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Born in Brooklyn New York, he took a cartooning course at the local YMCA. From there he began working on the syndicated feature Dumb Dora, then he worked on Embarassing Moments and then Just Kids. Whitney Ellsworth began working for National Allied Publishing (which would later be known as DC) in 1934 where he worked as assistant editor. He worked on stories like Billy the Kid, Little Linda and More Fun Comics and doing the cover roughs of a number of the early D.C. titles. He briefly left the company around 1936 for a stay in California but returned shortly after. By 1937 he was hired full time at D.C. where he became the editorial director of all D.C. titles until around 1953.

Ellsworth was the chief guiding force at D.C. for most of the Golden Age, writing, doing cover layouts, art directing, editing and developing new projects. Some of his flagship titles include Superman, Batman, Detective Comics, Adventure Comics, Action Comics, Green Lantern, All-Star Comics, Wonder Woman and Superboy (just to name a few).

Definitely his most notable deed at DC was when Batman #1 was launched a 2 part story featuring an all new villain known as The Joker was to battle with Batman and Robin and in the end The Joker was going to die. Whitney Ellsworth felt The Joker character was too note-worthy and made a last minute change to the script and another panel was added to the last page--and although it was crudely drawn (probably by Bob Kane and inked by Sheldon Moldoff)--it portrayed the Joker surviving. This was the single edit that kept the Joker around. To this day Batman is synonymous with the Joker but it would not have been were it not for the Whitney Ellsworth.

Whitney Ellsworth was also the movie studio liaison for D.C., producing and editing The Adventures of Superman TV series among other projects.

Ellsworth left D.C. in 1971.

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