Monday, July 9, 2018

Steve Ditko, R.I.P. (1927-2018)

From Andy Lewis and Aaron Couch's 7-6-18 Hollywood Reporter article entitled "Steve Ditko, Spider-Man Co-Creator and Legendary Comics Artist, Dies at 90":
"Artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died. He was 90.
"The New York Police Department confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter. Ditko was found dead in his apartment on June 29; no cause of death has yet been announced."
To read the rest of Lewis and Couch's article, click HERE.
What follow are the first three paragraphs of Graeme McMillan's 7-6-18 Hollywood Reporter article (aptly) entitled "Steve Ditko Was a Creator Ahead of His Time":
"For most people, Steve Ditko will be remembered for co-creating one of Marvel Entertainment’s most iconic characters, Spider-Man. He was the artist who not only illustrated (and, increasingly, plotted) the first years of the wall-crawler’s existence, but co-created most of his iconic rogues’ gallery, including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, the Lizard and many, many more. For anyone, that would be an impressive creative legacy, but for Ditko, whose death the comics world is reeling from, it was just the beginning.
"Like his Marvel contemporary Jack Kirby, Ditko was a creative powerhouse who continued to create fascinating characters even after splitting with Marvel and Stan Lee. With Lee, he also co-created Doctor Strange and the majority of that character’s mythology and, more importantly, iconography; it’s literally impossible to separate Strange from Ditko, in the same way that the Fantastic Four remain permanently wedded to Kirby. Ditko actually jumped ship from Marvel almost five years before Kirby left, for reasons that neither he nor Stan Lee ever fully explained, but have been assumed to be related to creative freedom and differences in approach between the two men in charge of Spider-Man’s story.
"What this meant was that one of the two men behind one of Marvel’s biggest hits, still on a creative and commercial peak, was suddenly on the market at a time when superheroes were big business — something that made Ditko attractive to Marvel’s competitors, who were generally willing to let him follow his muse no matter where it was going. The result was a number of comic creations that, while not as famous as Peter Parker or Stephen Strange, were just as individual, just as fascinating, and just as full of possibility."
To read the rest of McMillan's article, click HERE.

Here's what I wrote about Ditko's most recent creations in my 12-16-15 Cryptoscatology post:

It’s very strange to me that the common “wisdom” of comicdom seems to suggest that Steve Ditko’s greatest efforts were the works he produced for Marvel Comics in the early 1960s.  Putting the lie to that theory is his most recent series, which is so unconventional that it changes its title every issue.  This series is sometimes referred to by its readers as A Ditko.  Ditko and his partner, Robin Snyder, have been publishing this comic book regularly since 2007.  Some comics fans claim that Ditko's technique has declined in quality over the years, the implication being that his artistic skill deteriorated somehow after he turned his back on his earliest successes at Marvel Comics in the 1960s.  This is tantamount to claiming that Picasso's artistic technique deteriorated when he first experimented with cubism in 1909 with such paintings as The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro, or that Miles Davis' artistic technique began to deteriorate when he first experimented with electronic music in 1969 with his groundbreaking album In a Silent Way.  Similar to both Picasso and Davis, Ditko's most recent contributions to his chosen medium represent bold experiments in extreme minimalism, attempts to drag the medium back to an embryonic state when almost anything was possible because the medium had not yet been locked down, concretized, frozen in stasis.  In his latest work Ditko has reduced human figures to their most basic possible forms in order to emphasize the ideas behind the figures.  Looking at the voluminous artwork Ditko has created in his late eighties reminds me of listening to the songs of an aging blues singer, a ragged voice aged to perfection.  

A Ditko plays with the anthology form that was so prevalent in the earliest days of the comics medium (e.g., Famous FunniesTales from the Crypt,Young Romance, etc.) and transforms it into something altogether strange and new.  The way the various stories, such as “The Madman,” “!?,” and “Miss Eerie,” overlap with one another in terms of locale and theme and tone is mind-boggingly impressive.  I particularly appreciate the enigmatic quality of the stories featuring “The Cape” and “The Distorter."  The truth is that Ditko's artwork in these stories is as engaging and eye-catching and unique as it’s ever been.  Beginning comic book artists often don’t understand that’s it more challenging to do less than more.  Ditko's minimalist style (on full display here) is very effective in portraying the stories he wants to tell, unburdened of all the unnecessary accoutrements I sometimes see younger artists layer onto their work for no real reason.  A Ditko is, without a doubt, my favorite comic book series being published today. 

You can purchase A Ditko by clicking HERE.


To watch Harlan Ellison introducing Steve Ditko in Ken Viola's excellent 1987 documentary, The Masters of Comic Book Art, proceed to 19:28 (and hear Ditko discussing his work in his very own words at 20:53):


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