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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #175

Time for another creator-centric theme week in which I cannot reveal who the creator is just yet because he’s the star of the first day’s entry. What I can tell you is that he’s a terrific writer/artist who has always stood by his principles. This is the one Kirbydotter’s been waiting for.

The archive can be found here.

6/24/07

175. Steve Ditko

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Welcome to DITKO WEEK!!! Celebrating the brilliant Steve Ditko and all his finest works.

Mr. Ditko was born in 1927 in my home state of Pennsylvania. Inspired by newspaper strips like the Spirit and comics like Batman, Ditko attended what would become the School of Visual Arts in New York and broke into the comics industry by 1953. He was quickly snatched by Charlton, for whom he would work off and on until the publisher ceased to be a few decades later.

After making his mark on sci-fi and monster books, Ditko began his move into the superhero genre in the 60′s, starting with his creation of Captain Atom at Charlton before moving onto Spider-Man and Dr. Strange at Marvel. This catapulted him into stardom, but he fell out with Stan Lee over Spider-Man and left the title– control over his work was more important than money or fame. He’d move from Marvel to DC to Charlton and back again over the rest of his career, creating such characters and concepts as Blue Beetle, the Creeper, Hawk and Dove, the Question, Mr. A, and more, and drawing other works like ROM, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves, Jack Kirby’s Secret City Saga, and others.

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Mr. Ditko became a follower of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, and, as far as I know, still lives by those principles. Characters like the Question and Mr. A were developed in response to these beliefs. Ditko hasn’t given an interview in over forty years, and likes to keep to himself, mostly, but he’s no hermit. He’s still known to write essays on comics and welcome visitors. He just prefers his work speak for itself. In the case of stuff like Mr. A, it speaks volumes.

Steve Ditko is one of the best artists to ever touch a comics page. He crafted an amazing personal style that’s unlike anybody else out there. His characters are fluidly designed, with wonderfully portrayed body language. As far as bizarre environments and landscapes, Ditko is unmatched, seemingly producing surreal, frightening dimensions. His short story work for horror tales and the like creeps up the reader’s spine and creates a chilling atmosphere. No one does “weird” quite like Steve Ditko. Like all artists, he’s got his own tics and motifs, all of which are quite interesting to behold. I love his work. It’s just terrific stuff by a great artist.

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Alright, so let’s hear from you guys. What are your favorite Ditko creations? Which of them deserved to be featured this week? (Doctor Strange is probably my favorite, but he showed up during Doctor Week.)

The Wonderful World of Ditko:
- Ditko Looked Up, the internet’s greatest Ditko website, full of useful information
- Ditko Comics Blog
- SteveDitko.com
- Steve Ditko Wiki
- The Amazing Steve Ditko
- A bizarre comic book urban legend of Ditko using his original art as cutting boards, from the original incarnation of Comics Should Be Good. True or not? Click the link!

27 Comments

I really don’t know that much about Ditko.

Yeah, I haven’t read Amazing Fantasy #15!!!

Awesome awesome awesome awesome– best week ever, bar none!

You definitely should cover Mr. A– and I’d like to read about his hard-to-find work on the Chuck Norris comics.

I’ve been Reading the Masterworks of Amazing Spider-Man recently and I have really been admiring Ditko. While some artists might not (Kirby for isntance) be getting work today, I think Ditko would. Granted his art isn’t what it used to be, but wow, that is some great stuff.

Although, I was wondering about his beliefs as I was reading. My understanding was that the Osbourne being the Green Goblin didn’t fit his beliefs because good was good and bad was bad. Then how does that allow for a character like Fredrick Foswell to be a reformed criminal, running around that book at a time when Ditko a plotted most of it? There must be more to the story.

Steve Ditko, now there is an excellent reason to love comics. And I bet the Ted Kord Minimate standing on top of my monitor would agree.

The Kirbydotter

June 24, 2007 at 8:41 pm

My kinda week!
Wow!
Ditko is such a grandmaster of the artform.
He is right up there at the top with Kirby and Eisner and not many more…

His Doctor Strange is his most inspired work at Marvel.
Spidey close second (but I always was more of a Romita SR. man myself). I think he was also the one to redesign IRON-MAN’s original grey/gold bulky armor into the slimmer red and gold. On Spidey he designed all of Webhead’s most classic villain: Green Goblin, Scorpion, Lizard, Sandman, Vulture, Mysterio, etc.

I recently bought the second ACTION HEROES ARCHIVES which includes all of his Ted Kord Blue Beetle and Question stories and the last few Captain Atom. Can’t wait to read those. Among the Action Heroes, his Blue Beetle is my favorite, even if the Question is a very interesting character concept. I don’t think most of Ditko earlier sci-fi/fantasy/horror stories at Charlton were that good and I have read a lot of them. Ditko’s art is always good but the stories lacked the punch of his Marvel work in the same genre. An exception to this is Ditko’s Tales of the Mysterious Traveller which were top notch (I think Eclipse or Fantagraphics did a very nice TPB of them in the 80′s.

