Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why I Like Steve Ditko

It's only fitting that one of my first posts discusses Steve Ditko, whose work I've admired since I was a child. I was trying to recall my earliest memories of his art, and what it was that made it connect on a personal level. An early image came to mind: a panel in Spider-Man focusing on a band of criminals fleeing. I recognized how the folds of clothing moved they looked the same way my trousers moved when I ran. It was a simple observation, but brought a sense of reality to the scene.

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....

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Beginning!

I've finally decided to take the plunge and start a blog of my own. My initial idea, as some may have guessed from the title, is to discuss the world of comics, not only 1960s Marvel Comics (and other periods), but other companies and creators as well. I will look into the obscure, the forgotten, and the unusal. Since my interests are varied, I'm sure I'll diverge from time to time, and topics beyond comics, such as movies, books, Televsion, Animation, etc, will be shared. 

I'm currently working on an introduction to the Tales to Astonish Masterworks, which will include the contents of TTA #'s 31-34 and all the non-hero filler stories. I'm thriled to get this assignment, and have been holed up for the past week or so, researching, reading and revising. It's coming into shape after about 8 drafts, although I may feel differently after I look it over again.   
I suspect this blog will evolve over time as I feel my way around. I hope what I write will be of interest and provide some worthwhile discussion. I welcome comments and love hearing divergent opinions; it makes life interesting and I might even learn something.