Add comic books to the growing pantheon of Things That Have Been Ruined.
Along with rock music, movies, and sci-fi/fantasy, comic books are thoroughly politicized to the point where creators actively hate and attack their own fans who might not like the direction politics is taking their work.
But this brings us to today’s question: Who was Steve Ditko?
Who Was Steve Ditko?
If you’re not a fan of comic books, you probably don’t know or care, although it blows my mind that comics book characters have become so mainstream and, dare I say it, cool, that his death is a big deal.
It used to be that being a fan of comic books was like a secret club. It was us dorks, us outcasts, us misfits, us weirdos who were fans despite the social stigma attached to the hobby . . . and we were fine with that. Yes, there actually was a time where wearing a shirt with Spider-Man on it to school would get you picked on by the jocks.
That’s right: I’m old enough to remember a world where “jocks versus nerds” was actually a thing.
I haven’t written too much about comic books, mainly because I stopped being a fan around 2002 because of, you guessed it, politics creeping into stories about giant men and beautiful women shooting lightning and lasers at evil aliens and robots hellbent on world domination. There were financial decisions as well–the increasing price per book, ridiculous crossover storylines that forced you to buy books you normally didn’t want, and an overdone emphasis on gore, shocking “mature” and “adult” themes, and a general lack of heart.
Which, once again, dovetails with the point of this post: Who was Steve Ditko?
Ditko also created Dr. Strange and a raft of other characters for other comic companies, but I was a Marvel guy and a Spider-Man fan, at first due to Todd McFarlane’s run, but later my brother and I went back and bought up collections of the old stories and discovered those magical first few years of Spider-Man’s life.
Ditko was, apparently, an enigmatic man, a recluse, a Randian Objectivist, and stubborn. But he also had an unerring inner sense of justice and rightness, not based on his own personal fancies, but on objective standards. A man after my own heart . . .
He may or may not have been a difficult man to work with. I don’t care. Just look at his art:
Evocative. Colorful. Kinetic. And it had a, dare I say it, creepy or otherworldy vibe that befitted the wall-crawler. The poses he’d draw Spider-Man in, the organic, free-flowing action, and the bold choice to make Peter Parker not a musclebound hulk but more sinewy and lithe really gave Spider-Man a visual pop that differentiated him from other characters.
I also really enjoyed his replacement John Romita, Sr.’s run on Spider-Man, but Romita’s style was more traditional. There was a magic to Ditko that very few later artists approached. You could tell that Ditko loved this character with every ounce of his being. And so did I.
Lastly, let’s look at the characters Ditko created in addition to the titular hero himself:
- The Vulture
- Doctor Octopus
- The Green Goblin
- The Scorpion
- The Sandman
- Kraven the Hunter
- The Chameleon
- The Enforcers
I’m sure there are others I’ve missed. It seemed like every issue Ditko came out with another villain that would soon be a permanent part of Spider-Man’s rogue gallery to this day.
In short, the man was an artistic genius in a uniquely American artform and now he’s dead. But at least he outlived the artform he helped to create. Continue reading “Who Was Steve Ditko?”