News, notes and follow-ups

Category: cartoonists

Dwayne McDuffie, comic book writer and 'Static Shock' creator, dies at 49 [updated]

Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote scores of comic books for Marvel and DC and founded his own publishing company before crossing over to television and animation, died Monday, DC Comics said. He was 49.

[Corrected 3:20 p.m.] An earlier post said he died Tuesday. 

The cause and place of death were not immediately known.

McDuffie, a Detroit native, wrote comics for the New York-based DC and Marvel, including runs on "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight," the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America. He also penned several animated features, including the just-released "All-Star Superman," ''Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" and the animated TV series "Static Shock" and "Ben 10: Alien Force."

He founded publishing company Milestone Media in 1992.

[updated 5:55 p.m.] More from the Associated Press:

News of McDuffie's death was first reported Tuesday by the website Comic Book Resources. As recently as last week, McDuffie attended the premieres of the new "All Star Superman" film in Los Angeles and New York, and was scheduled to appear at an event this week at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles.

McDuffie tweeted last week that he was "Taking a break from a script I owe to attend the LA premiere of ‘All Star Superman.’"

McDuffie's work for Marvel included "Damage Control," which took a serious but fictional look at a company whose job it was to clean up the damage — both physical and legal — resulting from battles between superheroes and supervillains. In 1992, however, he formed the comic book company Milestone Media, which gave him the freedom and leeway to create his own characters, many of whom were of differing ethnic backgrounds.

Milestone Media focused on multicultural superheroes including "Hardware," "Icon," "Blood Syndicate," "Xombi" and "Static," which was turned into the popular children's cartoon "Static Shock," on which he served as a story editor.

McDuffie also wrote for other titles and characters, too, including Black Panther and Deathlok.

Besides comics, McDuffie was a producer and story editor on Cartoon Network's "Justice League Unlimited," and wrote and produced episodes of other cartoons, including "What's New, Scooby Doo?," "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien" and "Teen Titans."

McDuffie was nominated for two Emmy Awards for "Static Shock," a Writers Guild award for "Justice League" and three Eisner awards for his work in comic books, his website said.

McDuffie's death took his colleagues and friends by surprise.

Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment, said the writer "left a lasting legacy on the world of comics that many writers can only aspire to. He will not only be remembered as an extremely gifted writer whose scripts have been realized as comics books, in television shows and on the silver screen, but as the creator or co-create of so many of the much-loved Milestone characters, including Static Shock."

Added DiDio: "The industry has lost a true talent."

Tom Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president for publishing, said McDuffie was a force behind bringing more diversity into comics.

"He was very interested in creating a wider range of multiculturalism in comics, having been profoundly affected by the example of the Black Panther when he was growing up, and wanting to give that same opportunity to others of all races, creeds and religions, which is one of the reasons he left Marvel and co-founded Milestone," Brevoort told the Associated Press. "And he eventually came back to write both 'Beyond!' and 'Fantastic Four' for me."

— Associated Press

New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum dies in Malibu at 68 [updated]

Leo Cullum, a cartoonist whose drawings helped define the look of the New Yorker magazine in recent decades, died of cancer Saturday in Malibu, his brother Thomas said. He was 68.

For 33 years, Cullum contributed hundreds of cartoons to the magazine, featuring images of businessmen in sombreros, showgirls in courtrooms and smart aleck dogs. His distinctive drawings were often used for the magazine's caption contest.

Cullum worked as a pilot for TWA for 30 years, including his early years as a cartoonist.

-- Associated Press

For the record: An earlier version of this post said Cullum took up cartooning more seriously after TWA laid him off. In fact, Cullum was an active cartoonist during his airline career. He quit flying for TWA when he reached the airline's mandatory retirement age of 60.

Alexander Anderson, creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, dies at 90

Alexander Anderson, recognized as the creator of the cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, died Friday at a nursing home in Carmel, said his wife, Patricia. He was 90.

His work also included "Crusader Rabbit" for NBC, the first animated series created specifically for television.

Anderson came from a family of creative artists and in 1938 started working in animation with his uncle Paul Terry at Terrytoons, the New York studio that created "Mighty Mouse."

Anderson, who attended UC Berkeley and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, returned to Berkeley after serving in the Navy during World War II. He started working with childhood friend Jay Ward.

Anderson reached an out-of-court settlement in the 1990s with Jay Ward Productions over rights to Bullwinkle, Rocky and Dudley-Do-Right. The settlement recoginzed Anderson's creative role.

He filed the lawsuit after discovering Ward was the sole holder of the copyrights.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Services announced for Times cartoonist Paul Conrad [Updated]


A public memorial service for Paul Conrad, the Times editorial cartoonist who died Saturday at 86, is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, 5448 Crest Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. 

Instead of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Paul Conrad Scholarship at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Gifts can be mailed to the University of Iowa Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, IA  52244-4550. For more information, contact Jeff Liebermann at or (800) 648-6973.

A selection of his cartoons can be viewed in an online gallery.

[Updated 2 p.m. Tuesday: Here's a link to a remembrance of Conrad by former Times staff writer Deborah Schoch on LA Observed.]

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Times editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad at his drawing board. Credit: Huntington Library / Independent Television Service

Times editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad dies at 86


Paul Conrad, whose fiercely confrontational editorial cartoons made him one of the leading political provocateurs of the second half of the 20th century and helped push the Los Angeles Times to national prominence, has died. He was 86.

Conrad died early Saturday of natural causes, surrounded by his family at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, said his son David.

Conrad won three Pulitzer Prizes, a feat matched by only two other cartoonists in the post-World War II era, while both thrilling and infuriating readers for more than 50 years with an unyielding liberal stance, rendered in savage black and white.

