Saturday, July 7, 2018

Steve Ditko, Spider-Man Co-Creator and Legendary Comics Artist, Dies at 90

Artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died at age 90.

The New York Police Department confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was announced. Ditko was found dead in his apartment on June 29 and it is believed he died about two days earlier.

In 1961, Ditko and Lee created Spider-Man. Lee, the editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, gave Ditko the assignment after he wasn't satisfied with Jack Kirby's take on the idea of a teen superhero with spider powers. The look of Spider-Man — the costume, the web shooters, the red and blue design — all came from Ditko. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy No. 15. The comic was an unexpected hit and the character was spun off into The Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko helped create such classic Spider-Man characters as Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard, and Green Goblin. Starting with issue No. 25 Ditko received a plot credit in addition to his artist credit. Ditko's run ended with issue No. 38.

If Ditko has one shining moment that rightfully makes him an immortal it's this series of pages from Spider-Man 33. Spidey is crushed under tons of metal in a sewer that is filling up with water. He could give up but he doesn't give up and Ditko brilliant showed the panels getting larger and larger as Peter struggled to free himself. Your heart is in your throat by the time you get to the final panel. It's brilliance you and I as mere humans can never understand.
Sure he could be a jerk and he has some goofy ideas that he had no problem sharing in his later, less successful works. Sometimes people don't like being preached at, especially by someone who took the balloon juice of Ayn Rand as Gospel. He was a famous recluse in an age where that is hardly possible and he was serious about his privacy. We have all had that imaginary conversation in our head with him where we ask him the questions about Spider-Man that he rarely answered when he was alive. I would have loved to hear his perspective on the various incarnations of the character in the movies and cartoons. But unlike Stan Lee, Ditko always seemed too selfish to share himself with the people who adored his work. It's a strange dicotomy in a man that none of us knew anything about. In fact he was found alone in his apartment two days after he died. That is the time when the cat will start eating your face. It's how I will go out but that doesn't make it any less sad.
He could also invent new bizzarre characters like the Creeper. The Creeper should never work but he does only because Ditko was drawing him. I can't think of any other creator that has done anything of note with the Creeper.
The Question was a great creation for a conspiracy minded person like Ditko. The Justice League cartoons did a fantastic version of The Question with Jeffrey Combs doing the voice of The Question.
Oh, he also mostly creted a little character called DOCTOR STRANGE. The whole success of that character early on was directly tied to Ditko's art and his trippy landscapes that Strange worked his magic in. For the time this series was almost avant garde with visuals that NO ONE had ever seen before. To the comic reader of the 1960s, who was a little high on his supply, it didn't get any better than that.

I also have to give Ditko his props for what he did on ROM up to the end of the series. It's some of his best work and his heart was in the character and the story. Look at those beautiful mitten hands.



Debra She Who Seeks said...

A fine tribute!

Tim Knight said...

Amazing Spider-Man #33 is a classic of comic book storytelling. As I understand it, the narrative style was all Ditko's.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Yup. It's iconic for a reason. It's how you do the medium to full effect. It's why it became a scene one of the Spider-Man movies and it was a great scene.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

when you look at the work here i really feel like Ditko was an artist for his time. but i really feel that time had passed by the time more modern and dynamic artists like Michael Golden, Allan Davis and Sal Buscema came along. as a kid i was so heart broken to see Sal's work replaced by Ditko's it just did not go over well at all with me. when you're 12 or 13 you're not really paying attention to the artist's name or reputation you just know what you like and don't like when you see it.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I can see that. His stuff is very recognizable if you are even a casual comic fan but you are right. He stuck with skills he perfected early in life. He also did his best work collaborating with others and tht was really a chore for him.