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CSBG Archive

Steve Ditko’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Steve Ditko!

Enjoy!

Steve Ditko created or co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Question, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Creeper, Hawk and Dove and Mr. A. And that’s just talking about the HEADLINERS! Just think of all the famous supporting cast members and villains within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man alone (Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, etc.)!! So yeah, Steve Ditko is awesome.

Anyhow, his first professional comic book work appeared in February 1954′s Fantastic Fears #5, for Ajax/Farrell (Ditko had other comics appear in print in late 1953, but this was the first assignment he sold – this was sold in early 1953, Ajax/Farrell just sat on it for nearly a year). The story was written by Bruce Hamilton (thanks, Tony Isabella! I totally forgot to mention the writer).

That’s some high quality work for a first assignment!

Thanks to An Appendage for the scans! Go check out Blake Bell’s collection, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol.1, which has this story and many more of Ditko’s early works! Also, while you’re at it, check out Bell’s amazing book, Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko.

That’s it for My Back Pages month! I hope you all enjoyed it!

18 Comments

Did he write it? What a great story!

And the art! I may even go as far as to say that it was even stronger than his Marvel work. His liberal use of blacks in this story gives it a weight his Marvel stuff didn’t have (and I LOVE his Marvel stuff, make no mistake about it)

That entire volume is filled with some amazing work. Volume two is pretty nice also.

It was written by Bruce Hamilton.

Yeah, Fantagraphics is on fire with these archival classics and reading the first volume (still working through the second) has really made me wonder how much better his Spidey run would have been with him writing (I mean, I love it but Stan Lee, meh)….

Some very creepy art. Great stuff from Ditko in his debut.

Yeah, Fantagraphics is on fire with these archival classics and reading the first volume (still working through the second) has really made me wonder how much better his Spidey run would have been with him writing (I mean, I love it but Stan Lee, meh)….

Seriously, no way. No one can capture the voice of Spider-Man like Stan Lee did in the 60s. I know it’s cool to gang up on Stan Lee but the essential nature of his scripting in regards to creating Spider-Man’s voice is indisputable. It’s been decades and I’ve only seen two writers even come close to giving Spider-Man as good a voice as Stan Lee did, and that’s Roger Stern and Steven Grant.

I’m not saying Stan Lee is a flawless scripter by the way. There were a ton of books he wrote in the 60s that he was not essential to and actually improved once he left them. I just think that Spider-Man was by no means one of them.

Wow, of all the artists we’ve looked at this month, Ditko seems to be one of the few to have arrived fully formed. Unlike other first assignments we’ve seen, the work above is unmistakably Ditko- all of his key trademarks are there. That’s not to say that Ditko didn’t get better (for my money, Dr. Strange is his best work), but his style doesn’t seem to have really changed much from his start here.

A question though… If Ditko was born in ’27, then he didn’t start getting comics work until he was 26 or 27. What did he do before that?

He was in the army until roughly 1950, I believe. Then he went to school under the GI Bill (studying art).

that 2nd panel on page 4 is really something! the way the eyebrow is on the side of his head is quite disturbing. Interesting story and art.

Brilliant, creepy stuff right out of the gate. Ditko has always been a master.

It’s strange how, when he was doing horror work his composition was pitch perfect from day one, but when he started in on Spider-Man he clearly was out of his depth and it often feels like he’s throwing ideas at the page and seeing what sticks. It isn’t until Wally Wood started working on Daredevil that Ditko seemed to follow his lead and get the hang of plotting action.

Julian:” It’s strange how, when he was doing horror work his composition was pitch perfect from day one, but when he started in on Spider-Man he clearly was out of his depth and it often feels like he’s throwing ideas at the page and seeing what sticks. It isn’t until Wally Wood started working on Daredevil that Ditko seemed to follow his lead and get the hang of plotting action.”

I beg to differ, Julian. The 20 odd issues of SPIDER-MAN that Ditko drew before Wally Wood arrived at MARVEL are masterpieces.

Wow, I would have never suspected that was his first profesional work just looking at it! It’s been -to me, at least- the most impressive back pages from an artist by far! (out of the ones that have been posted here)

Ditko as a writer is like Kirby as a writer; they were both good at plots and embarrassing at dialogue. To sample Ditko the writer, see his famous “Mr. A”.

Those early Spideys were creepy and full of shadows, very much along the lines of his mystery comics. That made the Spider-Man comic look like no other superhero comic on the stands. That’s why I never get tired of reading them, the very uniqueness of them. It was later Ditko issues where his art opened up and the shadows went away that the quality started to suffer. You could tell Ditko was phoning it in on those last few issues before he resigned. (I think the Cat Burglar issue, #30, was the last great Ditko issue.)

re: Timothy Markin-#30? The issue before the Master Planner saga (one of the most highly-regarded comics stories ever)?

I really don’t think Ditko was “phoning” THAT story in.

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