Happy Birthday Steve Ditko

Today we celebrate the 84th birthday of one of comics legend Steve Ditko! The ever-elusive creator of Spider-Man enjoys his privacy and probably wouldn’t want us to acknowledge his birth, but that won’t stop us from talking about some of his best contributions to comics!

Let’s look at some of Ditko’s better known creations.

You can’t argue that Spider-Man isn’t Ditko’s most successful project. Here’s a clip from an interview with Stan Lee where he talks about what he feels was Ditko’s best work from their run on Amazing Spider-Man.

Ditko’s run on Spidey was semi autobiographical

Over at DC, Ditko created the super hero brother duo Hawk and Dove. One peace-loving, the other war mongering, the Hall brothers made their first appearance in June 1968’s Showcase #75. Dial B for Blog has a great account of their creation.

Ditko also created the Creeper, an outspoken talk show host who moonlights as a psychotic super hero. Simply put, the Creeper is insane. HyperDave at Data Junkie put together a great retrospective of Ditko’s run.

Also during this run at DC, Ditko created Shade the Changing Man, a new Starman and the Stalker. I’m not going to go too much into them, as I really haven’t been exposed to them enough.

During this time, Ditko did some phenomenal stuff over at Charlton, creating the original Captain Atom and the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle, both of which became key staples in DC’s Justice League International books. He also created reporter turned faceless vigilante the Question. Eric Newsom runs an invaluable resource on the character, filled with analysis, interviews and commentary about the faceless hero.

Ditko went on to create a more hardline, Ayn Rand influenced version of the Question called Mr. A. The great people at Dial B for Blog have a much better description of the character.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; there’s much more non-super hero work in his bibliography. Keep in mind, Ditko’s career began in 1953, and he’s still creating stuff to this day. He remains super elusive and doesn’t give interviews. If you would like more information about Ditko’s career, there was a great book Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko that chronicles his career, as well as the BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko. You can find clips on YouTube.

On a final Ditko note, when you research his works and his life its hard to miss mentions of the influence of philosopher Ayn Rand. At one point, he even pitched adapting her novel Atlas Shrugged to Marvel. So in a bit of Ditko magic, my work day began with me taking a pile of Rand’s books–including Atlas Shrugged–from the free book pile in the staff room. I think its fitting; if Ditko had a birthday party, I’m sure that would be his party favor of choice.

 

 

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Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko

When I picked up Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, I figured I would learn more about the comic book creator. Instead, after finishing this book, I only have more questions. This isn’t a shortcoming of the author; his subject is just that complex.

Bell shares a glimpse into the mind of Ditko, someone who is very important in the history of American comics but at the same time is more elusive and mysterious than the Question–a character he created.

So what did I learn about Ditko?

By the time you finish Strange and Stranger, you learn what motivated Ditko. It’s not fame and fortune, or other forms of personal success. It’s following the Ayn Rand philosophy of objectivism. So what’s that?

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Ayn Rand

So what does that mean and how does it apply to Ditko? Basically, he had his own strong sense of what was right and wrong, and he would only do things on his own terms. This strong sense of black and white in his worldview is what influenced his career. Bell shares many stories from Ditko’s peers–and excerpts from the artist–that show how they shaped his business decisions, for better or worse.

Bell does a great job of showing how the characters created by Ditko incorporated objectivist theory, like how Hawk and Dove may have differing theories on how to get there but ultimately coming to the same conclusion of what is right. I can now look back at his work on the Creeper and the Question and see how this influences the characters’ actions. I also was introduced to Ditko’s Mr. A, a somewhat more sinister and objective version of the Question, who wasn’t afraid to take a life of a criminal.

Even if you don’t agree with them, you can’t help but not respect Ditko’s decisions. He is a man who would rather lose personal success then compromise his personal values. This is evident in the tale of Frank Miller wanting to collaborate on a Mr. A project, but Ditko refusing since Miller didn’t share the same views on the character.

So ultimately, I’m more intrigued about Steve Ditko than ever before thanks to this book b y Blake Bell. Does anyone have any recommendations of where I should start?