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CHAPTER SIX - PART FOURTEEN
"DITKO PANGERIC"
XThe very first Marvel comic ever purchased by me, Robby Reed, author of this article and sole creator of this blog, was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko.

"Marked for Destruction by Dr. Doom!"

For me, this comic stands alone. This comic brings the magic like no other. Why? It was my first exposure to Spidey and company, my first exposure to the FF, Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, the X-Men, and the "OTHER" Spider-Man -- all in this one issue.

I still have the same copy I bought off the newsstand in 1964. It lost its covers years ago for reasons unknown. War injuries. But the interior survives intact.

With the exception of the cover above and Italian version on the right, every scan on this page is taken directly from my original copy of the issue, then slightly enhanced in Photoshop!

Starting with the splash page...
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I was stunned immediately. What a cast of characters! Who was this awesome Dr. Doom guy? Who was "THE OTHER SPIDER-MAN?" And why did everyone look so... weird? For someone weaned on Curt Swan's Superman, seeing Steve Ditko's artwork for the very first time was a shocking thing. Where Swan was going for iconic perfection, Ditko's work was far more impressionistic. He had a certain, very different way of seeing things... a SPIDER-Y way!

The hero's web-shooting device -- something he apparently invented himself -- was totally fascinating to me, and still is. The way he could just spray it out and form stuff, or grab stuff. And he seemed to be having so much FUN doing everything! Every panel has something interesting in it, and it's not just for a single page or two. It goes on and on, for page after page!
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OK, now it's page twelve, and I just got my first of the glimpse of the SPIDER SIGNAL causing me to almost pass out. I stare at the panel for five minutes solid. Oh my god... he's got Xsomething like a bat-signal built into his BELT!

It isn't used by someone to call him, he uses it himself to announce his presence and scare bad guys. I'm now just... gaaaa ... this is just awesome overload now.

If there is anything in this world more awesome than THIS, I have yet to hear about it! This is... oh God what is it? It's AMAZING. It actually really is AMAZING. And so is this whole comic, and mostly, so is its star. This Spider-Man guy really IS amazing, and that's a true fact!

The sight of Spidey hanging upside down, invading Doom's evil lair, blasting his Spider-Signal on the wall blew me away. GASP!

This one single panel set me on a decades long mission to create my own working Spider-Signal, a mission that to this day has never been completed!


The story continues -- and now, with each turn of the page, I am ready to pass out. There's just no let-up! There are no "filler" panels! Every single inch of every single page is stuffed to exploding with brilliant Spider action!



As far as I'm concerned, you could take the page BELOW, frame it, and hang it in any art gallery. It's is a masterpiece of design. Each panel stands on its own, but also works together with the other panels in its row, as well as the rest of the panels on the page.

We start with a three-panel sequence. Doom's power-blasts lead the eye from panel one to two, and two to three. The wrist-motion begun in panel two results in the fist seen in panel three. Intertwining strands of "web" form a "web ball."

Spidey tosses the ball at doom, following the trajectory of our eyes as we move down to the second tier of panels. Our eyes land on Doom's webbed hand, just as -- PLOP! -- Spidey's web ball does the same. Then Doom turns, pulling our eyes along with him. We're drawn to the next panel by a fusillade of web balls.
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Then, as our eyes move to the THIRD tier of panels, Spidey, in a sudden up-angle shot, senses danger up above. Not surprising, because Dr. Doom really is above him (in the second tier of panels).

The final two panels act as a mini-animation sequence. In the middle panel, we see Spidey catch the ice, in the last panel, we see him escape it. Then the thrust of Spidey's ice-catcher propels our eyes upward, to the start of the next page.

A page like the one above is so completely perfect you can barely take your eyes off of it. But then you do, and what do you encounter? ANOTHER page, so beautiful, so brilliant you can barely stand it! It's got the same perfect design layout as the previous page -- but so what.

What difference does that make? Who cares about that NOW? What difference do such things as line weights or motion sequences make now? WHO CARES? I can't think about such things right now! Why?

BECAUSE I'M READING A COMIC BOOK DRAWN BY STEVE DITKO! (At least I was a second ago...) Now, there is no such thing as the "character" Spider-Man anymore! Because I AM SPIDER-MAN! And I am in the middle of a battle with Dr. Doom! And he's about to smack me in the head with a hunk of machinery! Spider-Sense tingling! Layout? Design? Who cares! I don't even know what those things are. Go away! Don't bother me! Leave me alone! The person who was reading this comic no longer EXISTS! I AM SPIDER-MAN -- and I'm fighting for my life!

