Amazing Spider-Man (1963–1998): The Massive Re-Read, Interlude Seven — Farewell, Steve Ditko
I can’t be doing a massive re-read of Amazing Spider-Man and not acknowledge this.
The house that Stan and Jack built. That’s what people used to call Marvel Comics. And while no one can deny that Lee and Kirby helped shaped the majority of the Marvel Universe that we all know and love today, it always bugged me that Steve Ditko was sidelined or completely left out of that conversation.
Up until relatively recently, Spider-Man was the flagship character of Marvel. But, more than that, he remains the heart and soul of their universe — and he was a Steve Ditko co-creation.
When Marvel branched off into the realms of magic, adding another facet to their ever-expanding world, Dr. Strange was our guide. And he was a Steve Ditko creation. (Even Stan himself, glory hound that he is, outright said that Strange was Ditko’s.)
Jack Kirby may have co-created Iron Man, the hero in the bulky grey armour, but that sleek red-and-goal suit that became Tony Stark’s trademark look — the one that arguably helped to eventually make him the company’s new flagship character? Steve Ditko designed that.
And that’s just Marvel. His other creations, The Question and Mr. A, became Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ inspirations for Rorschach, the most popular character from the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time, Watchmen.
To call Steve Ditko an influential figure in the comics world and, by extension, the world of popular culture would be a gross understatement. But the word that he deserves to be associated with, more than any other, is storyteller.
From his use of panels to subconsciously set the mood, to his incomparable use of facial expressions, right down to just how well he could pace and control the story — Ditko was a master that anyone working in comics needs to study.
News of his death broke recently. And while his passing is sad and a tremendous loss, I can’t really grieve over his death so much as celebrate his life’s work.
My very first understanding of a superhero was formed when I was maybe five years old and I stumbled upon a European hardback reprint of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s early Spider-Man comics — and I’ve been a fan of the character since.
But I also continue to grow as a creator in comics, thanks to the lessons that Ditko has taught me through his work.
I very rarely get to say this with such certainty about any kind of artist — whether they’re an author, illustrator, musician or filmmaker — but I would not be the man I am today if not for Steve Ditko. He may have played second fiddle in the conversation about Marvel, but he was always a giant in my life.
(Originally published on 7 July 2018.)