Today is Steve Ditko's birthday, he's 87. So Happy Birthday to him. He is generally known as being co-creator for Marvel character, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. He's a pretty reclusive guy, so he stays out of the limelight, so not a lot is known about him. As far as who was the creator of Spider-man there's a bit of contention to that story as well, which I'll talk about further down.
For whatever reason, as a kid, I never knew much about Spider-Man
growing up. I don't remember seeing those comics at the local corner
store where I'd ride my bike and buy a comic or two whenever I had the
spending money. Bear in mind, back in the stone ages, there weren't specialty
and mega stores catering to comics fans. What you found on the spinner
rack, or in my case, the wired magazine racks that held a few comics and magazines were
all you got. Unless you had a friend that also collected comics to
share in the experience you just remained oblivious. There were no
fanzines in a small town either, and this was even before cartoons of
such comic characters appeared as well. Like I said, it was the stone
age. Plus I never got an allowance or had a lot of disposable spending
money, so I got what I could find, and that was fine. Plus even though
the corner store didn't have a huge amount of comics, they did have a
nice selection, so you had to weigh your decision on the spending of a
quarter or whatever change you had on a comic plus candy or two comics
and no candy--it was a heavy decision for a kid!
Back in that day, I was drawn more to the larger-than-life iconic superheroes, like Superman, Batman, and sometimes The Flash. At Marvel, I remember just buying the Fantastic Four, or one of their varied monster-type books, like Tales to Astonish or something like that. So I knew about Spider-Man from the in-house ads in the back of Fantastic Four, but that was about it. Had I had read one of the actual Spider-Man comics and his web slinging abilities, I'm sure I would have been a big fan.
So it wasn't until years later that I even considered Spider-Man, and by
that time, I was sort of outside the age range of who he might have
appealed to. Not really, but sort of. In other words something else
may have diverted my attention like Conan or X-Men, and then too, I
quit collecting comics for many years. It probably wasn't until around
1988 when Todd McFarlane started drawing Spider-Man with stories by
David Michelinie, that the title sort of entered public awareness again
with The Amazing Spider-Man #298.
The synopsis for the issue goes like this: "Chance Encounter!" Part 1 of 2. Script by David Michelinie. Pencils
by Todd McFarlane. Inks by Bob McLeod. Cover by Todd McFarlane.
Chance is back in business and working a new job for the Life
Foundation! The clandestine organization wants Chance to steal an arms
shipment coming into the west side docks! That should be a piece of
cake for the high-flying mercenary! However the Daily Bugle dispatches
an undercover photographer to observe the delivery! And beneath the
moonlit sky, fireworks explode when Chance and the Amazing Spider-Man
throw down on the docks! First appearance (and cameo on the last page)
by Eddie Brock (aka Venom). First appearance of Carlton Drake of the
Life Foundation. Cameo appearances by Mary Jane Watson, Joy Mercado,
and Joe Robertson. (Notes: Chance previously appeared in Web of
Spider-Man 15. This issue begins Todd McFarlane's 2-year run as the
penciler of the Amazing Spider-Man series.) 32 pages.
Cover price $0.75.
The comic wasn't an overnight
success, but gradually the art helped sell the new direction of the
book due in part to McFarlane. Over time he became a fan favorite, and
would hide little things inside his intricate artwork. For me, his art
work is a little bit too cartoon-y, but I think it is fun to look at
and he's pretty good at action sequences, and so I can see why it gained so
much attention with fans at the time.
Born in 1927, Ditko began his work in comics in 1953 and did some of his
earliest professional illustration work with the Joe Simon - Jack Kirby
shop. He began a long stint at Atlas Comics, later Marvel, in 1955, and
by the mid-'60s was one of the most accomplished artists of his
During this time, he wasn't exclusive to Marvel, also working with
Charlton; in 1960, he co-created Captain Atom. He would continue to work
with Charlton intermittently for decades, including a revamp of Blue
Beetle that would see the character reinvented from a magic-based
superhero to a street-level avenger in the vein of Batman. For much of his work, especially once he became famous working on
Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Ditko's work became known as stylized and
almost psychedelic. Introducing characters like Eternity -- a cosmic
entity whose design was that of a black shadow filled with images of the
universe -- reinforced this sense.
