October 15, 2021
Los Angeles, California
Update to “Zodiac Composites” blog original posted 2018
I am now reposting and updating a blog originally posted three years ago for those unfamiliar with the fact that THREE ZODIAC COMPOSITES exist all made from witness descriptions from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
My reason for reposting this is the inform new readers of the fact that two additional composites were made from interviews with original eye-witnesses. These composites were obtained by two separate professional artists and, in my opinion, provided a much more accurate rendition of “Zodiac” than the version that remains in general circulation and is mistakenly viewed as “how he appeared” in 1969.
Hopefully, in three more weeks on November 6, 2021, I will be publishing “The Early Years” in two editions; presenting my father’s suspected crimes from the 1920s and 1930s.
Included in those books will be additional dramatic new evidence further linking him to his future crimes (1943-1969) in Los Angeles, Chicago, Manila, and as Zodiac in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For that reason, I wanted to repost the earlier blog information on the progression of the three “Zodiac Composites.”
(Original 2018 blog)
“I am 100% certain that the book-cover sketch (Great Crimes of San Francisco) I drew back then  was based on material that was directly related to the crime. ”
Comic-Con, San Diego
July 23, 2014
I have received numerous requests to explain the variations of “Police Composite Sketches” as relates to the Zodiac suspect. I presented this back in 2014 and will here simply republish that original blog. Most of the public remains in the dark on Zodiac’s actual appearance due to the fact that the media in the main keep reposting the earliest composite in which he appears younger than eye-witness SFPD officer Foukes stated age of “35-45 and more on the high end of that age range.” See republished blog detailing the information below.
Los Angeles, California
August 11, 2014
Thanks to the above statement from artist/illustrator Neal Adams and some further digging, we now have the answers to the several questions I originally raised in my book back in 2009, relating to the then unidentified sketch, which appeared to be a dead-ringer, to my father’s likeness. I quote from Most Evil, Chapter 16, page 191:
…Because of the sketch’s striking similarity to my father (including his black horn-rimmed glasses) I was determined to find its source. Was I looking at an artist’s imaginary rendition of a reproduction or an actual police drawing from official files? If the Zodiac composite was simply the publisher’s decision to take “creative license,” then why place it on an official SFPD Police Bulletin connected to an otherwise completely factual true-crime story? On the other hand, if the composite was an official police drawing, why had it not surfaced earlier?
Five years later, we now have a definitive answer to those questions!
And, those answers come directly from the original source—Neal Adams, the man that drew the original Zodiac book-cover sketch!
George Hodel 1974. Zodiac as represented on paper-back cover of 1974 Great Crimes of San Francisco (Ballantine Books, New York) (SKH Note-The cover-artist, Neal Adams remained unknown and was not identified until post-publication of Most Evil.)
A Chance Meeting Provides the Answer
On Wednesday, July 23, 2014; I received a telephone call from a personal friend, artist/illustrator, Scott Gandell. Scott informed me he was at his booth at the 2014 Comic-Con Festival, in San Diego, California. He was participating in the four-day convention, and had chanced to meet, and was able to talk with a fellow artist/illustrator, Neal Adams, who as discussed here, was the artist that drew the illustrated Zodiac face for the cover of the 1974 true-crime book, Great Crimes of San Francisco. (Ballantine Books, New York)
Scott, being familiar with the facts and history of the sketch, as presented in Most Evil, seized the moment to take Neal Adams aside and question him as to what he remembered about his 1974 book-cover Zodiac sketch.
While, Adams could not recall the specific original source (more than forty years had passed,) he did say, “I am 100% certain that the sketch I drew back then was based on material that was directly related and somehow connected to the crime.”
Adams told Gandell, that under no circumstances would he have simply created his own imaginary suspect, but rather, his drawing of the Zodiac suspect, as rendered on the true-crime book-cover, Great Crimes of San Francisco, definitely was inspired by some outside source material, directly related to the official police investigation.
Based on Scott’s conversation with Neal Adams we have now established: 1) The drawing, was in fact drawn by Neal Adams and 2) Adams did not simply create the likeness from his own imagination, but based it on an official Zodiac investigation source, available and seen by him, between 1969 and 1973.
NEAL ADAMS SOURCE MATERIAL- “Sonoma Composite” Misnamed
In Most Evil, in addition to the known SFPD Police Bulletin of Zodiac, I included a second supposed, “Sonoma Police Composite” which had surfaced with little documentation other than it was referenced on a respected Zodiac website, “This is the Zodiac Speaking” run by, Jake Wark. Jake included the composite with a limited comment which simply stated, “It is unknown why Sonoma County would issue a Zodiac sketch, as no Zodiac crimes are acknowledged in that area.”
I included the “Sonoma Composite” because of the physical likeness it shared to both the SFPD and the Great Crimes of San Francisco composites.
Based on Neal Adams recent clarifications, I decided to conduct further research into the “Sonoma Composite” which has now resulted in its proper identification and revealed that this drawing was never from Sonoma, but rather its source was—the San Francisco Police Department’s 1969, Police Composite.
Denver Post Staff Artist/Illustrator Joe Barros
In Most Evil, I asked a second question. “Why would the artist who drew the book-cover composite place it on an official San Francisco Police Bulletin?” I believe we now have the answer, which is: Because the 1969 SFPD Zodiac suspect composite drawing was the source for his (Neal Adams) original drawing.
