Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ditko Rules!

Steve Ditko is one of the main reasons that I still read comics. He co-created Spider-Man and set the tone for the first four years. In addition to his work on Spidey, he also created Dr. Strange, The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, The Question, Mr. A. and many other superheroes (and villains). I have always been a big fan of Steve’s; in fact, my first published article was an examination of his work.

Well, recently, my good friend and close colleague, Mark Mazz gifted me with the very cool graphic album, Steve Ditko’s The Thing!, and I couldn’t be happier. This extraordinary book serves up 27 short horror stories as penned by Steve. This stuff is simply classic Steve. Sure, sure some of it can possibly read as trite in the cold hard light of today’s sensibilities, but that assessment is simply unfair, especially when you consider that if this stuff seems hackneyed and tired, it is because Steve did it first and did it better!

That’s right folks, if any of this stuff looks familiar to you, it is because someone else saw it first, and replicated something like it later on either in another comic or on some TV show you probably saw. Speaking as someone who has gone on record as not being a big fan of horror (even though I regularly partake in the genre, and am a regular contributor to a couple of Horror publications), This stuff is outstanding. In just a few pages, Ditko is able to create mood, suspense, a fully-realized story, and some shocking turns — not to mention numerous characters about whom we can care, in order to make the stories work.

His stark, B&W artwork shines, for this is Ditko at his unparalleled best. If all you know of Steve is his superhero work, I recommend that you seek this book out and pick up a copy (unfortunately it may be difficult, as I believe that it is currently out of print). Still, that shouldn’t stop you from looking for it (or, failing to find it, you should look for some of the other Ditko collections that are available.

Steve is one of the true masters of this industry, and (thankfully) he is still with us. Sure he gave us Spidey, but that contribution is merely the tip of Steve’s creative influence.


Tommy said...

That cover looks incredibly awesome!

Steve did set the precedent for a lot of things we see. He did do the first Spidey fight scenes after all.

Funny thing I noticed about old Spidey comics back when Spider-Man Classics was out was how there would be 9 panel pages, a great amount of text to read with some Spidery action, whereas a lot of stuff in the 90's was a lot of artwork and tended to be read extremely fast due to that.

I wonder what Steve would say if he saw Penance, seeing as how he co-created Speedball.

Robert J. Sodaro said...

Tom, I’m not entirely certain the Steve reads comics any more these days. And he has been known to be, well, cranky about what he does see.

As for his nine-panes per page, yeah, there were more panels and more words back then, with more story told in fewer pages, for less money.

Now you know why we call them the good old days, eh?