And here is the beauty, the genius, the ARTISTRY of Steve Ditko. I don't "read" his work. I don't look at his work. I don't even "experience" his work. I LIVE IT. When I read it, I don't even know who Steve Ditko is. I don't even know who I am! All I know is --- somehow, I am THERE, right there, inside each and every panel!
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XAs Spider-Man, I managed to hold my own against this Doom creep until some other super-heroes showed up to rescue me. I thought I was weird? These people were BIZARRE -- one could stretch, one could flame on, one could project force fields, and one was a talking rock pile!

Then the comic was over, and I returned to mundane reality. I was me again, at least until the next time I became Spider-Man.

Then, pondering the implications of the existence of this comic, I wondered what I had stumbled onto. And the answer, of course, was a whole new UNIVERSE... the MARVEL universe!

Haunting the newsstand for Marvel comics was easy, because I was already haunting it for DC comics. From this point on, I never missed an issue of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. When each new issue appeared, I drank it down like a dehydrated man drinking water in a desert. I got used to each issue being better than the previous one. I became convinced it couldn't GET any better than this.

Then I read AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1, featuring Spidey vs. Electro, Kraven, Mysterio, Sandman, Vulture and Doc Ock as THE SINISTER SIX. As the blurb below truthfully says, this story was 41 pages of indescribable excitement! All-new Ditko art, plus like an infinity of pin-ups and special features. It doesn't get any better then this. This comic is just... GAAAAAAA!

When I finished reading this baby, I immediately went back to page one and started reading it again. I read it over and over, one thousand times in a row. Really! (Not really.) But it seemed like it at the time.

What can I say about this comic? Two words come to mind: TOTAL PERFECTION. Reader, if you worship at the altar of Ditko, then this comic is surely one of your altarpieces. I mean, my Lord, look at it (pages pictured BELOW). Even at that tiny size, each page is still bursting with... with -- everything!
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BUT YOU DON'T LIKE IT?

By the way, I realize that not everyone likes the artwork of Steve Ditko.

Reader, YOU might even be such a person. OK, you don't like Ditko! You don't like his Spider-Man. His Dr. Strange is not good for you. Iron Man, who Ditko redesigned, is not your guy. Ditko suggested making the Hulk transform not at random or at night, but in fits of rage, a key part of the character. But you don't like the Hulk I guess. Also, The Creeper, and The Hawk and Dove are not worth reading to you. The Question and Blue Beetle are unworthy of your attention. And, of course, the Odd Man has no appeal for you. Same goes for Shade the Changing Man, and Stalker and Starman. And The Cape. And the Mocker. And, of course, Mr. A. You just don't like ANY of them.

Ummmm... can I ask: Exactly what is it you DO like about comic books? Can I also ask -- have you had your eyesight checked lately?

Chances are that, if you've read this far, you DO worship at the altar of Ditko, or you at least like Ditko's work a lot. Maybe you LOVE Ditko's work! Maybe you believe you can't possibly love Ditko and his work any more than you do now. Well guess what. You're wrong! Yeah, I said it. You. Are. Wrong.

Quite a statement, and who am I to make such a statement -- but come ON people, it's been almost 700 issues now. Don't you know the way this works yet? I am Robby Reed, sole creator of this blog, and author of this article. And if I say you're about to love Ditko more... YOU ARE ABOUT TO LOVE DITKO MORE!! ALL CAPS!! DOUBLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!

Here it is...
THE AUTO-BIOGRAPHY of STEVE DITKO


You've probably read Steve Ditko's entire Spider-Man run, perhaps many, many times. And you THINK you know those stories well. You don't. You don't! Because you never realized what they were REALLY about. Now, I'm going to tell you: they were about Steve Ditko. Spider-Man is Steve Ditko's autobiography.

The story starts when a young man is bitten by a bug. Steve Ditko is bitten by the "drawing" bug; Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider.

The bug's bite gives the young man powers, but those powers soon prove to be a mixed blessing. Sometimes, they seem like a curse. Ditko's drawing skills bring him acclaim, but not respect or wealth; same for Parker's spider-powers.

But everyone needs food on the table, and a roof overhead. So, Ditko went to work selling his drawings to Stan Lee at Marvel; Peter Parker went to work selling his photos to J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle.

