The thinking artist. A page from Lazlo's Hammer, (1992) which illustrates Ditko's storytelling process.
A fiercely independent man, Steve Ditko walked a path distinctly his own through the comic book industry for over 60 years. Early on Ditko distinguished himself as a versatile artist, drawing horror, science fiction, crime, mystery, war, western, romance and humor stories. In itself worthy of praise, but Ditko transcended mere technical proficiency by infusing his work with a deeply-held, unwavering philosophical ideology. That aspect, above all others, wove its way throughout his storied career.
Captain Atom, which debuted at Charlton in1960, was Ditko's first superhero strip. the character was created and written by Joe Gill and designed by Ditko. Ditko's tribute to Charlton writer Joe Gill appeared in Steve Ditko's 160 Page Package, 1999.
In the years (and decades) that followed, Ditko created, co-created, or re-created a litany of heroes, including Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Blue Beetle, The Question, The Creeper, Hawk and the Dove, The Destructor, Stalker, The Void, Killjoy, Shade, Starman, The Missing Man, Speedball, The Mocker, Static, Miss Eerie, Madman and many others. Ditko's striking designs made his characters instantly recognizable. Just as important was Ditko's ability to bring characters to life with gestures, body language and facial expressions. He was one of the masters in that category.
A sampling of Ditko's costuming. From top to bottom: Spider-Man, certainly his most recognizable design, rendered in cartoons, movies, computer games, tee shirts, toys and other merchandising; Doctor Strange; The Blue Beetle (a long-running character Ditko overhauled in 1966); The Creeper; Shade, the Changing Man; Static and The Baffler.
In 1967 Ditko broke new ground by creating Mr. A, a character copyrighted in his name. Lacking either a costume or special powers, only Mr. A's face was concealed. Freed from the confines of the Comics Code Authority, Ditko's moral avenger took on the underworld and criminals in a black and white world, both literally and figuratively (Mr. A, quite deliberately, never appeared in a color comic). Featured in fanzines and independent publications on and off for over 50 years, co-publisher Robin Snyder has continued to release reprint and unpublished material starring Ditko's seminal hero.
Mr. A illustration from Eon # 3, 1968
Ditko's characters inhabited a world where actions have consequences. He believed in heroism, justice and individual rights, which was echoed in all his fictional constructs. He was unwavering in his convictions and refused assignments that didn't adhere to his standards. He avoided the spotlight and had no interest in being a celebrity. To some that made him an oddball, a kook, or worse. What mattered to Ditko - what he ferociously embraced - was the work. It was this single-minded intensity that made him a compelling figure.
Ditko was an inspiration from my earliest days. His art spoke to me on a very personal level. I'm glad I was able to correspond with him these past years. He was a man of letters, more comfortable, I suspect, writing than speaking. As many familiar with my blog know, I've written much about Ditko's work these past years. That will most assuredly continue.
Thank you, Steve, for the innumerable hours of crafting stories with pencil, ink and paper. Most importantly, thanks for the thought you put into so much of your work.
Dedicated with respect and admiration to Steve Ditko and Robin Snyder.
My friend Barry Pearl has also written a touching tribute on his blog: http://forbushman.blogspot.com/2012/10/steve-ditko-stan-lee-peter-parker-and-me.html