Mayors, governors and presidents cringed at the prospect of being on the business end of Conrad's searing pen, while many Southern Californians made him their first stop as they sifted through The Times, the newspaper that was his principal home for nearly 30 years.

A full obituary will follow at

-- James Rainey and Claire Noland

Photo: Editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad of The Times. Credit: Huntington Library / ITVS

One year ago: Dina Gottliebova Babbitt

Babbit Dina Gottliebova Babbitt never got her pictures back.

Babbitt, a Holocaust survivor who died one year ago, fought for more than 30 years to retrieve portraits that she was forced to paint of fellow prisoners while she was imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp. She credited the paintings, which are kept at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, for saving her life.

A young art student when she was deported to Auschwitz, Babbitt drew a "Snow White" scene on a wall of a children's barracks to help soothe the youngsters. Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed hideous experiments on prisoners, heard of her talents and ordered her to paint portraits as mementos for his racist theories.

Babbitt said she told Mengele she would rather die if her mother was not also let out of a group of Jews scheduled to be gassed. Her mother was allowed to live. Her father and her fiance died elsewhere in the Holocaust.

After World War II, Babbitt went to Paris and became an assistant to American cartoonist Art Babbitt, one of Disney's "Snow White" animators. They married and moved to Hollywood and later divorced. She worked in animation at various Hollywood studios.

Then, out of the blue in 1973, the Auschwitz museum notified her that it had the paintings.

Despite her long campaign to reclaim the paintings, the museum has insisted that artifacts proving Holocaust history should be in their original setting.

For more, read Dina Gottliebova Babbitt's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Dina Gottliebova Babbitt. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

Shel Dorf 'new talent' fund to benefit from art show held in tandem with Comic-Con

  Dorf pix

Shel Dorf was such a presence at the pop-culture showcase known as Comic-Con that people casually referred to the annual San Diego gathering as “Dorf Con.”

After Dorf died at 76 in November, his brother established the Shel Dorf New Talent Encouragement Fund to provide financial help to high school and college students who want to work in the fields of comics and animation.

During this month’s Comic-Con International, a silent-auction art show -- dubbed AfterCon -- will be held to benefit the fund. Among the show’s contributors: Writer Ray Bradbury, Mad magazine artist Hermann Mejia and “The Simpsons” character designer Phil Ortiz.

The fund-raiser will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight at Suture Gallery, 655 10th Ave. The gallery is five blocks from Comic-Con headquarters at the San Diego Convention Center.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Shel Dorf with Warren Beatty on the set of "Dick Tracy" in 1990.

Frank Frazetta, renowned for sci-fi and fantasy art, dies at 82


Pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta died Monday morning at a hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., his manager said. He was 82.

Manager Rob Pistella said Frazetta died Monday, a day after suffering a stroke. He said Frazetta had been out to dinner with his daughters Sunday before falling ill.

Frazetta is renowned for his sci-fi and fantasy art. He created covers and illustrations for more than 150 books and comic books, including Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan.

Daughter Heidi Frazetta Grabin said she was hopeful that a dispute among siblings over their father's artwork had been resolved through recent negotiations.

Son Frank Frazetta was charged in December with using a backhoe to break into the artist's museum in the Poconos and trying to remove dozens of paintings.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Photo: Frank Frazetta with one of his paintings in 1994. Credit: David W. Coulter / Pocono Record/Associated Press

When Shel Dorf, junior detective, tracked down the creator of 'Dick Tracy' ... in 1949

Dorf picAs a child growing up in Detroit, Shel Dorf reached out to the cartoonists he worshiped by sending them custom Christmas cards. He was particularly taken with “Dick Tracy” and the comic-strip’s creator, Chester Gould.

When his father took a business trip to Chicago in 1949, Dorf and his younger brother, Michael, went along. Through some detective work of their own, they figured out that Gould lived in Woodstock, Ill., about 60 miles from Chicago.

“This is before celebrity stalkings,” his brother reminded me, as he recited the speech the teenage Dorf gave his father on the drive over: “Now listen, I want to do the talking. You always take over for me.”

When Gould opened the door and his young fan introduced himself, the friendly Gould responded, “Oh Sheldon, how are you?”

Thunderstruck that his hero recognized his name, Dorf was unable to speak for the next 15 minutes, and his father stepped in.

Dorf, who was a key founder of Comic-Con in San Diego, died Tuesday at 76. To read his obituary, click here.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Shel Dorf, from left, with his brother, Michael, and cartoonist Chester Gould, outside Gould's home in 1949. Credit: Dorf family photo

They may be dead, but these celebrities are nonetheless making money

It's that time of year, when Forbes magazine releases its annual list of top-earning dead celebrities. You might think Michael Jackson would top the list, since his estate has opened the floodgates with music and a film, "This Is It," to satisfy consumer demand for all things MJ in the wake of his unexpected death in June.

Laurent But no, holding on to the No.1 spot is French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Laurent died of brain cancer at age 71 in June 2008. Boosted by the auction of much of his estate at Christie's in February, more than $350 million has been raked in during the last 12 months, Forbes reported.

Coming in No. 2 is the team of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, the duo responsible for such Broadway and movie musicals as "South Pacific," "The King and I," "The Sound of Music," "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!" Rodgers died in 1979 and Hammerstein in 1960, but they still combined to earn $235 million in the last year.

Then Jackson shows up at No. 3 with $90 million.

The rest of the list, according to Forbes:

4. Elvis Presley, $55 million.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien, $50 million.

6. Charles Schulz, $35 million.

7. John Lennon, $15 million.

8. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), $15 million.

9. Albert Einstein, $10 million.

10. Michael Crichton, $9 million.

The full Forbes coverage is here.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at his London boutique in 1969. Credit: Associated Press


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