Whitney Ellsworth

Fredric Whitney Ellsworth (November 27, 1908 – September 7, 1980) was an American comic book editor, and sometime writer and artist for DC Comics during the period known to historians and fans as the Golden Age of Comic Books. He was also DC's "movie studio contact," becoming both a producer and story editor on the TV series The Adventures of Superman.[3]

Whitney Ellsworth
Whitney Ellsworth
Ellsworth, probably in the 1970s.
BornFredric Whitney Ellsworth[1]
November 27, 1908[2]
Brooklyn, New York
DiedSeptember 7, 1980 (aged 71)
North Hollywood, US
Area(s)Comic book editor, television producer
Pseudonym(s)Frederic Wells, Fred Whitby, Whit Ellsworth,[1] Richard Fielding (w/ Robert Maxwell)
Notable works
(The Adventures of Superman (TV series))


Whitney "Whit" Ellsworth was born in Brooklyn, New York.[4] He took a cartooning course at the YMCA in Brooklyn and worked on the syndicated features Dumb Dora (for Newspaper Feature Service), Embarrassing Moments (providing plots, pencils and inks for both) and Just Kids (assisting with pencils and inks, for the King Features Syndicate) between 1927 and 1929.[1] In the early 1930s, he began working on another syndicated feature, Tillie the Toiler for King, as well as writing gag cartoons, articles and features for the Newark Star-Eagle/Ledger newspaper (1931–1934), also finding time to work on a number of pulp magazine stories throughout the 1930s.

National Allied Publications (DC)

In late 1934, he became associated with Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's fledgling company National Allied Publications, later known as DC Comics.[1][3] Initially an assistant editor, before becoming associate editor (1936–38), Ellsworth worked on such titles as Billy the Kid, Little Linda and More Fun Comics, as well as producing cover roughs for several years.[1] Ellsworth left the company in c. 1937-38[3] for a brief hiatus in California before returning to DC a couple of years later.[1] He subsequently served as editorial director until c. 1951–1953, in particular on such titles as the flagship titles Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Batman, Detective Comics and Superman between 1940 and 1951, and later on such diverse titles as The Adventures of Alan Ladd, All-Star Comics, Green Lantern, Mr. District Attorney, Real Fact Comics, Real Screen Comics, Scribbly, Superboy and Wonder Woman (among others) between 1948 and 1951.[1][3] In 1945, he licensed The Fox and the Crow and other animated characters from their distributor, Columbia Pictures.[5]


Ellsworth also wrote short stories for the pulp titles Black Bat, G-Man (including the Dan Fowler novel "Spotlight on Murder" in September 1942[1][6]) and The Phantom Detective (for which title he certainly ghosted two pulps – #76 Murder at the World's Fair and #77 The Forty Thieves in June and July 1939), among others.[1][7]

Comics, including Batman

Acting as DC's major creative guide and editor during the company's early years, Ellsworth oversaw editorially both scripts and art for several diverse comics (including the above as well as World's Best Comics and World's Finest Comics et al.), developed a number of projects (including creating Congo Bill in 1941) and wrote several more, including Hollywood Screen Shots (1936) (which, like some others, he also pencilled and inked), Slam Bradley, Genius Jones, Laughing at Life, Speed Saunders and Starman, among many other characters and comics.[1]

He also sketched "rough cover layouts for DC's top titles," including notably some for "Batman and Detective Comics until about 1946."[3]

Newspaper strip

Ellsworth was also the first writer on the Batman & Robin newspaper strip, which appeared first on Sundays and later on weekdays. Featuring artwork primarily from Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella, Ellsworth wrote the strip between 1966 and 1970, whereupon E. Nelson Bridwell took over for a couple of years.

TV and film

In addition to his extensive comics work, Ellsworth "was DC's movie studio contact" on a number of projects, keeping his "editorial director" title, but working mainly on "DC properties in Hollywood" between c. 1951–1959.[1]

The Superman serials

Ellsworth was the representative from National Comics during the production of the 1948 serial Superman, a position which gave him absolute control of the script and production. He initially objected to casting of Kirk Alyn as the lead, whom producer Sam Katzman had found by looking through studio photographs. This was made even worse when Alyn came in for a screen test, during filming on a historical film, with a goatee and moustache. These initial reservations were eventually overcome and Alyn got the part. Columbia's advertising claimed that they could not get an actor to fill the role so they had hired Superman himself. Kirk Alyn was merely playing Clark Kent.[8]

The Adventures of Superman

Most notably, Ellsworth was a consultant on the serial sequel Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950) (also with Kirk Alyn), and co-wrote the feature film Superman and the Mole Men (1951) before becoming a producer, episode writer, and script editor on the subsequent live-action TV series The Adventures of Superman (both starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel).[3] In 1958, he created a pilot titled Superpup, which attempted to capitalise on that series' success by recasting the Superman mythos in a fictional universe populated by dogs instead of people.

