when I designed my DC character, "Mr. Bones," in the early '80s.

MOLDOFF: I also did Commander Battle and the Atomic Sub.

RT: I loved that book! That was in the early 1950s. It reminded me of a sub-sea Blackhawks. There were only a few issues, one or two of which had this weird supposed "3D effect."

MOLDOFF: That was the whole purpose, to get a 3D effect. We worked on Craft-Tint paper. What happened is that it came at a time when sales were awful, so it had a short life.

The same thing with Max Gaines before he died. I started Moon Girl for him at his new company, EC [originally "Educational Comics"]: Moon Girl and The Prince. The same thing-it started out nice, but sales weren't good, so then they dropped The Prince and just called it Moon Girl. And then, unfortunately, Max Gaines was killed in a motorboating accident.

RT: Moon Girl was another of example of your work I enjoyed in that period, without knowing who drew it. Wasn't Gardner Fox the writer?

MOLDOFF: I think maybe he was.

RT: It was such a blatant swipe of Wonder Woman as a concept-even down to the origin.

MOLDOFF: Well, I didn't have anything to do with that.

RT: [laughs] I didn't figure you did. She didn't particularly look like Wonder Woman; she was just written like Wonder Woman.

MOLDOFF: As a matter of fact, when it first came out, Max Gaines said the people at DC were bitching about it.

RT: Can't say I blame them! Still, I'm very proud of the color drawing you did for me of Moon Girl and The Prince. [See p. 12.]

MOLDOFF: Yeah, a few people ask for that nowadays, along with Batman and Hawkman.

RT: EC changed the title to Moon Girl Fights Crime, and then dropped Moon Girl totally and turned it into a love comic called A Moon... a Girl... Romance for four issues. I guess she just never caught on in that time when super-heroes weren't the big thing anymore.

MOLDOFF: Well, as I said, you've got to come out at the right time and the right place. An interesting part of my career-and I have written proof, since I've kept all my records from 'way back-

When Max Gaines was killed in his motorboat accident, his son Bill took over EC. I had met Bill before, but now he was in charge, and I was doing some work for him. I asked him, "How's things going?" He said, "Lousy. The family's considering closing up and getting out of the comic book business." I said, "Bill, if I give you an idea which I think will be the next trend, will you give me a contract and a percentage of sales if it shows a profit? I only want it if there's a profit; I'd get paid a percentage of the profit. I think I know what's going to come in next." And he said, "I'd be glad to!" I said, "Okay, I'm going to bring you a couple of titles and a little breakdown, and show you what I have in mind."

So when I came back, I showed him two titles. One was Tales of the Supernatural, and the other was This Magazine Is Haunted. And I said, "This is going to be it: horror. This is going to come on strong."

RT: What made you think that? Was it the former success of radio shows like Inner Sanctum?

MOLDOFF: I just had a feeling. You know, Roy, I have a box of ideas I showed to different people over my career. Many of them have become reality, but not for me! Do you know what I'm saying? I was always trying, and I just had a feeling this was it, that horror was going to come in. So he said to me, "I'm going to give you a contract. I'll have Dave Alterbaum draw up a contract."

I went home and I started on it. I got Johnny Craig to draw two stories and a cover. Gardner Fox wrote a story; another fellow also did one, I drew a story, and I put the book together. Meanwhile, Dave Alterbaum drew up a contract. I knew him; he had been Max Gaines' lawyer.

RT: And now he was Bill Gaines' lawyer.

MOLDOFF: He was the family lawyer! So I bring the work down, and Gaines has the contract ready, and I sign it, and I'm all excited about it, you know? And he looked at me and said, "Terrific." He likes it.

I said, "I've got some other artists lined up. Do you want me to start on the next one?"

He said, "No, wait, hold it. I'll let you know."

So I go home, and weeks go by, and I don't hear from him. So I called him again and said, "Are you ready for a second issue?"

He said, "No, just hold it; I'll get back to you."

Months go by, and in the meantime I'm busy with other work, I'm doing other things-and now, quite a few months later, I see on the newsstand Bill Gaines' horror books, Tales from the Crypt and all this other stuff! I say, "What the hell is this?" I look at it, and sure enough, it's coming from EC Publications!

