Sunday, 8 July 2018

Steve Ditko


The major news events of this weekend may include the football World Cup, Wimbledon and London Pride but, for me, the most significant news was the sad passing of comic book legend Steve Ditko. There are countless excellent tributes to the great man on t'internet to which I can add very little, so I thought I'd post just a few Ditko images from my collection starting, of course, with his most famous co-creation, the Amazing Spider-Man.


These two early Spidey covers are among my favourites, showcasing indelible images of our wall-crawling hero fighting some of his idiosyncratic Silver Age foes. Both of these comics are a bit wrecked ( which is how I could afford to buy them! ) but that just adds to their charm for me. I love the "Spidey in darkness" image of the first cover and the instantly-recognisable Ditko cityscape and vile villain of the second. ASM #9 is the oldest Spider-Man comic I own and is a treasured possession, taped-spine and all!


Of course, Sturdy Steve's other most famous character was Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts and this issue of Strange Tales was Ditko's swan-song on the title and also featured his only cover. And what a great cover! The mind-bending, psychedelic adventures of Doctor Strange in Ditko's surreal worlds often come across as a four-colour waking dream and this image of Doc encountering the enigmatic Eternity is a splendid example.


Of course, Ditko worked for many comics publishers throughout his career, creating supernatural stories and the mighty Captain Atom for Charlton, as well as various jobs for Warren, Atlas, Pacific and Eclipse. After jumping ship from Marvel in 1968 he dreamed up some outlandish characters for the usually staid and conservative DC Comics, including The Hawk & The Dove and the outrageous chap above, The Creeper. This weird-looking misfit never set the super hero scene on fire but was a fine example of Ditko's bizarre character designs.


And, speaking of bizarre characters, during a later stint with DC in the 1970s he created the short-lived Shade The Changing Man series, packed full of his trademarked surrealism and dimension-hopping adventure. In many ways it was an attempt to recreate his 1960s weirdness which could only seem out-dated ( although the distorted architecture on the cover above seems to prefigure the likes of Inception... ) but it was fun while it lasted. And it gave us pages like the one below...


The fiercely independent and legendarily reclusive Ditko became an avid proponent of the objectivist philosophy of the likes of Ayn Rand and devoted decades to expounding these moralistic, black-or-white theories in self-published comics such as Mr. A. ( I've got a copy of that somewhere but haven't managed to dig it out. ) These almost hysterical Libertarian tracts were virtually unreadable but often the great man's sublime style shone through the tub-thumping...



Steve Ditko was indeed a unique talent whose imagination made the world a better and weirder place. He will be sadly missed.


6 comments:

Kid said...

I thought about using the cover of Strange Tales #146 in my own post on the subject, Cer, but decided against it because I thought the title, 'The End At Last!", might make it sound as if Ditko's demise was something I'd long been waiting for. (There's one or two oddballs out there who'd accuse me of anything.) I think I'll dig out my Dr. Strange Omnibus and re-read it in tribute to SD.

cerebus660 said...

I know what you mean, Kid. I posted that Spidey / Electro cover on a Facebook page about fave covers and then thought afterwards that it's quite a depressing image. I liked that your blog post featured Ditko's unused Amazing Fantasy #15 cover - it'a always interesting to see the road not travelled...

But... those Trump supporters, eh?

Kid said...

Let's hope they're not all like the 'Trump' commenter on the previous post, eh? For a guy who speaks out of his @rse though, the word 'trump' is an appropriate one.

Regarding the unused cover, it's unlikely that the 'Amazing Fantasy' logo was the finished one that would've been used had the cover seen print - it's far too rough for that. It's more than likely that the logo used on the actual published issue would have been utilised for Steve's version also. One day I may do a mock-up of it. (If I ever find the time.)

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

You did a great job with this tribute. You captured perfectly the complexity of the guy and the frustration we all had with him. I compare him to Neil Armstrong in the way he never really shared with the world how he felt about the great thing he did. Spider-Man is THE iconic Superhero yet we know very little about one of his creators.

Paul Mcscotty said...

Nice tribute and selection of covers and strips - I'm a big fan of Ditko's early work and at his peak he was one of the very best. His work on Spidey when I first saw it in the 1960's in Odhams Pow comic still sticks in my mind even today. ASM #9 is one of my favourites of his run on the comic sadly I only have this in reprint form in an issue of Alan Classes Creepy Worlds and in Spider-Man comics weekly. Always sad when a hero passes away (even at 90) but the last few years seems to have seen so many of them leaving us like David Bowie etc. etc. etc.

cerebus660 said...

Cal, Paul... thanks for your comments. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply.

Ditko's passing is certainly a very sad one, even given his great age. He was a fascinating character as well as a visionary creator and it's our loss that he never shared more of himself with his readership. But I don't think he was bothered...

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