William Woolfolk

Writer for comics

William Winston Woolfolk, writer and cartoonist: born June 1917; thrice married (one daughter, one stepson); died Syracuse, New York 20 July 2003.

It has been said that William Woolfolk was the best-selling writer living in central New York over the past 20 years, but also the least well-known, despite his prolific output in three different fields and two Emmy Award nominations.

Born on Long Island in 1917, he was newly graduated from New York University when he won the Scribner Prize for short-story writing in 1940. His initial stint as an advertising copywriter gave way to freelance scriptwriting for the new and booming comics industry, starting with the MLJ (later renamed Archie Comics) superheroes in 1941. Within months his action-packed yarns were in demand by all the principal publishing houses, and his commissions included writing "Batman" and "Superman" for National Periodical Publications (the future DC Comics), "Captain America" for Timely Comics (an earlier incarnation of Marvel Comics), and "Captain Marvel" for Fawcett Publications, for whom he coined the hero's catchphrase "Holy Moley!"

But his name and fortune were secured in 1942, when Will Eisner, the creator and writer of "The Spirit", was called up for military service and Woolfolk stood in for him. "The Spirit", a satirical daily newspaper strip starring a masked detective, was widely syndicated, and Woolfolk scripted all the daily sequences, along with many of the (longer) Sunday ones. He became the best-paid writer in comics, raking in a weekly salary of $300 (compared to the average of about $30).

Years later, these much reprinted tales from what was officially designated as the Golden Age of comics, along with his superhero work, were to earn him the 2002 Comic-Con International Inkpot Award.

Superheroes were also to have a direct effect on Woolfolk's personal life: he met his second wife, Dorothy, in the 1940s while he was penning the "Superman" adventures and she was writing "Lois Lane" (about Superman's girlfriend). Both went on to become successful fiction writers, establishing a Woolfolk family tradition: Woolfolk's only two non-fiction books were collaborations with, respectively, his third wife, Joanna (The Great American Birth Rite, 1975), and his daughter, Donna Woolfolk Cross (Daddy's Little Girl: the unspoken bargain between fathers and their daughters, 1982), herself a widely published novelist.

But this was in the future: after his own Second World War service, he continued writing for comics and Shock, a short-story magazine, and attempted two short-lived publishing ventures. In the 1950s, with the comics industry imploding, he turned his attention to other forms of writing. Along with countless magazine articles, 1953 saw the publication of Naked Hunter, the first of 18 novels, several of which were best-sellers.

Some were romans à clef: The Beautiful Couple (1968) was based on Elizabeth Taylor's brief marriage to Mike Todd, while The Sex Goddess (1966) was modelled on Ava Gardner. Strangely, despite their massive popularity, none of these colourful works of fiction made it on to film or television.

Not that his talents were unsuited to the small screen, however: during the 1960s he moved to Hollywood and became chief scriptwriter and story editor on CBS's The Defenders. The television show, a controversial courtroom drama starring E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed, ran from 1961 to 1965 and won every award of its day, although Woolfolk himself had to be content with a mere pair of Emmy Award nominations.

Alan Woollcombe

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser