I was honored to be asked to host the awards in 2012. It was held during the Detroit Fanfare Comics Convention. The previous year, my pal Mike Bobbitt was the host, and the 2013 host will be actor Brian O'Halloran from the movie "Clerks".
The show seemed to go well, (I thought) with me introducing each of the presenters and basically keeping the show going.
My favorite memory of that night was after the lights came up and the show was over, I spotted these two guys sitting at the back of the room:
We started a little late, and partied way into the night. Here's how my opening speech went:
“The Shel Dorf Awards”… to an outsider it may sound like they named the awards by just grabbing some random Scrabble tiles out of a bag. Or maybe they’re named after an unused Masters of the Universe villain. But we know better. Shel Dorf is one of the reasons that we are even attending an event like this.
Shel was born in Detroit and eventually began a career in New York as a freelance commercial designer. He was a comics aficionado. So much so that his love for the medium brought him to work on 1990’s Dick Tracy movie. Shel has been credited with bringing Dick “Tracy to another generation.”
In 1965, Shel collaborated with others to organize the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, in an era when these types of events were few and far between. In 1970 he moved to San Diego, where he brought together the Golden State Comic Con, which would eventually grow into a little something called the San Diego Comic Con International.
In later years, he became something of a journalist, interviewing such luminaries as Milton Caniff, Mort Walker and Wally Wood. His presence has been felt one way or another throughout the comic world.
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I was asked to host tonight because I have some public speaking experience, had the night off, and there was no one else available.
They told me I could be funny if I wanted. I’ve been known to be funny. I tried writing some stuff about how Superman used to wear his underwear on the outside, and now (as far as we know) he’s going commando. I had one about the fact that Professor X just died for the nineteenth time and it made mainstream headlines, but I couldn’t do it. Mostly because those jokes are lame. Sure, we’ll share some laughs tonight, but we’re really here to celebrate our love for comics.
I love comics. I’ve been a collector since the early 1980’s, and I’m a DC guy. But my earliest memory of a comic book was one I read at a friend’s house in the late 70’s. It was a Spider-Man book. I can’t tell you if was Amazing or Spectacular or the issue number, but I remember the cover very vividly, and the story. It featured the Jackal and the Tarantula and The Return of Gwen Stacy. I had no idea who Gwen was going into the story, but I sure did when it was over. And she’s only returned a couple of times since then.
We don’t have time tonight to delve into my entire backstory, but I assure you, I love comics. My well-read, first-edition trade paperback copies of Sandman and Watchmen have been lent out to friends more times than a library. I own every issue of Superman and Action Comics printed since 1983. A page of original artwork from Top Ten by Gene Ha is one of my prized possessions. I’ve gotten sketches and autographs from the likes of Curt Swan, Gil Kane, Bernie Wrightson and Ramona Fradon.
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And we love all different kinds. I’m a fan of grown men in spandex and armor punching each other in the face. But maybe you’re not. Maybe you love fantasy books filled with magic and wonder. Maybe it’s crime thrillers for you. Or maybe you like autobiographical stories. I’ve been moved many times by stories by folks like James Kochalka, Alison Bechdel and Jeffery Brown.
Maybe you dig webcomics. There’s a great thrill in knowing you’re reading something that the creator maybe just finished and uploaded a few minutes ago. And with technology, you can take and read them anywhere and share with other fans so easily.
Technology makes it so simple to experience comics like never before. Not only does it help strengthen the community by creating groups of people who never would have otherwise met, it creates new fans, eager to try the “next big thing”.
And new fans are coming. In the past year, comics sales are up. People paid literally billions of dollars to see a Dark Knight rise, a Spider Man be amazing, and Avengers... um... avenge. And we fans who love comics so much welcome the newbies, saying “Yes! These characters are cool, and they live in interesting worlds where literally anything can happen.” And we hand them a favorite book from our own collections (first one’s always free) because we love comics.
Tonight, we honor those who create those interesting worlds with their fascinating stories. They work seemingly tirelessly to provide entertainment or just to make us think, and maybe open up some new eyes as well.
The Shel Dorf Awards are unique in that we the fans choose the winners, as well as the nominees. Anyone can nominate anyone. And so that means, yes, DragonBlogger1975@yahoo.com can nominate himself in every single category. It also means that there is no big media conglomerate driving the proceedings. These awards are for us, because we love comics.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge the participation tonight of so many local comic shops. There’s nothing like your comic store. I still get melancholy every time I drive down Washington in Royal Oak and remember where Dave’s Comics used to be (and if you’re in the car with me as we drive past, I will point it out).
When Dave closed up, I was lost and disillusioned. I briefly turned to the internet and had my comics delivered monthly. It was convenient, sure, but it wasn’t quite the same. There’s nothing like that weekly visit to shop and browse and chat with the person behind the register and other customers. Over time, a strange thing occurs. You become friends with these people. And that’s a something we should all cherish, because that’s an experience that’s very hard to find. So on behalf of the comics readers, I say to the shop owners “thanks for being there for us, because we couldn’t do it without you.”
And now that I’ve used up my allotted time, let’s get started with the Shel Dorf Awards.
I also made a friend that night (or at least made an acquaintance). I met writer, Paul Storrie. In the lobby, we recognized each other from our Twitter profile pictures. He's a nice fella. You should buy his stuff.