Steve Ditko

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Steve Ditko (born 2 November 1927)Comics Buyers Guide #1636 (December 2007) p. 135 is an American comic book artist and writer best known as the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. He was inducted into the comics industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.

Contents

Biography

Early life and career

Space Adventures #10 (Spring 1954), Steve Ditko's first comic-book cover art
Space Adventures #10 (Spring 1954), Steve Ditko's first comic-book cover art

Ditko was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the son of Eastern European immigrants.Los Angeles Times via Chicago Tribune Web edition: "Spider-Man's Long-Lost Parent: Reclusive artist Steve Ditko, who created the superhero with Stan Lee then abruptly walked away, is listed in new film's credits", by Jordan Raphael, April 29, 2002 Ditko grew up the son of a Depression-era mill-worker, with a sister named either RitaTemplate:Fact or AnnamarieTemplate:Fact, and a younger brother, Pat. (U.S. Census records of 1930 indicate that both his parents, Stephen and Anna Ditko, were born in Pennsylvania, and his grandparents were all from Czechoslovakia. He had only one sister at that time, Anna M., who was about two years older.) Good with his hands, Ditko in junior high school crafted wooden models of German airplanes to aid civilian World War II aircraft-spotters. He was influenced by the work of newspaper cartoonists, particularly Will Eisner, writer-artist of The Spirit, and read Batman comic books. Ditko graduated from Johnstown High School in 1945, afterward doing military service in post-war Germany, where he produced hand-made comics as letters to his family.

After his discharge, Ditko studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts) in New York City, under Batman inker Jerry Robinson and others, and began professionally illustrating comic books in 1953. He broke in almost simultaneously at the Crestwood Publications' imprint Prize Comics (penciling and inking "A Hole in the Head" in Black Magic Vol. 4, #3, Dec. 1953) and at Harvey Comics (assisting inker Mort Meskin on the Jack Kirby pencil work of Captain 3-D #1, Dec. 1953). Much of Ditko's early work, starting with the cover of Space Adventures #10 (Spring 1954) and the five-page story "Homecoming" in that issue, was for Charlton Comics, for which he continued to work intermittently until the company's demise in 1986, producing science fiction, horror and mystery stories, as well as co-creating Captain Atom, with writer Joe Gill, in 1960.

Ditko also drew for Atlas Comics, the 1950s precursor of Marvel Comics, beginning with the four-page "There'll Be Some Changes Made" in Journey into Mystery #33 (April 1956); this debut tale would be reprinted in Marvel's Curse of the Weird #4 (March 1994). Ditko would go on to contribute a large number of stories, many considered classic, to Atlas/Marvel's Strange Tales and the newly launched Amazing Adventures, Strange Worlds, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish, issues of which would typically open with a Kirby-drawn monster story, followed by one or two twist-ending thrillers or sci-fi tales drawn by Don Heck, Paul Reinman, or Joe Sinnott, all capped by an often-surreal, sometimes self-reflexive short by Ditko and writer-editor Stan Lee. These bagatelles proved so popular that Amazing Adventures was reformatted to feature such stories exclusively beginning with issue #7 (Dec. 1961), when the comic was rechristened Amazing Adult Fantasy — a name intended to reflect its more "sophisticated" nature, as likewise the new tagline "The magazine that respects your intelligence".

From 1958 to either 1966 or 1968 (accounts differ), Ditko shared a Manhattan studio at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate. When either artist was under deadline pressure, it was not uncommon for them to pitch in and help the other with his assignment.<ref name="ditkostanton">Ditko Looked Up: "Ditko & Stanton"Theakston, Greg. The Steve Ditko Reader (Pure Imagination, Brooklyn, NY, 2002; , pp. 13-15 (unnumbered, pp. 14-15 misordered as pp. 16 & 14)

Marvel Comics

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964): Cover art by Ditko.
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964): Cover art by Ditko.