There is also a AMAZING FANTASY Omnibus coming out soon from Marvel. It’s probably the best run ever of Marvel pre-superheroes fantasy/sci-fi stories. Lee and Ditko at their best!

Finally, at DC Ditko gaves us some interesting and unique concepts: Hawk and Dove and Creeper! But I have a soft spot for a too short series of DC’s pre-implosion avalanche of titles: STALKER. Ditko’s inker was none other than Wally Wood! I love than fantasy story! Really sad that it was left unfinished after only 4 issues. James Robinson did bring the character back in some form a few years ago in the series of ALL-STAR COMICS one-shots

He was paired again with Wally Wood for the first two issues of Atlas/Seabord’s DESTRUCTOR

Ditko also did amazing pen work at Warren’s (EERIE and CREEPY).

Thank you Bill!

Definitely Mr. A; I’ve only read the early Witzend stories, and would be interested what else I missed.

Is Cannon considered a Ditko character, or did he simply provide pencils for what was really a Wally Wood character?

Hawk & Dove, & The Question, are interesting as a early examples of Ditko Objectivism.

And, my favorite, the surreal Shade, the Changing Man. Taking those Ditko character designs and bizarre landscapes to the extreme. (This also begs mention of Static, and even the Missing Man, and Odd Man, as Shade analogues).

How appropriate, as Sleestak just today reprinted THE GREATEST STEVE DITKO PANEL EVER: http://thatsmyskull.blogspot.com/

Mr. A. is my favorite super-hero. And you should do a whole entry just on Ditko’s wacky finger configurations.

I just read Stalker a few weeks ago and loved it. Deifinitely a shame it only lasted 4 issued. The story and art were great.

I’ve always been a fan of Ditko’s art, and I’m definitely excited for this week. Educate me, Bill!

I was under the impression that the conflict between Lee and Ditko over the secret identity of the Green Goblin was that Ditko wanted the Goblin to just be an ordinary Joe, and Lee thought that it would drive the fans crazy to have all that suspense and not have the Goblin be somebody. I guess there might be more to it, but I certainly haven’t heard that his objections had anything to do with his objectivist principles.

One thing I haven’t read that I’d like to? His Doctor Strange work.

Man created The Question,

Nuff said, True Believer.

I’m reading his Doctor Strange work now (actually, I’m past the Ditko era, but not by much) and it really is amazing stuff, very moody and strange.

Did Ditko also do Speedball, or am I misremembering…and if so, how much did he contribute? I always liked Speedball, even if he was out of sync with industry trends by about thirty years. (Come to think of it, that might be _why_ I liked Speedball. Lord knows “Grim, Gritty Speedball” is just ludicroud.)

When are you going to present a true unsung hero: Bill Finger ?

You asked for favorites, and mine has always been Dr. Strange. More, he was originally a favorite BECAUSE OF the art; I first encountered Doctor Strange in the pages of Marvel’s Greatest Comics back when it was an amazing giant reprint book. That particular story was part of the great Mordo-Dormammu epic, and it involved this amazing magical throwdown with a newly-amped Mordo. Visually it was one of the wildest pieces of comic art ever. I was instantly hooked on the Doctor and his world, and I am pretty sure that those reprints were the only place to find Strange at the time.

Later, of course, I found Englehart-Brunner Strange and the Gerber Defenders and those were brilliant too… but it was the memory of Ditko and the trippy world he invented that got me to pick them up.

My favorite thing about Ditko is the way he draws acrobatic fighters like Spider-Man and Blue Beetle bouncing off walls and kicking heads and taking out a gang of thugs. And those scenes were never better than when featuring my favorite Ditko character design: The Creeper!

The Kirbydotter

June 25, 2007 at 7:37 am

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN!
How could I forget him!??
I love Ditko’s creation (not so much the Vertigo version)

And about ROM, it was cool to see Ditko paired with Craig Russell as the inker. I would give my left arm to have seen what those two could have done on Doctor Strange!

My top 5 Ditko topics nominations (in no particular order):

Blue Beetle
Question
Stalker
Creeper
Amazing Fantasy

SanctumSanctorumComix

June 25, 2007 at 8:10 am

For John Seavey,

Ditko CREATED Speedball, and handled the first bunch of appearances.

I am SURE he is NOT pleased with how that all went down.

Anyway, I’m SURE that NO ONE needs for ME to explain how much I LOVE Ditko’s Doctor Strange work.

He certainly set the bar for all the greats who have touched that character since.