Three years later, Ellsworth helped produce another ultimately-aborted pilot for another spin-off series called The Adventures of Superboy.


According to noted comics historian Jerry Bails, Ellsworth was also a consultant on the two Batman serials in 1943 and 1949; the Superman serial starring Kirk Alyn that was a precursor to the later live-action Superman features, and the Congo Bill serial (1949).[1] He is listed as having been – for "one week only" – a consultant on the 1966 Batman TV series (with Adam West), and a writer for the Superman radio show during the war years.[1]

In addition, he wrote the Off-Broadway production Maiden Voyage (1935), for the TV series The Millionaire1 (1955) between c. 1954–56 and produced another pilot in 1961, this time for a "comedy-detective series starring Sheree North" to be called Here's O'Hare (ABC did not pursue the show).[9]

Ellsworth is also said by Bails to have helped co-write The Godfather.[1]

Later life

Ellsworth left DC (shortly after leaving the Batman newspaper strip) in 1970/1971. He died on September 7, 1980, in North Hollywood.[1][3] In 1985, he was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[10]

References in popular culture

  • The actor/film historian Jim Beaver, preparing a biography of Adventures of Superman star George Reeves, played a character called "Ellsworth" in the TV series Deadwood (2004). At his request, producer David Milch okayed the character being given the first name "Whitney" in homage to Reeves's Adventures of Superman producer.[4][11]
  • The actor Eric Johnson played the character Whitney Fordman in the Superman TV series Smallville (2001–2011). The name Whitney was a clear homage to Ellsworth, the producer (after Robert Maxwell) of the original Superman TV series.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Who's Who in American Comics: Whitney Ellsworth. Accessed May 10, 2008
  2. ^ "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JP4V-S3T : accessed February 25, 2013), Frederick Ellsworth, September 1980; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Biography by Joe Desris, in Batman Archives, Volume 3 (DC Comics, 1994), p. 222 ISBN 1-56389-099-2
  4. ^ a b Whitney Ellsworth biography at IMDb. Accessed May 10, 2008
  5. ^ Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. Animated cartoons were big business on movie screens, and lots of publishers hoped that success could translate onto the pages of comic books...DC editor Whitney Ellsworth licensed the characters of Charles Mintz' Screen Gems Studio from their distributor, Columbia. The resulting funny animal anthology, Real Screen Comics, starred the Fox and the Crow.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Pulp Superhero #D. Accessed May 10, 2008
  7. ^ The Phantom Detective index. Accessed May 10, 2008
  8. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "9. The Superheroes "Could Superman Knock Out Captain Marvel"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 206–215. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  9. ^ Whitney Ellsworth at the IMDb. Accessed May 10, 2008
  10. ^ Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Whitney Ellsworth From Comics to Television" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 24 (1985), DC Comics
  11. ^ Comic Book Legends Revealed #206, Comic Book Resources, May 7, 2009

External links

1979 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1979.

A. Whitney Ellsworth

Arthur Whitney Ellsworth (May 31, 1936, Manhattan – June 18, 2011, Salisbury, Connecticut) was an American editor and publisher best known as the first publisher of The New York Review of Books.

In 1957, Ellsworth was President of The Harvard Advocate. After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1958 he began his career as an editor at The Atlantic Monthly. In 1963 he became the first publisher of The New York Review of Books; a post he maintained until his retirement in December 1986. He thereafter worked as managing partner of the publishing firm The Lakeville Journal Company. In 1979 he founded the London Review of Books. His first marriage to writer Sallie Bingham ended in divorce.From 1976 to 1978, Ellsworth served as chairman of Amnesty International USA, devising a method of greatly increasing the organization's size and capabilities by setting up a direct-mail fund-raising operation. He also served as treasurer of the group for several years.Ellsworth died of pancreatic cancer.

Adventures of Superman (TV series)

Adventures of Superman is an American television series based on comic book characters and concepts that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created in 1938. The show was the first television series to feature Superman and began filming in 1951 in California on RKO-Pathé stages and the RKO Forty Acres back lot. Cereal manufacturer Kellogg's sponsored the show. The show, which was produced for first-run television syndication rather than a network, has disputed first and last air dates, but they are generally accepted as September 19, 1952, and April 28, 1958. The show's first two seasons (episodes 1–52, 26 titles per season) were filmed in black and white; seasons three through six (episodes 53–104, 13 titles per season) were filmed in color but originally telecast in black and white. Adventures of Superman was not shown in color until 1965, when the series was syndicated to local stations.George Reeves played Clark Kent/Superman, with Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson. Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane in the first season, with Noel Neill stepping into the role in the second (1953) and later seasons. Superman battles crooks, gangsters, and other villains in the fictional city of Metropolis while masquerading "off duty" as Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, Clark's colleagues at the office, often find themselves in dangerous situations that only Superman's timely intervention can resolve.Its opening theme is known as The Superman March. In 1987, selected episodes of the show were released on VHS. In 2006, the series became available in its entirety on DVD to coincide with the DVD release of Superman Returns, the first Superman feature film to emerge after almost two decades without such a movie. The feature film Hollywoodland was released in 2006, dramatizing the show's production and the death of its star George Reeves.