Creation of Spider-Man

After Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee obtained permission from publisher Martin Goodman to create a new "ordinary teen" superhero named "Spider-Man",Lee, Stan, and Mair, George. Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee (Fireside, 2002), p.130. ISBN 0-684-87305-2 Lee originally approached his leading artist, Jack Kirby. Kirby told Lee about his own 1950s character conception, variously called the Silver Spider and Spiderman, in which an orphaned boy finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers. Comics historian Greg Theakston says Lee and Kirby "immediately sat down for a story conference" and Lee afterward directed Kirby to flesh out the character and draw some pages. "A day or two later", Kirby showed Lee the first six pages, and, as Lee recalled, "I hated the way he was doing it. Not that he did it badly — it just wasn't the character I wanted; it was too heroic".Theakston, Greg. The Steve Ditko Reader (Pure Imagination, Brooklyn, NY, 2002; (unnumbered)

Lee turned to Ditko, who developed a visual motif Lee found satisfactory, although Lee would later replace Ditko's original cover with one penciled by Kirby. Ditko said, {{cquote|"The Spider-Man pages Stan showed me were nothing like the (eventually) published character. In fact, the only drawings of Spider-Man were on the splash i.e., page 1] and at the end [where] Kirby had the guy leaping at you with a web gun... Anyway, the first five pages took place in the home, and the kid finds a ring and turns into Spider-Man.Theakston, Ibid., page 13

Ditko also recalled that, One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character. I had to know how he looked ... before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power so he wouldn't have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc. ... I wasn't sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character's face but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character....Ditko, Robin Snyder's History of Comics, Ibid.

Much earlier, in a rare contemporaneous account, Ditko described his and Lee's contributions in a mail interview with Gary Martin published in Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal"."Steve Ditko - A Portrait of the Master." Comic Fan #2, Summer 1965. Published by Larry Herndon Additionally, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate who, in a 1988 interview with Theakston, recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. But the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands".Theakston, Ibid., p. 14 (unnumbered, misordered as page 16)

Doctor Strange and other characters

Dormammu attacks Eternity in a Ditko "Dr. Strange" panel from Strange Tales #146 (July 1966).
Dormammu attacks Eternity in a Ditko "Dr. Strange" panel from Strange Tales #146 (July 1966).

After drawing the final issue of The Incredible Hulk (#6, March 1963), Ditko co-created with Lee the supernatural hero Doctor Strange, in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). Ditko and Lee shortly thereafter relaunched a Hulk series as a short feature in the anthology Tales to Astonish, beginning with issue #60 (Oct. 1964). Ditko, inked by George Roussos, penciled the feature through #67 (May 1965). Ditko designed the Hulk's primary antagonist, the Leader, in #62 (Dec. 1964).

Ditko also penciled the Iron Man feature in Tales of Suspense #47-49 (Nov. 1963 - Jan. 1964), with various inkers. The first of these debuted the initial version of Iron Man's modern red-and-golden armor, though whether Ditko or cover-penciler and principal character designer Jack Kirby designed the costume is uncertain.

Though often overshadowed by his Amazing Spider-Man work, Ditko's "Doctor Strange" stories have been equally acclaimed, showcasing surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly head-trippy visuals that helped make the feature a favorite of college students, according to contemporaneous accounts. Eventually, as co-plotter and later sole plotter, in the "Marvel Method", Ditko would take Strange into ever-more-abstract realms, which yet remained well-grounded thanks to Lee's reliably humanistic, adventure/soap opera dialog. Ditko's tenure on "Dr. Strange" culminated in the introduction, in Strange Tales #146 (July 1966), of Ditko's grand and enduring conception of Eternity, the personification of the universe, depicted as a majestic silhouette whose outlines are filled with the cosmos.