Steve Ditko was never on staff at Marvel. He remained a freelancer. Ditto for Peter Parker and the Daily Bugle. Steve Ditko supplied artwork to Stan Lee; Parker supplied photos to Jameson. Parker's photos showed Spider-Man in a heroic light; Ditko's art also portrayed Spider-Man in heroic terms. Both Ditko and Parker sold their work to employers at bargin-basement prices.

What happened to that work once it was sold? Stan Lee added words to Ditko's artwork meant to highlight Spider-Man's flaws; Jameson did the exact same thing to Peter Parker's photos.

Ditko shared his studio with artist Eric Stanton, and the two old friends probably interacted exactly like Spidey interacted with a fellow teen who shared his "job," Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch. Stanton was a fetish artist, and when the Torch guest-starred in Spidey's book, he seemed to get tied up an awful lot!

Growing dissatisfied at Marvel, Steve Ditko decided to contact his old employers at Charlton Comics to see what kind of deal they could offer him. He spoke to a contact in Charlton's distribution department. Peter Parker, sick of Jameson's interference, contacted the editor of "The Daily Globe" to see if the newspaper would buy his photos. Not coincidentally, the Globe editor was a dead ringer for Ditko's contact at Charlton. When Ditko demanded and got plotting credit on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN -- making him the first Marvel artist to be so recognized -- Peter Parker demanded and got a pay raise from the Daily Bugle.

Ditko may have sought the advice of a sympathetic ear, perhaps someone like Flo Steinberg. Parker did the same with Betty Brant. Flo may have helped Ditko realize he would never be happy if he stayed at Marvel. Betty Brant told Peter they could never be happy together.
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In the end, Ditko left the book, but continued to walk up the stairs to the Manhattan studio he shared with Eric Stanton, just as Peter Parker ended his Ditko-guided life by walking up a flight of stairs in a home he shared with his Aunt May, a character based on Stanton's real-life aunt, a woman named May Cerniglia.

THE END.

And reader, trust me, I'm only scratching the surface here. The rest is deeply personal, and I will respect Mr. Ditko's wishes for privacy, and say no more. Suffice to say that EVERY major development in Spider-Man's life, and several minor ones as well, were reflections of real events in Steve Ditko's life.

This is why "Spider-Man" is so totally captivating: Despite all his out-of-this-world, web-slinging wonderment, at his heart, he is REAL. Spidey is captivating because STEVE DITKO IS CAPTIVATING! And that is a true fact!

Today, Mr. Ditko is 86 years old. He is still producing, and his commitment to his principals remains absolute. There's an old piece of advice often given to writers: "Write what you know."

But "DRAW what you know" doesn't really work, does it. Unless you know a human spider, or have visited other worlds and dimensions numerous times. So how do you sit down at a desk, take a pencil in hand, and create like Ditko did? How do you join the DLA -- the Ditko League of America?

Here's how you do it: First, you get born with innate artistic talent, to loving parents who encourage and nurture your talent. Then you devote yourself to perfecting your talent with a singular obsession so all-consuming that some people find it strange, and others find even stranger. You ignore them.

You continue refining your talents, conquering health issues, overcoming monetary concerns, and refusing to compromise your artistic vision, no matter what the cost. You have no other choice! You're an ARTIST. Over the course of your artistic career, you visualize dozens of brilliant characters, and dream up one or two of the most famous fictional characters EVER CREATED.

Bucking industry convention, you become the first to demand and GET the plotting credit you deserve. And you keep doing this sort of thing for 86 years (and counting!) -- earning the right to say, like Sinatra, "I did it MY way."

Reader, if you can't do all that, you can't be just like Steve Ditko! Which explains why, in all the world, for all time, there will forever be ONE, and ONLY one... Steve Ditko.

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And now, Steve Ditko fans world-wide, take a deep breath. The moment you have been waiting for your entire Ditko-loving life is finally HERE. Come together, and form a circle. Don't be alarmed if you feel the ground shaking. It's only a DITQUAKE!

It's only the combined voices of Steve Ditko fans world-wide, letting Steve Ditko know exactly how we feel about him. And we are not going to whisper. We're going to ROAR.

Oh by the way, if you're NOT a Steve Ditko fan, I've already warned you several times to get out, for your own safety. You didn't listen! So now, before we start our FINAL CHAPTER, I'll give you ONE LAST CHANCE...

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