He worked on the first 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man
before breaking up with Marvel, and while the conventional wisdom is
that Ditko left the series over a disagreement with Stan Lee (who, by
then, had given Ditko a co-plotter credit) about the identity of the
Green Goblin, Ditko denies that. For years, the belief has been that the straw that broke the camel's
back and led Ditko to stop working with Lee was that Lee had decided to
make Norman Osborn, the father of Spider-Man's best friend, the face
behind the Green Goblin's mask. Ditko, the legend goes, thought that it
felt artificial and that the story would do better to reflect the real
world, where it would be more likely than not that when the pulled the
mask off, the man underneath would be a random stranger
"Stan never knew what he was getting in my Spider-Man stories and
covers until after [production manager] Sol Brodsky took the material
from me," Ditko told Wizard
magazine in 2002. "So there
couldn't have been any disagreement or agreement, no exchanges ... no
problems between us concerning the Green Goblin or anything else from
before issue #25 to my final issues."
As far as the contention goes as to who actually created Spider-Man, well, it varies. Stan Lee usually says it was his character, and he got the idea from reading the old pulp stories of The Spider. Jack Kirby, on the other hand, has a different version, which I read about in a couple of different books by Ron Goulart, a comic historian.
According to Kirby, Spider-Man was not a product of Marvel. It was the last thing he and Joe Simon discussed at his old studio before closing and moving to Marvel. They had talked about a strip or script called The Silver Spider. The Silver Spider was going into a magazine called Black Magic. The magazine folded, however, and so they were just stuck with the Silver Spider script in limbo. Kirby goes on to state that once he hooked up with Marvel, when they were on the verge of bankruptcy, he helped getting them back on track by creating Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Captain America, and other heroes. It was at time time that he mentioned to Stan Lee his Silver Spider storyline, and thought it could be made into Spider-Man. He thought the character held a lot of potential. But I guess the true story lies somewhere between all four: Lee, Ditko, Kirby, and Simon.
I'm just happy that recently the Jack Kirby estate finally won their lawsuit with Marvel
, which is now actually Disney, and Jack's heirs will be reaping some of the hard work that he help build while he was with Marvel. How much his heirs won, may not be known and is speculative, but I heard it was a pretty penny.
At any rate in the late '60s, Ditko would create or co-create characters like the
Creeper and Hawk and Dove, as well as Mr. A, a hero who starred primarily
in brutal, one-page comics. Mr. A reflected Ditko's Objectivist leanings and took a "hard line" with criminals.
Political debate and controversy would remain present in the stories of
Hawk and Dove long after Ditko had left them.
Throughout the '70s and '80s, Ditko would work fairly regularly with
DC and Marvel in a freelance capacity, contributing to the creation of
characters like Shade the Changing Man and Speedball. He would also draw
books like Micronauts
. He continued to freelance, with varying degrees of work actually seeing print, until the late '90s. He continues to write and draw to this day, although it's mostly self-published and largely political.
Here's some PDF files from an older fanzine on Ditko, called Ditkomania.
Here are some of his monster, and weird tale-type fiction from Journey Into Mystery.
I watched the rebooted latest version of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
movie last night directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield as
Peter Parker and Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, and starring other
recognizable big named stars like Martin Sheen and Sally Field. Up
front I'll say I enjoyed it. It did retell Spider-Man's origins again,
which probably wasn't really needed coming so soon after the original
trilogy with Tobey Maguire, but it had enough differences in it
concerning Peter Parker's high school days, the
bullying scenes, and so forth, that I didn't mind re-watching another
take on it. Again the special effects are totally fun and dazzling, and
if you are into a super hero or popcorn movie, this one was pretty fun
overall. I imagine it looked pretty amazing in 3-D as well when it was
playing at the theater. It also had a pretty good score by James
Horner. I'd say it kept the franchise pretty well in good shape, and
afterwards, I added the newest movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to my