Whichever feature he drew, Ditko's idiosyncratic, cleanly detailed, instantly recognizable art style, emphasizing mood and anxiety, found great favor with readers. The character of Spider-Man and his troubled personal life meshed well with Ditko's own interests, which Lee eventually acknowledged by giving the artist plotting credits on the latter part of their 38-issue run. But after four years on the title, Ditko left Marvel; he and Lee had not been on speaking terms for some time, though the details remain uncertain. The last straw is often alleged to have been a disagreement as to the secret identity of the Green Goblin, but Ditko himself has stated in print that this was not the case. Template:Fact

Writer and future Marvel editor Roy Thomas said in a 1998 interview that, "I'll never forget the day I walked into one Marvel office not long after Ditko quit, and here's John Romita, Sr. drawing Amazing Spider-Man and Larry [Lieber] drawing the Spider-Man Annual and Marie Severin drawing 'Dr. Strange', and I joked, 'This is the Steve Ditko Room; it takes three of you to do what Steve Ditko used to do' ""Stan the Man & Roy the Boy: A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas", Comic Book Artist #2 (Summer 1998)

Charlton and DC Comics

The Creeper in Showcase #73 (April 1968). Cover art by Ditko.
The Creeper in Showcase #73 (April 1968). Cover art by Ditko.

Back at Charlton — where the page rate was low but creators were allowed greater freedom — Ditko worked on such characters as Blue Beetle (1967-68), The Question (1967-68), Captain Atom (1965-1967, returning to the character he'd co-created in 1960), and in 1974 backup stories E-Man, writer Joe Gill's Liberty Belle and Ditko's own Killjoy. With The Question and Killjoy, Ditko freely expressed his personal ideology, based on Ayn Rand's Objectivism and the writings of Greek philosopher Aristotle. Ditko also produced much work for Charlton's science-fiction and horror titles. In addition, in 1966-1967, he drew 16 stories for Warren Publishing's horror-comic magazines, most of which were done using ink-wash. These were written by the late Archie Goodwin.

In 1967, Ditko gave his ideas ultimate expression in the form of Mr. A, published in Wally Wood's independent title witzend #3. Ditko's hard line against criminals was controversial and alienated many fans, but he continued to produce Mr. A stories and one-pagers until the end of the 1970s. Ditko returned to Mr. A once more in 2000.

Ditko moved to DC Comics in 1968, where he created the Creeper in Showcase #73 (April 1968) with scripter Don Segall). Dick Giordano and several other artists and writers in Giordano's stable moved soon after. It's not true that it was Giordano who enticed Ditko to DC, though this is widely believed.Ditko Doc from Mark Evanier's "News from Me" blog, retrieved 19-09-2007.

Ditko also co-created the The Hawk and the Dove in Showcase #75, working with writer Steve Skeates, but left after drawing the first two issues of their ongoing series (Sept.-Nov. 1968). The series was then turned over to artist Gil Kane. Unusually for the time, plotter and penciller Ditko used these fondly remembered superhero features to explore complicated ethical issues.

Ditko's stay at DC was short — he would work on all six issues of the Creeper's own title Beware the Creeper (June 1968 - April 1969), though leaving midway through the final one — and again, the reasons for his departure are uncertain. From this time up through the mid-1970s, he worked exclusively for Charlton and various small press/independent publishers, including former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman's start-up Atlas/Seaboard Comics, where he co-created the superhero the Destructor with writer Archie Goodwin, and penciled all four issues of the namesake series (Feb.-Aug. 1975), the first two of which were inked by fellow comics legend Wally Wood.

Latter-day Ditko

Ditko returned to DC Comics in 1975, creating one short-lived title, Shade, the Changing Man (1977-78). Shade was later revived, without Ditko's involvement, in the DC's mature-audience imprint Vertigo Comics. With Paul Levitz (writer) and Wally Wood (inker), he co-created Stalker (1975-76) which ran for four issues. He also revived the Creeper and did such various other jobs as a short Demon backup series in 1979, work on Legion of Superheroes in 1980-81, and stories in DC's horror and science-fiction anthologies. He also drew the Prince Gavin version of Starman in Adventure Comics #467-478 (1980). He then decamped to do work for a variety of publishers, briefly contributing to DC again in 1986, with four pinups of his characters for Who's Who in the DC Universe and a pinup for Superman #400 and its companion portfolio.

