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Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Steve Ditko

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On this day in comics history in 1927, artist Steve Ditko was born. Craig has said of Ditko, “The master, Steve Ditko, his name thrills me as his concepts and art certainly do.” Although he has shunned interviews and public appearances for more than four decades, Ditko is not a recluse and is well known for being nice to industry professionals and fans alike–even fans like the UK’s Jonathan Ross who, with Neil Gaiman in tow, essentially invaded his offices (off camera) as part of a BBC documentary entitled IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO a couple years back.

Probably the most principled man in comics history, Steve Ditko has long been and remains at age 82 a controversial figure for his unbridled embracing of Randian philosophy, his seemingly odd choices in his comics work (years of working for low-paying Charlton when the bigger publishers would have made him rich, leaving SPIDER-MAN and refusing to ever draw the character again, etc.), his eccentric self-published titles, his lack of visibility and seeming lack of caring in most cases and the very fact that only a handful of photographs of him have ever surfaced, the most recent I believe, being 50 years old now!

Freely credited by Stan Lee (as well as director Sam Raimi in the credits of all three films) as the co-creator of SPIDER-MAN, it was Ditko’s characters, concepts and inimitable sense of costume design that made the strip initially popular. He also created DOCTOR STRANGE, CAPTAIN ATOM and went on to create the 1960′s revamp of THE BLUE BEETLE, the iconic QUESTION, THE CREEPER and his own black and white (and black OR white!) character, MR. A.

Along with his no interviews policy, Ditko has long shunned any personal profiles but in 2008, author Blake Bell published a nice coffee table volume entitled STRANGER AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO. Although it contained more biographical info than fans had yet seen, Ditko has always said that he would prefer his work to speak for itself.  Toward that end of the spectrum comes Craig’s upcoming book, THE ART OF STEVE DITKO (see http://theartofditko.com/).

One of the most recognizable stylists in the history of comic books, Steve Ditko’s art and writing can be a polarizing force but one can’t deny its importance. Seen here is an ultra-rare fan commissioned drawing  (part of a much larger, multi-artist piece) of THE BLUE BEETLE done in either the late 1970′s or the early 1980′s and marking one of the ONLY known times Steve Ditko ever revisited one of his classic characters.


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3 Responses to “Happy Birthday Steve Ditko”

  1. Bob Says:

    I don’t believe that the Raimi films credit Ditko as the co-creator of the character, instead using one of those weaselly “Based on the MARVEL comics by…” constructions. The first one at least, haven’t seen the others.

    And as for “freely credited by Stan Lee”…

    Stan Lee : “I really think the guy who dreamed the thing up created it. You dream it up and then you give it to anybody to draw it”

    But of course he’s “happy” to say that he’s “willing” to say that he “considers” Steve Ditko to be the co-creator of Spider-Man.

    And “the bigger publishers would have made him rich”? Really? Did those bigger publishers make Jack Kirby rich? Don Heck? Wallace Wood? Bill Everett? Which artists of the era were by any definition “made rich” by those bigger publishers?

  2. booksteve Says:

    I meant “rich” by comparison to the legendarily low rates of Charlton. Certainly NOT rich (although he could be making big money today if he would do Spidey commissions!).

    I believe you’re correct on the film credits and I believe it was the same for all three films. It was just so nice to see him get credit at all.

    And yes, I have heard those quotes from Lee but I have also read some on the Ditko boards that go even further toward seeming to offer sincere credit to Mr. Ditko.

  3. Bob Says:

    I have never read or heard Lee make an unequivocal statement about the co-creators of the 1960s Marvel characters (“Steve Ditko is the co-creator of Spider-Man”, “Jack Kirby is the co-creator of the Fantastic Four”). He always surrounds it with something about how he feels he’s “generous” to be “willing” to say that they should be “considered” co-creators if it makes them happy. Which is understandable, since as the quote above illustrates, he doesn’t really think they are (but knows he sounds like a bad guy if he actually says that, and usually doesn’t have to since few interviewers other than Ross pressed him on his precise word choice), but no reason to give him credit for things he never said.

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!

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