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CHAPTER SIX - PART ELEVEN
"THIS CUTTING BOARD IS HAUNTED!"
An article in a 2002 issue of Wizard magazine included an anecdote by artist Greg Theakston about a visit to Ditko's studio where Theakston observed that the back of a page of Ditko-drawn original art looked to him like had been used as a cutting board.

In 2008, Theakston said, “This thing has been blown way out of proportion. On occasion, I’ve used the backs of old paintings as cutting boards. I’m sure lots of artists do the same, so it really doesn’t allow us a deeper view of the Mysterious Stranger, simply an artist at work. The 'cutting board' story has grown in the minds of fans to the point that many assume Ditko is cutting (or destroying) his beloved Spider-Man artwork, when there is no evidence for that belief."

OK -- time to set the record straight!

Some background: In the old days, artists used super-sharp Exacto knifes to precision-cut paper. The blades on these small, pencil-sized knives were so sharp, they routinely sliced through several layers of paper -- so you had to make sure there was a piece of thick cardboard underneath the paper you were cutting, or you'd be in danger of cutting all the way through and damaging the surface of the desk you were working on. If you did this consistently, you could literally slice up the surface of the desk. The Exacto knife was SO sharp, you could practically do surgery with it. It was actually dangerous, and it required careful attention at all times. You'd never DARE use it to cut something on top of a precious piece of furniture -- without some sort of shield underneath.

Then someone invented the cutting board, a greenish piece of "self-healing" rubbery/plastic material that could be cut again and again without damage. Many artists immediately adopted the cutting board -- but not all. Some continued to use scrap cardboard, or whatever material was on hand. Old schoolers.

It IS true that, according to Theakston, Ditko DID once use a page of his own original artwork for a cutting board. Theakston visited Ditko in his studio in 1993, and said he was shocked to see Ditko using the back of a page of his original art in this manner. Theakston recounted the story in detail in PURE IMAGE #1.

“He’d been using it as a cutting board,” Theakston said. “I looked a little bit closer and I detected a comics code stamp on it.”

He asked Ditko to turn the board around, a request met with a deadening gaze from the artist. “I didn’t think he was going to do it,” the historian recounted. “It looked like a ‘Screw you’ look.”

Slowly, however, Ditko reached out and flipped over the board. It was a page of original art from a late 1950s issue of [Charlton's This Magazine is Haunted], a splash featuring a diver.

Theakston couldn’t believe it. Not only was Ditko not displaying, preserving or prizing this piece of original art, he was using it as a cutting board. Theakston quickly offered Ditko a deal: “Steve, I will go down to the nearest art supply store and buy you a cutting board that will mend itself -- a plastic cutting board that’s so smart that when you cut on it, it mends itself-and you’ll have the finest cutting board on the block.”

“Nope,” Ditko replied, twisting the artwork-turned-cutting-board back around.

Theakston pleaded, “Steve, geez. That’s worth a fair amount of money. At the very least -- damn, Steve -- it’s an artifact. It’s an important piece of publishing history in terms of comics.”

The artist turned and pointed to the drapery-obscured window next to Theakston’s chair.

“Lift that curtain up,” he said. The curtain, the historian estimated, was about 18 inches off the floor. He pulled the drape aside and saw a stack of original artwork from Marvel standing roughly a foot-and-a-half high.

“Can I look at these?” Theakston excitedly asked.

“No.”

XThe writer was dumbfounded. “I was sitting next to a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars, maybe, worth of Ditko artwork and he was cutting it up without letting people look at it.”


THE REAL STORY

Yes, Ditko may have been using his original art as a cutting board -- BUT, it's important to know WHICH PIECE OF ART we are talking about here.

The actual page Ditko cut -- not cut up totally, just MAYBE cut slightly on the back -- was part of a story called "The Green Peace," from a Charlton comic published in 1958 (the actual art is pictured at the very top of this web page, and also over on the right). Pictured BELOW is the printed page, from THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED #16...
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This piece of artwork is certainly "valuable" in some sense, but let's be honest -- in monetary terms, Ditko's work for Charlton isn't worth nearly as much as his work on Spider-Man, or Doctor Strange, or even the Creeper. It's not like Ditko cut the cover of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 or something. And even if he did, remember, we're talking about cutting the BACK of the art perhaps a bit, not intentionally slicing it to ribbons!

Ditko was probably paid about $15 to draw this particular page for Charlton Comics. It is certainly not "priceless." For you novices out there, the monetary difference between the value of this particular page and Ditko's Marvel work is NOT small -- it's a matter of, say, a thousand dollars at the most versus hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Wow, that's a lot of money! Is Ditko aware of the monetary value of his work? Of course. Of course! What a stupid question. Really. Come on! This is a grown man who is very intelligent. He knows the value of his work very well. That doesn't stop him from making a gift of it to numerous people, for varying reasons. He once gave his longtime collaborator Jack C. Harris the original art for the cover of DAUGHTERS OF TIME, the only collaboration between Kurt Schaffenberger and Ditko. Probably for sentimental reasons. He once gave Marie Severin several pages of original Spider-Man artwork for the Xexpress purpose of helping her financially. What a guy! So the truth is -- Ditko is well aware of the astronomical value of his original artwork. But knowing is VERY different from caring.

If he wanted to, Ditko could appear at the San Diego Comicon, charge $10,000 or more per doodle, and make millions in a few days. Why doesn't he do that? Because he doesn't WANT to! Many people might think, "Well, personally, I would do it." But many people are not Steve Ditko! Only Steve Ditko is Steve Ditko.


SPIDER-MAN GOES TO CONGRESS

A few years back, someone donated EVERY SINGLE PAGE of the original art for the first Spider-Man story to the Library of Congress. No one knows who made the donation, but it apparently was NOT Ditko himself. According to a Library of Congress spokesperson, the mysterious donor checked with Steve Ditko before hand, and Ditko said he didn't care what was done with the artwork.

According to Marvel Comics The Untold Story, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune once called Steve Ditko and asked for a comment on the anonymous donation. The artist replied, "I could care less."


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Ditko NEVER gives interviews?

DON'T BET ON THAT!

TRANSCRIBE HERE OR BELOW FOR PART TWELVE:

"THE DITKO INTERVIEWS"


THIS CHAPTER DOES NOT FEATURE A NEW DITKO INTERVIEW!

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