|Amazing Spider-Man # 19, Dec 1964|
Although Ditko's work comes from a cartoonists background, much like the artists he admired (Will Eisner, Jerry Robinson, Mort Meskin), Ditko had the ability to deliniate figures, forms, clothing and settings with a knowledge of the real world. Ditko studied how folds of clothing flowed, he understood the workings of the human hand and how the body moves. Ditko, like Alex Toth, was able to simplify. He knew what to include and what to eliminate.
Ditko made his characters realistic by not turning them into superhuman powerhouses (not that there's anything wrong with that when you're a superlative storyteller, but more on Jack Kirby in another post). Another early memory is the cover to Amazing Spider-Man # 15. The cover draws the reader in with brilliant ease. Spider-Man is in the foreground, struggling to escape a net he is trapped in, as Kraven the Hunter approaches him. The park setting is established by trees and a city landscape peeks out in the background. Unlike DC characters, who often faced unusual situations or gimmicks on their covers, Ditko puts Spider-Man in a "real" and threatening situation. You can easily put yourself in Spider-Man's situation and wonder how he will escape his predicament.
Ditko's heroes were flesh and blood. They could get brusied and beaten (but not bleed in the confines of the Comics Code) and often had to use their mind to outwit their opponents. Ditko thought out his plots and situations and though his pencils look flawless, its obvious that a lot of thoughgt went into his decisions. I believe that is one of the reasons one can go back to these stories and appreciate them over and over.
Ditko is an original. Unique, individual, compelling. Now in his 80s, he continues to draw comics. There are those who chose to denigrate the man on a personal level, attacking him for the type of stories he has chosen to tell in his independent work. I'm not one of them. I've read too many articles, blogs and essays that turn into hateful bile, filled with distortions, inaccuracies and lies about the man - not constructive discussions about his work. I intend to pursue a more positive direction here.
More on Ditko soon....