Thanks to a forty-three-year -old article from the Vallejo Sunday Times-Herald, written by then staff reporter, Dave Peterson, we have our answer.
Reporter Peterson’s original article (see attached PDF) appeared in the Sunday Times Herald, “Solano and Napa County’s Morning Newspapers” on February 28, 1971, with the headline: “NEW ‘ZODIAC’ ART WORK IS CRITICIZED.”
The article included both the original SFPD composite and a revision (see above) drawn by JOE BARROS, staff artist for the Denver Post.
SFPD Homicide Bureau Chief Inspector, Lt. Charles Ellis, commenting on artist Joe Barros’ revision of the original SFPD police artist’s composite, indicated he believed that his department’s police artist rendition was, “more accurate.”
Following is an excerpt from an on-line eBay art sale bio on Joe Barros:
“Joseph “Joe” Barros (1921-2011) was an American artist, painter and illustrator who, for more than thirty (30) years, was the chief illustrator for the Denver Post newspaper. In addition to his newspaper work, Barros illustrated numerous books, many featuring western settings, including Place Names of the Medicine Bow National Forest (by Mel Duncan) and Prairielands of My Heart (by Clyde Brundy). Barros achieved some notoriety in the early 1970s when he created police-type composite sketches of the Zodiac Killer based upon descriptions and the sketches in the San Francisco police files. His sketches were published across the country by the AP Wire Services.[Emphasis mine]
EVOLUTION OF THE SFPD COMPOSITE SKETCH
GOOD? BETTER? BEST?
(1969) (1971) (1973)
Armed with this new information, it is my current belief that the “official source” for Neal Adams Zodiac drawing originates from this 1971 Sunday Times-Herald article and possibly additional AP circulated Barros articles showing his 1971 composite. It appears that Adams used both the SFPD and Barros composites and combined the two resulting in his own Zodiac likeness which appeared as the cover of the Great Crimes of San Francisco, true-crime book, just three-years later. This also answers why Adams placed his cover drawing on a SFPD Bulletin! Why? Because the police-drawing was its original SOURCE.
Above we see comparisons of Dr. George Hill Hodel to the Barros and Adams Zodiac and the 1969 SFPD composites. All three artist renditions show Zodiac as he appeared in 1969, so in the Hodel photo on the left one must subtract or “youthen” Hodel by five years and in the photo on the right, one must add, or age him, some seven years.
The evidence, as it now stands, is undeniable—Neal Adams likeness of Zodiac, based on his review of the official SFPD composite drawing and a merging of it with the follow-up composite by illustrator, Joe Barros, is a near a picture-perfect likeness to Dr. George Hill Hodel’s physical appearance in 1969.
Sunday Times-Herald “New Zodiac Art Work Is Criticized” click below for full article.
1969 SFPD Zodiac Composite Bulletin on Paul Stine Murder
Duffy Jennings Correction—For the Record
In my 2009 publication of Most Evil (Chapter 16, page 191) in addressing the then unknown source of the Great Crimes of San Francisco composite I wrote the following:
…If the composite was an official police drawing, why had it not surfaced earlier?
I found the answer with the help of a confidential source who contacted the author of the essay on Zodiac in Great Crimes of San Francisco, Duffy Jennings. Jennings, a former San Francisco Chronicle crime-reporter, confirmed that, “the composite originated from law-enforcement,” but couldn’t recall the specific agency. Since the sketch includes the correct date (October 18) and number (90-69) of a known San Francisco Police Department Bulletin, it would appear that this composite originated from the files of the SFPD.*
I then footnoted the above paragraph as follows:
*Despite Jennings acknowledgement and the fact that it is an almost picture-perfect likeness to George Hodel, I still have some doubts about this third composite. When I attempted to locate editor Dean W. Dickensheet, I discovered that he died in the 1990s. Further attempts to confirm recollection that this was an official police composite are being made through Dickensheet’s original publisher.
A year later, with the publication of the Most Evil paperback edition (Berkley 2010) I added the below “Author’s Note” identifying the true-crime book cover artist as Neal Adams, and indicating that Duffy Jennings was apparently mistaken in his recollection that it came from law enforcement.
Let me—For the Record—correct that statement. Mr. Duffy Jennings, former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, was NOT MISTAKEN in his belief that the “composite originated from law-enforcement.” He is in fact-correct. While, it was not drawn by law-enforcement, it did “originate from law-enforcement” as it is a rendition of the original SFPD police bulletin composite.
SKH Note– Several readers have emailed me inquiring as to why I used a “confidential source” to check with Mr. Jennings, as opposed to contacting him direct? The answer is: In 2007-8, I was conducting a sub-rosa investigation and, 1) did not want a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter to know that the author of the Black Dahlia Avenger was actively investigating Zodiac and 2) I was under contract with Dutton Publishing and had signed a confidentiality agreement and the book and its contents were embargoed.
As published in MOST EVIL (Berkley 2010) paperback edition:
GHH Photo from 1979 showing him without a mustache. (Helicopter pilot standing beside him is his then INRA Hong Kong Manager, Leo Murray.)