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CHAPTER SIX
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STEVE DITKO -- he's the guy who drew Spider-Man! A real nut case. A recluse who never leaves his little bubble. He hates Spider-Man now. He cuts up his original Spider-Man artwork with a knife! He never gives interviews. He belongs to some kind of cult that worships Ayn Rand. And he stopped working many years ago.

THAT is Steve Ditko's reputation, among some. Or at least it USED to be -- prior to the posting of THIS special issue of DIAL B for Blog! As you may have heard, this issue is "absurdly long, insanely great." It's what I call an 80-pg. Giant, which means that if you're NOT a Ditko fan, you may think it's longer than "War and Peace." But then again, if you're NOT a Ditko fan, why are you reading this? Why call yourself a comic fan at all? If you're not a Ditko fan, why bother living?

This issue, we're going to expose the truth, and the truth is this: Steve Ditko is NOT a nut case, and NOT a recluse. He does NOT hate Spider-Man, and he is NOT in the grip of some bizarre Randian cult. I am sick to death of people stereo-typing Steve Ditko. In my opinion, Steve Ditko is champion -- and I promise you reader, before this issue of DIAL B is over... you're going to hear me ROAR!
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By the way, I should mention that I don't know Mr. Ditko personally, and this article does NOT contain a new interview with him. Although I do know several people who have met or worked with Ditko, I have never met him myself. So what makes ME think that I can possibly add anything new or worthwhile to the Ditko legend?

Simple! I may not know Steve Ditko, but I have been loving and admiring his work for more than half a century. And I bring to the table certain graphic art skills, e.g., Photoshop is my bitch.

My greatest power: I've been told I have a unique way of seeing things. And most importantly of ALL -- I have something that NO ONE else on the entire planet has. I have a DIAL! And, after almost 700 issues, I think it's pretty evident that I know how to use it.

This article is written as if it was a "fun" doctoral dissertation. Some of my conclusions involve a degree of speculation, but they are all based on well-documented facts. When I am speculating or giving my opinion, I will state this outright in the text. When I make declarative statements, it is because I am certain that what am saying is true. But I will not be presenting "proof" of these statements. Why?

I'll give you ONE example by telling you something I bet you didn't know: Mr. Ditko's full name is Stephen John Ditko, Jr. His middle name, long known to start with a "J," is John. He is a "junior," named after his father, Stephen John Ditko, Sr.

I mention this because early in his career, Ditko signed several stories "J. KODTI." This was long thought to be a pen name, but it turns out, it isn't. Ditko was using his real middle name, with an anagram of his real last name! ( J = John, Kodti = Ditko.)

If I had to, I could prove my statements about Mr. Ditko's name in a court of law. But I'm not posting such proof here. NO CHANCE! I would never! Too personal. We all know Ditko is a private man, and I intend to respect his privacy! On some things, reader, you'll just have to trust me. If I may be allowed to paraphrase Marc Anthony, I'm here to not bury Steve Ditko, I'm here to praise him! And to the skies, I might add. This article is similar to my Jack Kirby tribute, but it does not end with a "Zap-Out" sequence -- it ends with a ROAR.

Oh, and I should also mention that when it comes to discussing Mr. Ditko, I have another huge advantage. I've read his autobiography. WHAT?!?! Steve Ditko has an auto biography?!?!

Calm down, reader. Don't get yourself all worked up so early in the article, or you will soon pass out! Yes, it's true -- Mr. Ditko DOES have an auto-biography. I've read it, and I bet YOU have too! As you'll soon see, it's called THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

I'm told that these days, Mr. Ditko, now 86 years old, is in very good health. He lives and works in Manhattan. He has no internet at home, doesn't really watch TV, and enjoys reading periodicals at the public library. He loves books. He appreciates the displays set up to showcase certain titles. And he gets very annoyed when people blithely mess up these displays. He calls them "Undisplayers." How do I know these things? Well...

If Mr. Ditko should somehow happen to see this issue of Dial B for BLOG, it would be my most fervent hope that it would please him, and if he should choose to communicate his pleasure (or displeasure!) with me, his letter will be framed and put on my wall, next to my one of my most highly-prized material possessions -- a stunningly beautiful, finished pen and ink drawing of Jesus Christ done just for me by Neal Adams -- a recreation of a panel from Green Lantern #89. When I got it as a gift one Christmas, it was my Neal Adams Moment #1. Secret revealed!

If Mr. Ditko should have any desire to speak with me on the telephone, I will make that happen. But if I, Robby Reed, get a phone call from Steve Ditko, I reserve the right to faint on the spot. If he yells at me, I may cry. If he tells me he loves it, I will also cry.

I've never officially dedicated an issue of Dial B for BLOG to anyone before. Until now! This issue is hereby officially dedicated to... a guy named Steve. And if you are a fan of this particular Steve, I suggest you clear your schedule, sit back, and enjoy what happens when Robby does his thing.

If you're new here, you are forgiven in advance for thinking you have just died and gone to heaven. And if the walls of heaven are decorated by Steve Ditko, reader, dig this: We're IN heaven, and I mean starting right NOW!

Because, once again, it's time to DIAL B for BLOG -- for what I believe many will call our GREATEST issue ever. Absurdly long -- insanely great!

Reader, let's begin! It all started in...
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XDESTINY OF A DITKO

Stephen John Ditko, Jr. was born November 2, 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Steve had two sisters and a brother. His father was a master carpenter and an artist, and his mother was a homemaker and a seamstress.