Batman (comic strip)

The Batman comic strip began a few years after the creation of the comic book Batman. At first titled Batman and Robin, a later incarnation was shortened to Batman. The comic strip had three major and two minor runs in American newspapers.


Congorilla, originally a human character known as Congo Bill, is a superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and Vertigo Comics. Originally co-created by writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist George Papp, he was later transformed into Congorilla by Robert Bernstein and Howard Sherman. The character first appeared in More Fun Comics #56 (June 1940).

Deadwood (episode)

"Deadwood" is the first episode of the first season of the HBO original series of the same name. The episode was written by David Milch and directed by Walter Hill. It first aired on March 21, 2004.

George Papp

George Edward Papp (January 20, 1916 – August 8, 1989) was an American comics artist best known as one of the principal artists on the long-running Superboy feature for DC Comics. Papp also co-created the Green Arrow character with Mort Weisinger and co-created Congo Bill with writer Whitney Ellsworth.

Heart Throbs

Heart Throbs was a romance comic published by Quality Comics and DC Comics from 1949 to 1972. Quality published the book from 1949–1957, when it was acquired by DC. Most issues featured a number of short comics stories, as well advice columns, text pieces, and filler. The long-running feature "3 Girls—Their Lives—Their Loves," drawn by Jay Scott Pike and inked by Russ Jones, ran in Heart Throbs from 1966–1970.

In addition to Pike and Jones, regular contributors to Heart Throbs during its run included Bob Kanigher, Barbara Friedlander, Jay Criton, Gene Colan, John Romita, Sr., John Forte, Vince Colletta, Bernard Sachs, Win Mortimer, John Rosenberger, and Tony DeZuniga.

Jack Schiff

Jack Schiff (1909 – April 30, 1999) was an American comic book writer and editor best known for his work editing various Batman comic book series for DC Comics from 1942 to 1964. He was the co-creator of Starman, Tommy Tomorrow, and the Wyoming Kid.

Jim Beaver

James Norman Beaver Jr. (born August 12, 1950) is an American actor, playwright, screenwriter, and film historian. He is most familiar to worldwide audiences as Bobby Singer in Supernatural. He also played Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood, which brought him acclaim and a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for Ensemble Acting, and Sheriff Shelby Parlow on the FX series Justified. His memoir Life's That Way was published in April 2009.

London Review of Books

The London Review of Books (LRB) is a British journal of literary essays. It is published fortnightly.

Mister Mxyzptlk

Mister Mxyzptlk ( miks-yez-PIT-əl-ik, ), sometimes called Mxy, is a fictional impish character who appears in DC Comics' Superman comic books, sometimes as a supervillain and other times as an antihero.

Mr. Mxyzptlk was created to appear in Superman #30 (Sept. 1944), in the story "The Mysterious Mr. Mxyzptlk", by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Ira Yarborough. But due to publishing lag time, the character saw print first in the Superman daily comic strip by writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Wayne Boring.He is usually presented as a trickster, in the classical mythological sense, in that he possesses reality warping powers with which he enjoys tormenting Superman in a cartoonish way. In most of his appearances in DC Comics, he can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards (Kltpzyxm - "kel-tip-zix-um"), which will return him to his home in the 5th dimension and keep him there for a minimum of ninety days. However, this specific limitation of the character has been eliminated since the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, upon which the character leaves only when he willingly agrees to do so after meeting some conditions he sets, such as having Superman succeed in getting Mxyzptlk to paint his own face blue.In 2009, Mister Mxyzptlk was ranked as IGN's 76th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Ralph Richeson

