Rest In Peace: Comic Book Legend Steve Ditko (1927 – 2018)

Rest In Peace: Comic Book Legend Steve Ditko (1927 – 2018)

Friends, writing these types of posts is never fun. We lost Ellison last week and yesterday it was confirmed that Steve Ditko has passed away. An interesting figure in the comic book industry to say the least. Even more so for his self-imposed exile from the public spotlight during his heyday of popularity. We must all remember that Steve Ditko no matter what helped create some iconic comic book characters. Such as Spider-Man, Dr. Strange as well as the Question!

[Via] Ax11 Boondocks

Ditko’s Early Years.

Ditko upon graduating High School, served in the U.S. Army. Where he worked as a comics illustrator, thanks to his love of the newspaper strip titles of his youth. Prince Valiant as well as comic book heroes like Batman. In fact upon his discharge in the Army he learned that artist Jerry Robinson was teaching at School of Visual Arts in New York City. Thanks to the G.I. Bill he was enrolled and learned to further his artistic skills from the artist he very much admired.
Steve Ditko - Jerry Robinson - Batman

That lasted, according to Robinson about two years. In the 2010 The Art of Ditko book by IDW, Jerry said:
“He was in my class for two years, four or five days a week, five hours a night. It was very intense.”

That most certainly sounds like Steve Ditko had the urge to entertain with his art. As well as of course wanting to break into the comic book industry. Supposedly one of the guest speakers during Robinson’s class was none other than Stan Lee. Although it is rightfully assumed this is where Lee first was able to check out the young artist’s talent. It wouldn’t be until 1956 when Steve first worked on a Marvel Comic. Although at the time it was still Atlas Comics, he did a four page story for Journey Into Mystery #33.
Steve Ditko - There'll Be Some Changes

Ditko would work on many titles of the day such as Tales to Astonish and Strange Tales. I feel it’s worth mentioning that with Ant-Man and The Wasp hitting theaters this weekend. The first appearance of Ant-Man was in the pages of Tales to Astonish #35. To be clear however that character was created by Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Stan Lee.
Steve Ditko - Tales to Astonish - Jack Kirby - Ant Man

A Hero Is Born!

It was of course at Marvel that Steve co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee. Although it’s been pointed out that Lee originally approached Jack Kirby with the character. Stan felt that the character should be more teenager than hero so he let Ditko take a crack at it. As published in Robin Snyder’s History of Comics #5 in 1990. The first element the artist felt needed to be tackled was the costume:

“One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character. I had to know how he looked … before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power so he wouldn’t have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc. … I wasn’t sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character’s face but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character…”
Steve Ditko - Spider Man

The Lee and Ditko partnership really paid off. At least for a while. For 38 issues the duo laid the groundwork for what makes Spider-Man tick. As well as introducing nearly all of the iconic villains that Peter Parker would oppose over the years. During this time the artist would also co-create Dr. Strange…who I have talked about once or twice on the site.
Steve Ditko - Dr. Strange

Having said that though, Ditko left Marvel Comics after four years of success. It’s been said that Lee and Ditko stopped speaking to each other before that. In addition their have been many reasons given to the cause. Almost all of them contradictory. It’s sad that such a thing occurred but it did allow Steve Ditko to return to Charlton Comics. There he would create the Question, work on the Blue Beetle, and co-create Captain Atom.
Steve Ditko - Captain Atom - Charlton Comics

Ditko Heads To The Home of Batman…

In 1968 he would jump to DC Comics. Co-creating the likes of the Creeper and Hawk and Dove. Returning from Charlton Comics in 1975, he would work at DC once again. Creating Shade, the Changing Man and working on a Man-Bat mini-series. Ditko also revamped his Creeper character and provided work for the Demon series as well as The Legion of Super-Heroes. Furthermore Ditko while not being seen publicly or having any desire to be interviewed for the press in later years, still kept working. Whether that be providing artwork for coloring books for The Transformers or his own zines.
Steve Ditko - Mr. A

As always when speaking of those who can be considered legends. They stood apart from the rest. Many times, just like with Ellison and Ditko, we may not agree with their viewpoints. But we can appreciate their artistry. While we are sorry for their passing we are left with their art. Something that future generations will be able to enjoy for many, many years to come.

While I gave a few highlights of Steve Ditko’s career. You might want to watch this video by Jog Mack on the artist, that was uploaded back in February.


Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ok so…love this site and the content…but I have to admit that the sentence fragments are making it hard to read. “At least for a while” just isn’t a phrase that should end with a period; there’s just no verb there. I do hope you keep up with the writing; I really enjoy the topics you cover and hope your audience continues to grow.

  2. Calthaer, thank you for the kind criticism. In all matters I will answer truthfully. Such as I sadly write the same way that I speak. Which as you can tell is an issue. One that I might add I am quite aware of. Not to mention rather ashamed of…I will do my best to fix this – thank you again and I hope you continue to enjoy what the site has to offer, my friend.

  3. One thing I was wondering about Steve Ditko was, Did he tell Marvel he wouldn’t work for them again, or did they just not have the sense to call him? A dream of mine was for Marvel to actually let Steve Ditko do a couple modern era Amazing Spiderman issues in his signature style again. That would have been awesome!!!! Maybe there could have been 40 ditko spidermans instead of 38 that way. Imagine if they had done that in 2015 or something. Wow. The closest thing to my dream becoming reality was when Speedball came out. It was even then years after Spider-man, but his art looked the same. I was like, “That’s the same artist as those original Spiderman 12 cent issues I’ve seen!” (And read in reprints, and even managed to buy a few low grade issues) I bought it immediately. Speedball might not have been the best character, but it was really cool to see that. He was a great artist, and if you notice in Dr. Strange the Marvel film, they still couldn’t get his dimensions and portals and magic right, even with CGI. Great storyteller, iconic artist, interesting person.

  4. James, you know we have a great amount of love for Speedball around these parts. As for Marvel not asking Ditko back – while I of course do not know the true reason I believe that Ditko would probably have declined. I don’t feel he was being a jerk or anything like that – just he felt he had done what he wanted to. I believe that is why he did this kind of work for pay for Marvel in regards to those Transformers coloring books, etc. He rushed that work and it shows but even that still has some of the Ditko magic to it.

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