Steve drew several scenes of Peter Parker sewing his own Spider-Man uniform, such as the one pictured right. Stan Lee probably originated the "sewing your own uniform" bit, but Ditko continued using it as a running theme, probably as a tribute to the seamstress skills of his mother. I mention this because, in my view, knowing this personal detail enhances one's enjoyment of Ditko's work!

As a kid, Ditko attended Johnstown High School in Pennsylvania. The photos of young Steve and his classmates seen above and below are from his high school yearbook, 1944.

The photo BELOW shows Ditko as a member of the school's Science Club. Nerd alert! Almost everyone in the club has on a shirt and tie, as was the norm back then, but Ditko, who wears a shirt and tie in other yearbook shots, was, for some reason we will probably never know, wearing a black sweatshirt the day this pic was taken.
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Some of these students in these photos may have been used as models for Spider-Man's cast of supporting characters, aka...
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Of course, the "brainy class nerd" and the "egotistical, bullying athlete" are stock characters who have populated this type of story for more than a century, starting with Tom Brown's School Days (1857). As seen BELOW, Jack Kirby had drawn similar types in a story he did a year before Spider-Man made his debut...
It's hardly unusual that an artist would use his own life as raw material for creating his art -- in fact, it's actually fairly typical. Basically, they HAVE to. It's the only raw material they've got! And art is all about imposing order upon that material. And, perhaps, fashioning it into something beautiful.

For example, the rented Pennsylvania house Ditko grew up in had a front porch, upper bay windows, and heavily-wooded backyard. (Just trust me. It did. And still does.) It may have served as a model for "Peter Parker's House,"
which Ditko depicted in cut-away for a pin-up in the first Spider-Man Annual (seen BELOW).
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As you can see from the side-by-side comparison below -- showing Ditko's senior class picture on the LEFT -- both Steve and Peter (Spider-Man) Parker have dark, slicked-back hair, wear big round glasses, a suit and tie, and appear slightly nerdy. The resemblance is striking! And as you'll soon see, the similarities between Ditko and Parker are more than just physical.

In Masters of the Imagination, author Mike Benton quoted Ditko as saying, "My biggest ambition as a teenager was to get into comics. I liked drawing -- the kind done for comics. I never had any desire to be an illustrator, or do a Saturday Evening Post cover."
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After high school, Ditko went into the army in 1945, and was stationed in post-war Germany. Leaving the service, he enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (which became The School of Visual Arts) around 1954, at the age of 28. He began getting lessons from industry giants such as Jerry Robinson, who drew (under Bob Kane's name) many of the early Batman stories. Al Williamson was a student at the time, as well, as was a young artist with unusual tastes named Eric Stanton.

BELOW: One of Tom Gill's classes at the SVA, 1948. Ditko was not in this particular class, but it did include, among many others, a very young-looking Wally Wood!

The photo comes from Doc V., and you can Doc's great interview with Marion Sitton here.
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STEVE'S SELFIE

Steve Ditko's self-portrait is pictured below. Feast your eyes, Ditko lovers. Stare at it. Look at it. It used to be a tree! Then it was a completely blank piece of paper. Then Ditko took a pencil, pen, and brush, and DREW something on it. And now it's priceless. Talk about added value!

The craftsmanship of the art is magnificent. The intricate cross-hatching and shading show the consummate talent of a master at work. The image itself is striking, bold, freakishly beautiful. And bizarre! What does it mean? Where did the image come from? How was it pulled out of thin air -- and brought into reality? How -- and WHY -- did it go from Ditko's mind, to his hand, to paper?

Study it another moment, then I'll tell you. And by the way reader, if you don't like my waxing poetic about the glory of Ditko's art, I suggest you leave now. It's only going to get much, much worse! And then, just when you think I've reached the limit, I'm going to go so far BEYOND the limit that you won't know WHERE you are! Or WHO you are.
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Ditko did the self-portrait above for Wally Wood's "WITZEND" #1, published in the summer of 1966. It also appeared on the cover of Craig Yoe's hardcover book, THE ART OF DITKO (pictured right).
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The original art for the piece, seen ABOVE, shows that initially a sketch was done in loose pencil, then virtually all the detail was added in the inking stage.

This was Ditko's style. After the inking was finished, additional finishing touches, such as the stream of smoke, the neck muscle and the ear, were created using white paint.

My interpretation of the image

As I see it, the image shows a translucent bald man wearing a Dr. Doom-ish iron mask, with no visible pupils. It's Ditko, wearing a mask that reveals his face by covering it. It reveals his personality because it alludes to his life's work, a brilliant career in comic book art.

Thus, Ditko's mask both shields and exposes his "true identity." And notice that the mask has substance, while the man wearing it is transparent. There IS no man without the "mask" (the art). The man IS the "mask." Pure Ditko. Pure genius!

Given the amount of fine detail in the drawing, it must have been done on a very large piece of paper, right? Then reduced in size for publication, right? That's how it's always done, right?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong!

Reader, are you ready to have your mind blown for the first of what will several times during this issue? Well I hope you ARE... because pictured BELOW is Ditko's actual drawing -- and as you can see, it's not only NOT large, it's shockingly SMALL! I mean, look at the thing. It's tiny!

There is one way, and one way ONLY, to get that kind of detail in such a tiny space. You have to be an artist. You have to be a TRUE ARTIST, with consummate skill, and absolute mastery over your medium.

And reader, in my view, that is EXACTLY what Steve Ditko is.
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The End?

HAHA!

Good one.

We're just getting started!

Reader, you are about to become
part of something truly EPIC.

CLEAR. YOUR. SCHEDULE.


The entire comic book WORLD is going to be
busy for the next HOUR or TWO...

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