(Post written on July 7,2018. Posted on July 11, 2018. Note: Ditko actually passed away on June 27th. The news only hit publicly on July 6th)
The comics world is still reeling from the news that came yesterday (Friday, July 6), about the passing of legendary comic book artist/creator: Steve Ditko.
And I am no exception.
There are many giants in the history of comics. But amongst the top tier of those giants is a man by the name of Steve Ditko.
Where Kirby was all about power and strength…Ditko was about finesse and grace. And a dynamic all his own!
As everyone knows (or should know) Ditko is the creator of countless characters for several comic book publishers including Marvel and DC.
Creating incredible characters that would live on to be some of the most well known in the world.
Two of those being: Spiderman, and Doctor Strange.
Ditko’s reach and influence on the medium can’t be heralded enough. His work has touched so many people in so many ways.
Because it was so damn different.
So offbeat. So weird. So…internal.
It reached into your gut and poked at your feelings. Not just in the rockem’ sockem’ way that comics do.
But in other ways. You’re fears. Your paranoia. Your desperation. Your anger. Your sadness.
And no one did it better.
Steve Ditko wasn’t and isn’t just a fascinating and amazingly influential creator for his work…He was and is just as fascinating for the individual he was.
At the height of Spidermans popularity during Ditko’s run…He walked away from it.
And the stories as to the why, are still not clear.
But when I say ‘walked away’…I mean almost entirely and completely.
He didn’t SPEAK of Spiderman. And almost seemingly was repulsed at the very mention of the character.
(My guess is that he no doubt saw what an incredible creation Spiderman was…and knew how much more stuff he had inside of him. Probably feeling that the Character of “Spiderman” would get in the way of all of it. He wasn’t wrong.)
Passing on any and all public appearances and offers for interviews and speaking engagements.
Balking at offers to show up for the opening of any of the Spiderman or Doctor Strange movies.
Turning his back on fame, celebrity and unbelievable wealth!
Choosing to have the work speak for itself….to the point of using some of his originals as a cutting board. (or so the story goes)
Private and secluded, But also very sweet and pleasant to those lucky ones that would come in contact with him. But always, ALWAYS denying peoples requests for a photograph with him.
With that being the case, the only known photos are those that were taken decades ago.
Utterly and absolutely …..Fascinating.
“The courage to walk away, and be the Artist that you are”
As stated before…Steve Ditko, at the peak of the Spiderman series..walked away from it. And essentially from marvel.
Yeah, he’d return to it in some form in the late 70’s and sporadically through 80’s and 90’s…but what he also did, was venture out and:
That’s right. Long before there were the Image (comics) boys, there was Steve Ditko.
Doing his own works. His own creations. Slave to no company.
And he did so all the way up to his last days. (at 90 years old…still working!)
Think about that for a second.
Whatever ones stance on any number of things concerning Ditko.
One should also take into account this.
Steve Ditko wasn’t just an artist. He was the EPITOME of the artist.
Leaving a popular series…of the most popular character…that HE helped create for a company.
Leaving the fame.
Leaving the celebrity that came with all that.
To do independent work.
To do things that interested.. HIM.
That grow.. HIM
Isn’t that the dream?
And this isn’t the 1990’s (when Image comics broke out)…this is the late 1960’s!
Think about that…
Steve Ditko…didn’t just show us what true artistry was.
He showed us what a true ARTIST was.
Long before the image babies did. Steve Ditko did it first.
Went off on his own. And made damn sure to strike his own match. And the fire he set……shown the light for us all.
Whether we knew it or not.
“The Greatest Creation: With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.”
Everyone who considers themselves fans of Steve Ditko, each have their own favorite work and character that they would consider Ditko’s “greatest creation”.
I myself stand with the throngs that would consider Spiderman as that “greatest creation”.
For me, and speaking just for me…..Spiderman, or more accurately Peter Parker, quite simply….was me.
Superman, Batman, Thor, Hulk, etc…..All great characters. But none that I could relate to.
And along came “Pete”. A scrawny, geek of a kid…Painfully shy. An outcast.
The way Ditko rendered him. With fear, self doubt, the many problems that plagued him. Weighed on him. Spoke to my heart.
As a kid growing up in the 70’s, armed with a ‘marvel pocket book’ featuring the reprinted issues of Spiderman 14-20, as his choice for reading in his 4th grade classes…..
….I was captivated at the thought of a hero…..being just a kid.
A kid…like me.
And that’s the reason that character resonates to deeply with so many people…as he still does to this day, to brand new generations.
Spiderman…Peter Parker…wasn’t a comic book character.
He wasn’t a two dimensional drawing in four color…
He was a friend.
And at times a badly needed one, that was no more than a reach away.
I would read about HIS issues, and he would help me take a break and pass the time between mine.
Witnessing him going through HIS struggles, helped in dealing with my own.
Whether that was dealing with a parental divorce at age 8. Or a death of a beloved family member. Or just when I was feeling alone or afraid. Unsure.
That “greatest creation” was always there .
And judging from the sonic boom that hit the internet when the news broke…obviously, I am not alone in this thinking.
Steve Ditko’s influence and contribution to not just comics, but to art as a whole, can never be understated.
But through his creations, especially with his greatest of creations, he has managed to not just inspire us beyond all limits, and awe us beyond our imaginations.
But he has also managed to touch our hearts in a way that few others can really say they have.
So, to you Steve Ditko.
A man I have never met. Not once.
And yet feel as though I have hung out with a thousand and one times…
I say… thank you.
Without you in this world, life would have been much harder growing up.
I’ll see you, when my own portal to the next realm opens. But I must warn you…that chances are, I’m gonna want to talk a little bit about Spiderman.
So get over yourself. 😀
Till then…..Godspeed Steve Ditko.