Ditko returned to Marvel in 1979, taking over Jack Kirby's Machine Man and continuing to freelance for the company into the late 1990s. In 1982, he also began freelancing for Pacific Comics, beginning with Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #6 (Sept. 1982), in which he introduced the superhero Missing Man, with Mark Evanier scripting for Ditko's plot and art. Subsequent Missing Man stories appeared in Pacific Presents #1-3 (Oct. 1982 - Marcy 1984), with Ditko scripting the former and collaborating with Robin Snyder on the script for the latter two. Ditko also created the Mocker for Pacific, in Silver Star #2 (April 1983).

For Eclipse Comics, he contributed a story featuring his character Static (no relation to the later Milestone Comics character) in Eclipse Monthly #1-3 (Aug.-Oct. 1983), introducing supervillain the Exploder in #2. With writer Jack C. Harris, Ditko drew the backup feature "The Faceless Ones" in First Comics' Warp #2-4 (April-June 1983). Working with that same writer and others, Ditko drew a handful of The Fly, Fly-Girl and Jaguar stories for The Fly #2-8 (July 1983 - Aug. 1984), for Archie Comics' short-lived 1980s superhero line; in a rare, possibly unique latter-day instance of Ditko inking another artist, he inked penciler Dick Ayers on the Jaguar story in The Fly #9 (Oct. 1984)

In 1993, he did the Dark Horse Comics one-shot The Safest Place in the World. For the Defiant Comics series Dark Dominion, he drew issue #0, which was released as a set of trading cards,

In 1995, he pencilled a four-issue series for Marvel based on the Phantom 2040 animated TV-series. This included a poster that was inked by John Romita Sr.

An aborted series at Fantagraphics Books, Steve Ditko's Strange Avenging Tales ran one issue, in 1997.

Ditko retired from mainstream comics in 1998, having worked in his latter years both on such established superheroes as the Sub-Mariner (in Marvel Comics Presents) to newer, licensed characters such as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The last mainstream character he created was Marvel's Squirrel Girl in Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2, #8 (Jan. 1992).

Since then, Ditko's solo work has been published intermittently by independent publisher and long-time friend Robin Snyder, his former editor at Charlton, Archie Comics, and Renegade Press in the 1980s. The Snyder-published books have included Static, The Missing Man, The Mocker and, in 2002, Avenging World, a collection of stories and essays spanning 30 years.

Ditko's final original works for mainstream comics have been: for Marvel, the self-inked, 12-page Iron Man story "A Man's Reach....", by writer Len Wein, in the black-and-white comic book Shadows & Light #1 (Feb. 1998); and, for DC, the 10-page Spectre story "The Depths Of Despair", by writers Bill Mumy and Peter David, inked by Kevin Nowlan in Legends of the DC Universe 80-Page Giant #1 (Sept. 1998).

Personal life

Ditko resides in New York City as of 2006. He has refused to give interviews or make public appearances since the 1960s, explaining in 1969 that, "When I do a job, it’s not my personality that I’m offering the readers but my artwork. It’s not what I'm like that counts; it’s what I did and how well it was done.... I produce a product, a comic art story. Steve Ditko is the brand name".Ditko interview in Masters of Imagination: The Comic Book Artists Hall of Fame by Mike Benton (Taylor Publishing, 1994) , quoting from fanzine Marvel Main #4 (1969), published by Mike Howell and Richard Howell He has, however, contributed numerous essays to Synder's fanzine The Comics.

Ditko is an ardent supporter and advocate of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism."The Amazing Steve Ditko" by Douglas Wolk, Salon.com, June 3, 2005, p. 2 Ditko Shrugged. A four part essay on Rand's influence on Ditko: Part 1: Ayn Rand’s Influence on Steve Ditko’s Craft, Commerce, and Creeper, Part 2: Apollonian and Dionysian Conflicts in The Hawk and the Dove and Beware the Creeper, Part 3: Did Neal Adams Work on Beware the Creeper #5? and Part 4: After Ditko, the Drought, Silver Bullet Comic Books, September 11-22, 2007

Awards

Ditko was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.

