Now, I’m sure the Merry Marvel Marching Society is going to be out in full force and there are going to be a million of the hottest of hot takes out there regarding the passing of Steve Ditko at the age of 90.
Well, a million and one.
It’s a well known fact that major media outlets have prepackaged “death” files for older celebrities and social luminaries. Ready to go at a moment’s notice, all they need to do is slap on a death date to the piece and it’s ready to publish. A person’s life reduced to the completion of a sentence and the push of a ‘publish’ button.
That’s not the case around here. I got a text mere minutes ago and now I’m trying to figure out the best way to encapsulate the life of an artist who radically changed the course of my life.
My first exposure to Ditko’s work was through the early 1980’s reprints of his thirty-eight issue Spider-Man run, given to me by my mother. I think they were billed as Marvel Presents: Spider-Man at the time.
Spider-Man was and is my favorite. There’s scarcely been a time in my comic book reading career that I haven’t been reading some manner of Spider-book. As a kid, I always had one with me and I would read them until the covers fell off. There also happens to be a Spider-Man action figure within arm’s length from me as I type this.
I’m not sure what it was about the character that I connected with, but it was on a cellular level. If I had to venture a guess, it was Steve Ditko’s art. Spider-Man just looked cool and Peter Parker…he was just a kid like me.
The Amazing Spider-Man #6 was the first appearance of The Lizard and there was something about Ditko’s cover that just freaked me the hell out. I’m pretty sure it gave me nightmares and the cover of the comic “mysteriously” disappeared shortly thereafter.
These books that Steve Ditko worked on were also instrumental in me learning how to read. I was given a vast majority of them prior to going to kindergarten and there was only so many times my parents could read them to me before I started catching on. If it sounds like I’m bragging here I totally am.
When I was older and a bit more of a sophisticated comic book collector, Ditko returned to Marvel to create… Speedball. And I was totally there for it.
This just so happened to be right at the peak of Bat-mania that was spurned on by Tim Burton’s Batman film. While we were all enraptured by the dark and gothic tortured hero, there was still a part of me dedicated to Ditko’s newest creation. What’s not to love about another teen hero given powers by some super scientific accident?
I can still recall a conversation I had with one of my friends while I was preaching the gospel of Ditko’s newest creation.
“Dude, he’s JUST like Spider-Man!” he said.
“Isn’t it GREAT?” was my reply.
Steve Ditko seemed like the other side of the coin when compared to Stan Lee. I love Stan Lee and all his bombast as the face of Marvel (his cameo in Ant-Man and the Wasp is his best yet) but Ditko was very much the opposite. From what I’m reading, he seldom gave interviews and was content to let his work do the talking. To me, that’s kind of perfect. Everything we need to know about him came from the tip of his pencil.