Ralph Richeson (July 6, 1952 – October 27, 2015) was an American actor and painter best known for his role of Richardson, the fictional Grand Central Hotel's disheveled, eccentric cook on the HBO television series, Deadwood. Richeson was originally an extra on Deadwood, before the show's producer, David Milch, noticed him and gave him one line, which became Richeson's first onscreen credit. This led to Richeson's recurring role as the cook in 20 episodes of Deadwood. The series aired on HBO for three seasons from 2004 to 2006.Richeson was well liked on the set of Deadwood, the show that marked his first credited speaking role as an actor. Jim Beaver, who portrayed gold prospector Whitney Ellsworth on the show, later wrote in a 2015 Facebook post, "I don’t think there was anyone remotely involved in the show who didn’t love Ralph." Richeson's recurring character, the eccentric cook, Richardson, who appeared in 20 of the show's 36 episodes, was fascinated with deer antlers, which he possessed in most of his scenes on the show.Ralph Richeson, who was also a painter, was born on July 6, 1952 in Peru, Indiana, to Elsie Crisci Olson Richeson and Ralph Woodson Richeson Jr. In addition to Deadwood, his film roles included a prison convict in the 2008 film, Hancock, starring Will Smith, and an "overworked homeless man" in the 2009 film, The Revenant. He was also cast as the "ghoulish man" in The Master Plan, a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation.Richeson died from heart failure at Palmdale Regional Medical Center in Palmdale, California, on October 27, 2015, at the age of 63. He was survived by one brother, Harry; a sister-in-law, Linda; and four nieces and a nephew, Tatia Richeson Hyde, Jodi Richeson, Michelle Richeson, Ashley Richeson and Jason Richeson. He was preceded in death by his older brother Robert Richeson, and his nephew Robert Richeson II.

Robert Maxwell (producer)

Robert Maxwell Joffe (January 31, 1908 – February 3, 1971) was an American radio and television producer, screenwriter, and entertainment executive. He was one of the producers (and a writer and director) of The Adventures of Superman radio show and a producer of several TV series, including the early episodes of both Adventures of Superman (1951–1954) and Lassie (1954–1957; executive producer 1957-1958). He also was the producer of Creeps by Night (1944) on the Blue Network.He also wrote episodes of the Superman radio and TV series as Richard Fielding (a pseudonym that he shared with fellow producers Whitney Ellsworth and Maxwell's then wife, Jessica Fielding Maxwell).

Sallie Bingham

Sallie Bingham (born January 22, 1937) is an American author, playwright, poet, teacher, feminist activist, and philanthropist.She is the eldest daughter of Barry Bingham, Sr., patriarch of the Bingham family of Louisville, Kentucky which dominated the news media of the city and state for most of the 20th Century.

Sallie Bingham's first novel was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1961. It was followed by four collections of short stories; her latest, published by Sarabande Books in October 2011, is titled Mending: New and Selected Stories. She has also published six additional novels, three collections of poetry, numerous plays (produced off-Broadway and regionally), and the well-known family memoir, Passion and Prejudice (Knopf, 1989).

Her short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, New Letters, Plainswoman, Plainsong, Greensboro Review, Negative Capability, The Connecticut Review, and Southwest Review, among others, and have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Forty Best Stories from Mademoiselle, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and The Harvard Advocate Centennial Anthology. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Bingham has worked as a book editor for The Courier-Journal in Louisville and has been a director of the National Book Critics Circle. She is founder of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, which published The American Voice, and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University.

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Bingham has been married three times: to publisher A. Whitney Ellsworth, attorney Michael Iovenko, and contractor Tim Peters. She has three sons—film producer Barry Ellsworth, William Iovenko, and writer Christopher Iovenko—and five grandchildren. She currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Star-Spangled Comics

Star Spangled Comics was a comics anthology published by DC Comics which ran for 130 issues from October 1941 to July 1952. It was then retitled Star Spangled War Stories and lasted until issue #204 (February–March 1977).

Superman (comic strip)

Superman was a daily newspaper comic strip which began on January 16, 1939, and a separate Sunday strip was added on November 5, 1939. These strips ran continuously until May 1966. In 1941, the McClure Syndicate had placed the strip in hundreds of newspapers. At its peak, the strip, featuring Superman, was in over 300 daily newspapers and 90 Sunday papers, with a readership of over 20 million.

During the National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications court case, the District Court ruled that McClure Syndicate failed to place the copyright notice on some of the strips and thus those strips are in the public domain.

The Adventures of Superpup

The Adventures of Superpup, a 1958 unaired pilot, was meant to capitalize on the success of Adventures of Superman. Superpup featured the first television portrayal of the Superman characters as non-humans.

Western Comics

Western Comics was a Western comic book series published by DC Comics. DC's longest-running Western title, it published 85 issues from 1948 to 1961. Western Comics was an anthology series, featuring such characters as the wandering cowboy the Wyoming Kid, the Native American lawman Pow Wow Smith, the Cowboy Marshall, Jim Sawyer, showman Rodeo Rick, and Matt Savage, Trail Boss. The masked Vigilante Greg Saunders appeared in the first four issues of the title, but was soon replaced by itinerant fix-it man Nighthawk.

Notable contributors included writers Don Cameron, Gardner Fox, and France Herron; and artists Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Howard Sherman, and Leonard Starr.

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