Selected bibliography

Strange Suspense Stories #75 (June 1965), reprinting Captain Atom stories from Space Adventures #33, 34 & 36. Cover art by Ditko.
Strange Suspense Stories #75 (June 1965), reprinting Captain Atom stories from Space Adventures #33, 34 & 36. Cover art by Ditko.
Amazing Adult Fantasy #8 (Jan. 1962). Cover art by Ditko.
Amazing Adult Fantasy #8 (Jan. 1962). Cover art by Ditko.

As penciler (generally but not exclusively self-inked), unless otherwise noted

Marvel

Amazing Adult Fantasy #7-14; becomes
Amazing Fantasy #15

DC

Charlton

Warren

Legacy

  • Ditko received screen credit as co-creator of Spider-Man, in the Spider-Man feature-film series. In Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker's landlord or building superintendent, played by Elya Baskin, is named Mr. Ditkovich.IMDb credits)
  • Ditko's DC Comics characters appear in the animated television series Justice League Unlimited. The final episode features Captain Atom, the Creeper, the Question, and Hawk & Dove in a fight scene working together, and in that episode's final scene, in which the Justice Leaguers race down a flight of stairs in the style of actors taking curtain calls, Ditko's characters appear together.
  • In September 2007, Jonathan Ross hosted a one-hour documentary, In Search of Steve Ditko for the arts channel BBC Four. Ross in his documentary noted that only "four or five" public photographs of Ditko are known to exist, and one voice recording, and that Ditko, whom he met in the course of production, declined to be interviewed on camera or photographed.

Quotes

Ditko

On artist Mort Meskin: "Meskin was fabulous, I couldn't believe the ease with which he drew: strong compositions, loose pencils, yet complete; detail without clutter. I loved his stuff".Theakston, Ibid., p. 3 (unnumbered)

Excerpt from Comic Fan #2, Summer 1965, Ditko interview conducted by mail with Gary Martin; punctuation verbatim:

GARY - Who originated Spider-Man?
STEVE - Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal.
GARY - Would you enjoy continuing on him?
STEVE - If nothing better comes along.Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965), published by Larry Herndon: "Steve Ditko: A Portrait of the Master"


Voice of Comicdom #4 (April 1965): Comment on this fanzine's reader-poll to determine which "Best Liked" fan strips would continue to be published; punctuation verbatim: Template:Cquote

Other creators on Ditko

Dick Giordano, editor at Charlton and later DC Comics: "He was suffering from a lung ailment all his life from, I think, tuberculosis when he was younger. He was younger then and needed to exercise, so Steve and I used to spend a lot of time playing ping-pong. They had a table in the cafeteria, and we'd work up a sweat — that's how I learned to play, with Steve — and I had to defend myself when we started. By the time we finished playing, we were fairly equal, I think, but he'd still beat me more often than not".Comic Book Artist #9 (Aug. 2000): "The Charlton Empire: A Brief History of the Derby, Connecticut Publisher", by Jon B. Cooke & Christopher Irving

Frank McLaughlin, Charlton art director: "Ditko lived in a local hotel in Derby for a while. He was a very happy-go-lucky guy with a great sense of humor at that time, and always supplied the [female] color separators with candy and other little gifts".

Mark Evanier: "In 1970 when Steve Sherman and I met Steve Ditko, he asked us about the new Kirby books that were then about to debut at DC. When we told him Colletta was handling the inking, he winced and said that he would probably not look at the comics. Back when he was working for Marvel, Ditko said he'd pick up the latest issues in the office and always check the credits before taking the comics home. If he found Colletta's name — especially as Kirby's embellisher — he would make a point of putting the comic back, or even in a wastebasket. And he'd make sure Stan saw what he was doing and knew the reason why".Jack Kirby Collector, issue unspecified

Characters created

The Hawk and the Dove #1 (Sept. 1968). Cover art by Ditko.
The Hawk and the Dove #1 (Sept. 1968). Cover art by Ditko.


References


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