~P~
P-TOR

I have to admit that I’ve never been the biggest Ditko fan from a pure art standpoint. I’ve always like the look of Romita Sr.’s Spider-man better than Ditko’s. I also liked better how Romita Sr. drew the Spider-man villains as well.

However, Ditko really stands out as a storyteller, particular for the early to mid-60′s. Compare Lee & Ditko’s stories in Spider-man or Dr. Strange to any other stories being written in DC or Marvel at the same time. Lee & Ditko’s are the most interesting on a consistent basis.

For just one example, look at Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-man’s origin story, which isn’t even a full issue. There are so many things that happen in that story, yet it never feels rushed. Every panel feels fully thought out, right down to the dot eyeballs in Spider-man’s mask when he realizes the identity of Uncle Ben’s murderer.

While I think the art improved with Romita, I think the stories tended to become less interesting than they had been when Lee worked with Ditko.

I always stop at those dot eyeballs appearing on the mask as Spidey recognized the killer, ever since I first read the story oh so long ago. It’s a powerful way to add an emotional edge to a face-covering mask, but it’s so clearly impossible (or at least extreeemely improbable) that it stops the story.
Trust me – - when I’ve read the Spidet origin to little kids and we get to that part they don’t say “oh, this man murdered Peter’s uncle.” They say “why does his mask have eyeballs now?”
Has anybody ever said anything about them, that they debated whether to add them or not, that maybe Ditko insisted on it all along, or maybe at the last minute Stan grabbed a pen and dotted them on to the finished pages (my hunch).
Whither came the dots? And have they ever appeared again? You’d think that at least when Gwen died the dots should have shown themselves.

It’s probably not Ditko’s best work (got to be Dr Strange!), but the art he did on The Djinn in the early ’80s is still errific. It has a hallucinatory, feverish quality that’s different from anything else he did. The inking is by Steve Leiloha and though purists think only Ditko should ink Ditko, this suggests otherwise. It makes it very clear that his storytelling, design and Weirdness Quotient are all still in place – something that can be overlooked when he inks his own latterday work.

At the other end of his career – the pre-Code horror at Charlton in 1953-54 is jaw-dropping stuff. Much pre-Code horror looks like it was drawn by eight year olds but Ditko’s work from that era is terrifying. In a good way.

Does anyone know if Ditko had any kind of reaction to Denny O’Neil’s reinvention of the Question as a buddhist investigator, or to the urban-shaman version in the Veitch miniseries? I’d be curious how he felt about such radical repurposing of the character.

Please note that I am fond of every version of Vic Sage, be it Ditko, O’Neil, Veitch, or JLU. Maybe it’s just because it’s such a great visual design.

Squirrel girl!

Favourite Ditko characters (And ones I hope get listed here)

Hawk and Dove
The Creeper
Spider-Man (Hey, the Ditko version of the character is awesome)
Blue Beetle
The Question
Mr. A
Captain Universe

Can I just say that if I were ever to have a superhero costume, I would hope it would be designed by Steve Ditko. His costumes are eclectically awesome (my close second choice would be Carmine Infantino)

Gotta ask for the Creeper, and Captain Atom, with a question chaser and Dr. Strange for the finish

I absolutely *love* Ditko’s work on horror, sci-fi, mystery, and supernatural stories. Doctor Strange, Charlton anthology books, Gorgo, Rom Spaceknight, Captain Universe… all those played to Ditko’s strengths as an illustrator.

On the other hand, I really do not like Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I find Ditko’s Objectivist-inspired works to be almost unreadable. Mr A is terribly overrated, at least as far as the wrting goes, with the character railing against a bunch of straw men.

Dikto’s artwork is magnificent. But once he starts writing, well, I run for cover.

“I am SURE he is NOT pleased with how [recent changes to Speedball] went down.”

“Does anyone know if Ditko had any kind of reaction to Denny O’Neil’s reinvention of the Question as a buddhist investigator, or to the urban-shaman version in the Veitch miniseries? I’d be curious how he felt about such radical repurposing of the character.”

From everything I have read about Ditko, he couldn’t care less about either. As far as he is concerned the work he has done is done and whatever happens to it, or any characters he has created afterward, he doesn’t care.

“I was under the impression that the conflict between Lee and Ditko over the secret identity of the Green Goblin was that Ditko wanted the Goblin to just be an ordinary Joe, and Lee thought that it would drive the fans crazy to have all that suspense and not have the Goblin be somebody. I guess there might be more to it, but I certainly haven’t heard that his objections had anything to do with his objectivist principles.”

Obviously I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure, but thats not what I remember reading/hearing. From what I remember Ditko had a problem with Osbourne being a bad guy with mental illness or a split personality or something because he figured he had to either be all evil or all good.
Then again, in Ditko’s last issue you see a character referred to as Norman Osbourne he looks nothing like the character who goes on to do some insidious stuff. So maybe he just disapproved of Stan’s changes to the story as you say.

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