In Defense of OBcean Sheldon Dorf, One of the Founders of Comic-Con

by on July 22, 2022 · 2 comments

in History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Sheldon Dorf was one of the founders of Comic-Con and he lived in Ocean Beach for many years. He passed away at the age of 76 in 2009.

“Shel” has been the subject of numerous articles both in the local media and national outlets, like the Rolling Stone .

Currently the San Diego Reader has an article entitled, “In defense of San Diego Comic-Con co-founder Shel Dorf – Personal POV of the original annoying comic geek,” by Jay Allen Sanford. Near the end of the article, Sanford writes:

Having spent many years living in OB, Shel Dorf passed away after a long hospitalization at the age of 76 on November 3, 2009 at Sharp Memorial Hospital due to complications related to diabetes. His brother, Michael Dorf, was at his side until the end. Shel was buried next to his parents at the Home of Peace Cemetery.

“The guy just lived and breathed comics his whole life,” comic and television scripter Mark Evanier told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The Con was built on his passion and his cheerleading.” The Shel Dorf Awards, launched in 2010, have been presented at various pop culture conventions back in his early stomping grounds around Michigan.

The San Diego Comic-Con that Shel Dorf co-founded (now known as Comic-Con International) has yet to stage a Shel Dorf Awards show.

It turns out Dorf was quite a character, even a tragic figure gathering from the Rolling Stone article:

Many of the founders [of Comic-Con] would go on to successful careers. Barry Alfonso … Mike Towry … Richard Alf …  Scott Shaw … For Dorf, things were less smoothly. In a cruel bit of irony, the man whose primary asset was unabashed fandom and an ability to connect fans with creators – skills which he used to help found the most successful fan convention of all time – lived the bulk of his life feeling slighted by his creation and jealous of the younger people who found the creative and professional success he never had.

Though everyone interviewed for this article had positive things to say about Dorf’s involvement in the con – to a large extent, it was his idea – he was also a prickly personality, hard to get along with for even those who most wanted to support him. He died in 2009, alienated from the convention and having pushed away many of those he worked with.

Interesting that Dorf is still remembered and adorned and appreciated.

See earlier Rag posts on Dorf here.

Plus, see “Comic-Con’s Connections to Ocean Beach” here.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Blavatt July 22, 2022 at 12:49 pm

Quirky creatives living in Ocean Beach shape San Diego. They make San Diego great and draw people here. Historically for over-a-century, OB residents put San Diego on the map. Sadly, the city and others don’t get it… they continuously want to gentrify the beach town and drive out the OBeacans! Maybe if OB is allowed to “do its thing” the City could continue to reap the benefits?


Joni Halpern July 24, 2022 at 10:27 pm

Thanks for this article, Frank, and for the link to the Rolling Stone article. I agree with Kathleen Blavatt. We need quirky creative people, and we need the places in our city in which they feel welcome. Too much conformity is stifling.


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