Rest in Peace, Steve Ditko (1927-2018)


The world lost a true artistic visionary when Steve Ditko passed away at age 90. He had supposedly been dead two days before his body was found in his New York City apartment, an ignoble ending to one of comic book’s most unique artists, the man who co-created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, two characters currently riding high in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That their spiritual father should leave this mortal coil so anonymously is a tragedy, and a crying shame.

Ditko’s work will never be mistaken for a Jack Kirby or Neal Adams, or any of their myriad imitators. His art was deceptively simple, yet so complicated in its execution. He’s all angles and motion, with lots of empty spaces. His was a style all his own, a style that fans loved for its singularness. Ditko, after a post-war stint in the Army, entered the comics field in 1953, working for Kirby and partner Joe Simon’s studio, where he met veteran illustrator Mort Meskin. The two worked closely together doing inks and backgrounds. He also began his long association with Charlton Comics that year, an association that would last on-and-off until the company folded in 1986.

During this period, Ditko also did work for Atlas Comics, where his surreal twist ending short stories for JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, STRANGE TALES, and TALES TO ASTONISH became popular among readers. When Atlas morphed into Marvel and got into the burgeoning superhero business, Ditko and writer/editor Stan Lee created THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, a teenaged superhero filled with teen angst. High school student Peter Parker was a geeky science nerd before getting bit by that radioactive spider, and continued to be plagued by doubt when not in costume. Comic fans had never seen the likes of Spidey before, and he became a huge hit, especially on college campuses during the turbulent 60’s. Ditko demanded and received credit for plotting, and Lee just let him loose and filled in the word balloons. During Ditko’s 38 issue run, some of Spidey’s greatest villains were introduced: The Vulture, Dr. Octopus, The Sandman, Mysterio, and perhaps the greatest of them all, The Green Goblin.

Ditko and Lee also teamed on Dr. Strange in the pages of STRANGE TALES. The Master of the Mystic Arts dealt with the supernatural, and Ditko’s trippy, semi-psychedelic art placed the Doctor in other-dimensional battles against the likes of Dormammu and Eternity. Dr. Strange didn’t have the cultural impact of Spider-Man, but was again a hit with the college crowd, who thought Ditko must’ve been tripping on acid to produce such outre’ adventures! After a brief stint on The Hulk in TALES TO ASTONISH, Ditko left Marvel in 1966, working on Charlton’s Blue Beetle and The Question.

At DC, Ditko created The Creeper and Hawk & Dove, but didn’t stay long. In 1967, he introduced Mr. A in the pages of Wally Wood’s independent witzend. Mr. A was an anti-hero vigilante, based on Ditko’s belief in the Objectivist philosophy of writer Ayn Rand. Mr. A saw no grey area in right and wrong, and dealt harshly with the criminal element to dole out his brand of justice. Ditko would return to the character again and again over the years, doling out his own brand of Objectivist theory.

In later years, he worked for Warren, Eclipse, Pacific, and Dark Horse, returning now and then to Marvel and DC. He released all his new works through an independent publisher from 1998 on, preferring total artistic control rather than work-for-hire jobs. He refused interviews and public appearances at Comic Cons, deciding his work could do his talking. Steve Ditko was an iconoclast, an innovator, and a genius in his chosen field. He may have died alone, but his art belongs to the world.

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TOMAHAWK Fights The War of Independence – in Comic Books!

There weren’t very many comic-book heroes (super or otherwise) whose adventures took place during the Revolutionary War era. In fact, I can only think of one – DC’s Tomahawk, who made his four-color debut in Star-Spangled Comics #69 back in 1947. Tomahawk fought not only the British, but Indian co-conspirators in the pages of Star-Spangled and World’s Finest, getting his own book in 1950, which had a 140 issue run until folding in 1972.

Writer Ed France Herron and artist Fred Ray produced the bulk of Tomahawk’s tales, and being a comic book there were some sci-fi elements added during the 50’s, and campy super villains in the 60’s. Tomahawk even introduced America’s first superheroine Miss Liberty, a frontier nurse by day who fought alongside Tomahawk in 22 issues. In honor of the July 4th holiday, here’s a gallery of covers chronicling the thrilling stories of Tomahawk:

 



 

Halloween Havoc! Extra: The CREEPY Artwork of Frank Frazetta

Illustrator Frank Frazetta (1923-2010) is well known among fans for his brilliant artwork in the fantasy/horror/sci-fi genres, especially his covers for the paperback reissues of CONAN THE BARBARIAN in the 60’s. Frazetta did a lot of covers for Warren Publications’ black and white horror comic line, and here is a gallery of his work from the covers of CREEPY:

Halloween Havoc! Extra: The Mind-Warping World of EC Comics!

William M. Gaines’ graphic and gruesome line of horror, crime, and science fiction comics helped turn America’s youth into mouth-foaming, homicidal Juvenile Delinquents until they met with a horror of another kind – Dr. Fredric Wertham and the U.S. Congress! These beasts effectively destroyed EC through censorship and propaganda, ending one of graphic arts’ most creative eras. But EC still lives in the hearts and minds of horror fans everywhere, so here’s gallery of ten spine-chilling covers from the Golden Age of EC Comics! Spa Fon!

 

Happy 100th Birthday, Jack Kirby!

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the undisputed King of Comics, ‘Jolly’ Jack Kirby! This creative genius was responsible for some of the best known (and loved) characters of the 20th Century, and his influence is still felt to this day. Rather than using my meager words,┬áhere’s a gallery of comic cover art featuring the amazing talent of Jack ‘King’ Kirby!

Happy birthday, King!