So I went running down there, and they're still at Lafayette Street, and I said, "Bill, what is this?" He said, "I knew you'd be here." I said, "Well, do you blame me? We have a contract, and you're supposed to use mine! I'm supposed to be the horror man!" He said, "Well, I decided I'm not going to give percentages. I don't want to give percentages. I'll give you all the work you want, but no percentages." I said, "No, we had an agreement, and I want you to honor it!" He said, "Well, there's nothing you can do about it, Shelly. I decided I'm not paying anybody percentages."

So I went down to see Dave Alterbaum, and I said, "Dave, I just came from Bill Gaines', and he's not honoring the contract. What's this all about?" And he put his arm on me and said, "Shelly, you're young and inexperienced, but you'll learn. There's nothing you can do about it. If you try to sue, we'll blackball you in the business."

Well, I got scared, and I said, "That's terrible! How do you do such a thing like that?" He said, "That's business."

So I went back and talked to my wife, and I was fretting, and I went to see a lawyer somebody had told me to see. And he looked at me and said, "Sheldon, the contract's worthless; it doesn't protect you at all. Next time you have an idea, you get your own lawyer, and you have him protect you! Don't go and depend on somebody else's lawyer, because they'll screw you every time. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about it."

No moon in sight, but bats and hawks we've got! This beautiful 19" x 14" color commission piece, done in 1991, is from Ye Editor's private collection.
Art ©2000 Sheldon Moldoff; Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Batman, Batwoman ©2000 DC Comics Inc.

RT: Not exactly the avuncular image one usually has of Bill Gaines.

MOLDOFF: I ran into Johnny Craig in the subway months later. I said to him, "You know, he really screwed me, Johnny. You did two horror stories for me, and you know damn well he screwed me!" He didn't say anything, he just shrugged. I said, "I know you're in a tough position; you've got a lot of work. But you know damn well he screwed me!" He didn't say anything, he just shrugged, and he went on to be one of the mainstays of the [EC] horror books.

Gaines took the horror stories I had packaged, and he put them in different magazines. One magazine article said that this story by Johnny Craig and one Moon Girl horror story I drew were the beginning of Gaines' horror cycle. They gave credit to those two stories for starting it all. And I still have the sheet in my books which shows that I paid Johnny Craig, and the name of the story, and how much I paid him, and the date! So I have all this material, and there's no question that I produced that first book.

I'm very grateful that DC has come out with this new Batman book, and the writer, Les Daniels, finally gave me recognition and credit for all the Batmans I did. This fellow Steve Korté has been very nice, too. But I'm tired of this horror nonsense being kicked around as Bill Gaines' hall-of-famer, you know, and I want credit for that.

RT: And if you've got proof, there's no reason you shouldn't have it, even if Gaines and Feldstein developed the material later in their own way.

MOLDOFF: If experts test the the paper of the documents I've got, they'll see that the paper goes back to 1948; they'll see that this is the original. I paid Johnny Craig and I paid Gardner Fox, and what I paid them is written down here. It was the first EC horror book.

RT: How many of your horror stories did they end up using?

MOLDOFF: There were four stories in all. The one I did myself was in Moon Girl.

RT: I know that, later, This Magazine Is Haunted wound up as a Fawcett title.

MOLDOFF: Right. As a matter of fact, I had shown This Magazine Is Haunted and Tales of the Supernatural to Will Lieberson before I showed them to Bill Gaines, because I trusted Will Lieberson much more. He showed it to the big guys at Fawcett, and he said, "Shelly, Fawcett doesn't want to get into horror now; they don't want to touch that."

Then I went to Bill Gaines! He was my second choice. But after horror started to catch on, I came back and Will Lieberson said, "Let me bring it back to Fawcett again, and see if they'll take the title." And so they did; they took This Magazine Is Haunted and Worlds of Fear and then Strange Suspense Stories. What they did was pay me $100 for the title, and give me as much work as I wanted, and I also did the covers. So that went on that way.

RT: Until the whole horror thing collapsed.

MOLDOFF: Well, it had its run, like everything else. They got a little too deadly, a little too gruesome.

RT: I don't think Fawcett's horror comics were ever as strong as at EC and a few other companies.

MOLDOFF: Lieberson said that Fawcett wouldn't go for it. In fact, there was a girl editor named Ginny Proviserio. I did a romance comic with her, and then she did the horror, she did Haunted.

