An Interview With Sheldon Moldoff - The Prolific Penciller Behind Early Batman

Written by Bryan Stroud

Sheldon Moldoff sitting at his drawing table.

Sheldon Moldoff sitting at his drawing table.

Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff (born on April 14, 1920) was an American comic artist best known for his early work on the DC Comics characters Hawkman & Hawkgirl, and as one of Bob Kane's primary "ghost artists" (uncredited collaborators) on Batman. He co-created the Batman characters Calendar Man, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface (Matt Hagen), Bat-Mite, Bat-Girl, Batwoman, and Ace the Bat-Hound. Moldoff is also the sole creator of the Black Pirate. In his time working with the Dark Knight, Sheldon pencilled: 146 issues of Detective Comics, 121 issues of Batman, and 61 issues of World's Finest Comics.

Mr. Moldoff passed away on February 29, 2012 at the age of 91.

Batman: The Beginning by Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff.

As my little journey continued and I started to see some success, I began to get interested in certain flavors of creator, if you will.  I was fascinated, for instance, in the many ghosts of Bob Kane so it seemed logical to seek out perhaps the most prolific - Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff.  Legend has it that at Bob Kane's funeral, Marty Pasko commented to Julie Schwartz that someone should make certain it wasn't Shelly in the casket.  When I called, he preferred that I send him my questions through the mail, so once again, I was unable to influence his responses or get clarification as I'd have liked to, but it's still a letter I treasure.  Later on I'd have the chance to catch Shelly in a talkative mood and he shared some interesting tidbits.

This interview took place through the mail in May of 2007.

Bryan Stroud:  Your major contribution to DC’s Silver Age was your ghost work for Bob Kane on the Batman titles from the early 50’s to the late 60’s.  What was that like?  Did you ever tire of drawing and sometimes inking the character?

Sheldon “Shelly” Moldoff:  I never tired of drawing.

Batman #156. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

Detective Comics #352 splash page original art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Batman #156 cover recreation commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  How did you manage to keep your “ghost” status under wraps?

SM:  I never advertised that I was Kane’s ghost.  But I’m sure some editors suspected it—but never mentioned it!

Stroud:  I understand you and Kane co-created Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl along with Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat Hound.  Was the last name “Kane” a coincidence? 

SMKane didn’t co-create any characters.  I read the script and developed the characters.

Stroud:  Why were you, Wayne Boring and Joe Papp let go in 1967?  Did it have anything to do with the effort to get some benefits from DC for the freelancers or was it due to the sale of DC and the departure of Irwin Donenfeld?

SM:  Sales of comics were down – D.C. editors decided to change to a more realistic style to accommodate the change in storylines. 

Golden-Age Hawkman commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff with Batman & Robin art.

Sheldon Moldoff with Batman & Robin art.

Hawkman recreation commission done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Am I correct in saying you created Hawkgirl?  A husband and wife superhero team was quite a different idea what with all the sidekicks at the time like Robin, Green Arrow’s Speedy and so forth.

SM:  I created Hawkgirl!

Stroud:  Were you involved at all in the daily Batman comic strip?

SM:  I was not involved in the daily Batman strip.

Stroud:  What were your impressions of Bob Kane?  Did you work much with Bill Finger?

SM:  I don’t care to discuss Bob KaneFinger was a good story man – and was happy to be working!!

Moon Girl #4 original cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Action Comics #287 original cover art by Curt Swan & Shelly Moldoff

Moon Girl #4 original cover art by Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Legend has it that Batman was in danger of being canceled in the late 60’s.  Is that true and how could it be?  Everyone knows the Batman. 

SMJack Liebowitz would not permit Batman to be canceled.  He proved right!

Stroud:  I understand you did work on the Sea Devils, the Legion of Super-heroes and Superboy.  When was that and in what capacity? 

SM:  I only inked Sea Devils.  Inked the others.  Did a lot of inking on Curt Swan’s Superman.

Stroud:  The Batman logo has changed several times over the years.  Whose idea was it and who designed the updates?

SM:  The lettering department sometimes changed the logos.

Bat-Mite commission from 2011 done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Bat-Mite commission from 2011 done by Sheldon Moldoff.

Batman commission from Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff.

Stroud:  Do you still do commissions?  How would someone contact you to get one?

SM:  Very few commissions. 

Stroud:  Have you seen the Batman Returns movie?  What did you think?

SMBatman movies are fair…comic books tend to be more realistic in art and story.  (I suspect Shelly thought I was referring to the animated movies.) 

Stroud:  Are comic books becoming obsolete art forms?

SM:  No one knows why some features become so successful – and others fail – if we did, we would have a hit every time we came up to bat.

Flash Comics #1. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

Sheldon Moldoff signing a book.

Sheldon Moldoff signing a book.

All-American Comics #16. Cover pencils by Sheldon Moldoff.

More facts about Shelly Moldoff (courtesy of Mark Evanier):

  • He was one of the artists who worked on the historic Action Comics #1 (1938) which featured the first appearance of Superman.  He didn’t work on the Superman material in that issue but he did have artwork in what some call the most important comic book ever published.  And he was the last surviving person who did.

  • He worked as an assistant and ghost artist to Bob Kane on the earliest Batman stories that appeared in Detective Comics.

  • He drew the cover of Flash Comics #1 (1940) which introduced the original Flash to the world.

  • He drew the cover of All-American Comics #16 (1940) which introduced the original Green Lantern to the world.

  • He was the artist of the original Hawkman feature beginning with the character’s fourth appearance and continuing for several years.

  • He was by some accounts the inventor of the horror comic book, having proposed the idea to EC Comics publisher William Gaines before Gaines came out with his own Tales From the Crypt.

  • He was the ghost artist for Bob Kane on the Batman comic book stories and covers that Kane allegedly drew between 1953 and 1967.  He also worked for DC Comics directly, often as an inker of covers on all their key titles including the Superman books.

  • He also worked for Kane as the main artist/designer of the animated TV series, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse.

Courageous Cat, Minute Mouse, and Flat-Face Frog - circa 1980. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.


Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.