I also worked for Parents' Magazine! I did a strip for them. They had Calling All Girls and Calling All Boys.

RT: At the same time you were doing the horror comic for Fawcett?

MOLDOFF: [laughs] Oh, yeah! The Parents thing was about a tugboat captain; it was started by Bernard Baily, and then he couldn't do it, or didn't want to, and I took it over. I also did some work for-who's that horror guy? "Ghastly"?

RT: Graham Ingles?

MOLDOFF: Graham Ingles. I met Graham just before the horror came along. He and another writer were putting out some magazines for somebody, so I did some work for him. But those magazines weren't doing well. He had some of his pages there which he did with a brush, with a lot of black... a tremendous amount of black. I said, "Gee, I love this stuff!"

Then it ceased; he didn't have much work. I met him in Manhattan months later, and I said, "You know, I've got a deal cooking, and you're going to be part of it. We're going to put out a horror magazine, and I think your style will be great."

He asked, "How do you know?"

I said, "Because I can feel it, the way you do shadows, the way you use your blacks; I think it'd be fantastic."

He just looked at me and walked away. He was a strange character, but a pretty talented guy. He ended up with Gaines. I think he did some Westerns, and then he became a great horror artist. He had a beautiful way of brushing his blacks. He barely penciled... very sketchy pencil. It was all done with the brush, and he was very good.

Then he moved to Florida, and I never heard anything about him until he died a couple of years ago. I'd say he was 40-50 minutes from where I lived. I didn't know he was there until I read the obituary column. He wanted to be a painter, a serious painter, and he was teaching painting until he died.

RT: You also did some horror for Timely/Atlas, didn't you?

MOLDOFF: I did some stories for them. I didn't sell any covers or any magazines to them, but I did some stories.

RT: Years later, didn't you also do Sea Devils and "Legion of Super-Heroes" and Superboy for DC?

MOLDOFF: Yeah, I did that for Mort Weisinger. I did Sea Devils for George Kashdan. The Sea Devils work was just inking, with Howard Purcell penciling.

RT: You also did a lot of commercial comics like Big Boy and the like, didn't you?

MOLDOFF: If I listed all those books, it would be twenty or thirty companies, including Blockbuster, KMart, Burger King, GNC Vitamins, Travelers' Insurance, Shoney's Restaurants, Red Lobster Restaurants, Sea Escape, Captain D's, Auto-Nation, Golden Corral, Cablevision...

All these giveaways I did in Florida, they're all in comics style. You know, the greatest part of this was that I wrote it, I penciled and inked it, and a lot of it I colored myself, same as an animated cel, with acrylic paint. That's the way I did it for Shoney's and Big Boy, and they printed from that. I did not have an editor, I didn't have to answer to anybody! I was my own boss, and it was great! [laughs] It was terrific. The only thing they did was proofread. I would say, out of my whole sixty years of doing comics, that was probably the most enjoyable job!

RT: Tell us a little about the re-creations you do these days, for sale by mail or at comics conventions.

MOLDOFF: I've gotten a lot of compliments on that interview that you printed [conducted by Bill Schelly for Alter Ego, Vol. 2, #5, as part of CBA]. I've had people call me or write to me and say, "We got your address, we read the article, and we're so glad you're finally getting the credit for the stories we enjoyed all those years." I've got a great response, and they all refer to your magazine.

RT: I like to see people get credit, and if they can also get a little bit of money... Along with Batman, Hawkman, and Moon Girl, and a few characters you drew on covers, like Flash and Green Lantern, have you done any re-creations of the host of This Magazine Is Haunted?

MOLDOFF: Dr. Death? I got one in the last couple of months that wanted Dr. Death with a girl in a cemetery. I've done a number of re-creations of horror covers I had done.

RT: Well, thank you very much, Shelly.

MOLDOFF: My pleasure, Roy.

[NOTE: Sheldon Moldoff appears at various comics conventions around the country, including MegaCon in Orlando, Florida; the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina; and often the San Diego Convention. See end-comments to the Harry Lampert interview in our "Flash" section for information on these upcoming conventions. Anyone wishing to receive information regard Shelly's re-creations should contact him at: 3710 Inverrary Drive 1W, Lauderhill, FL 33319. Phone (954) 485-8551.]

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