X As time marched on and the Spider-Man series progressed, relations between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko grew progressively worse. One source of conflict was the villain who debuted in ASM #14, a character destined to become Spidey's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin.

RIGHT: Willem DaFoe as the movie Green goblin

BELOW: Spidey's first face to face encounter with Gobby, dialogue by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko
Who created the Green Goblin? Like the creation of Spidey himself, Stan came up with the name, and Ditko did the rest -- designing the character's appearance and all his "accessories," including his broomstick jet-glider, explosive pumpkins, etc. Most importantly, Ditko made the Goblin HUMAN. Literally!

Ditko: "Stan's synopsis for the Green Goblin had a movie crew, on location, finding an Egyptian-like sarcophagus. Inside was an ancient, mythological demon, the Green Goblin. He naturally came to life. On my own, I changed Stan's mythological demon into a human villain." (The Comics, A Mini-History #1: "The Green Goblin")

"I rejected Stan's idea," Ditko says, because, "A mythological demon made the whole Peter Parker/Spider-Man world a place where nothing is metaphyscially impossible."

To Stan's everlasting credit, he accepted Ditko's revisions en toto, and simply wrote Gobby as a human bad guy. The tyranical editors over at DC Comics, such as Mort Weisinger, would never have dreamed of doing such a thing. If Bill Finger had ever tried redesigning a Batman villain without authorization, Weisinger would have traumatized him into a three-day bender. Props to Stan Lee!
ABOVE: The Green Goblin's debut, from Amazing Spider-Man #14.

BELOW: Ditko pin-up from ASM ANNUAL #1 in ANI-MOTION!
Did you know that Steve Ditko even addressed the question of where the Goblin got his outlandish costume from? Ditko did! In Spider-Man #26 (panels pictured below), Spidey needed a uniform in a hurry -- so he bought one from a Manhattan costume shop.

But Spidey didn't notice that the shop was ALSO selling a large, very Green, very Goblin-ish mask, very prominently positioned by Ditko, who seemed to be suggesting that the Goblin and Peter shopped at same (unnamed) costume shop. A funny idea! Perhaps that's why sly Steve also placed a CLOWN in the same panel. Wink to the reader.

For many years, and as recently as Stan Lee's 2014 PLAYBOY interview, it's been said that the reason Ditko quit Marvel was a dispute over the identity of the Green Goblin.

Supposedly, Stan want the Goblin to be Norman Osborn, and Ditko wanted him to be a random person who had never been seen before, because he felt this was more realistic. OK, it's time to put a stake in this rumor's heart, and kill it forever.
If you've actually READ the early Spider-Man stories, it's obvious that the scenario described above could never have happened. Why? Because Steve Ditko was plotting the book, and Steve Ditko was a tireless innnovator. That plot had already been used twice, and there's no way Ditko would have repeated the exact same plot THREE TIMES. Yeah, I said three times.

Remember when Spidey unmasked Electro? As pictured on the right, Spidey says, "This guy I never saw before!"

Second time: Another villain, the "Crime Master," had the exact same "reveal" in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #27, panels pictured below.
"Sometimes he's a man you don't even KNOW!" Spidey thinks.

So the Goblin's big identity reveal couldn't have been why Ditko left Marvel. It's just not plausible. There's no way Steve Ditko would have told Stan Lee, "When we reveal who the Goblin is, I demand that we repeat the exact same type of reveal we've already used twice so far -- and if you don't, I quit!"

Ditko on creating the Green Goblin: "I had to have some definite ideas: who he was, his profession and how he fit into the Spider-Man story world. I was even going to use an earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson: he [was to] be [revealed as] the Green Goblin. It was like a subplot working its way until it was ready to play an active role."

In a 2009 essay in The Comics, Ditko wrote, "I knew from Day One, from the first GG story, who the GG would be. I absolutely knew because I planted him in J. Jonah Jameson’s businessman's club, it was where JJJ and the GG could be seen together. I planted them together in other stories where the GG would not appear in costume, action. I planted the GG’s son (same distinctive hair style) in the college issues for more dramatic involvement and storyline consequences.”

Pictured BELOW are the panels from ASM #23, where Ditko shows the Goblin as an unnamed member of Jameson's "Business Executives Club." This is reminescent of the old movie serials, where the hooded mastermind is always secretly a member of the hero's gentlemen's club. Later, the "mystery man" would be identified as Norman Osborn, the father of one of Peter Parker's classmates. Both father and son had distinctive, wavy red hair.

The first comic "convention" was held in New York City on July 27, 1964, in a small room in the Workman's Circle Building. The event was poorly publicized, and held on a Monday. Still, about 50 to 100 fans showed up.

There were no DC artists present at the gathering, although editors Murray Boltinoff and Julie Schwartz did support the gathering by donating several pages of original art to be given away.

No one else from DC showed up, but Marvel was represented at the event by a surprising guest -- Steve Ditko, who even contributed a new Spidey drawing for the comicon's Xmimeographed, hand-stapled program booklet (pictured right).

Also present was beloved Marvel office manager Flo Steinberg, who, as mentioned previously, Ditko probably used as the model for Betty Brant.

At part of the proceedings, the unlikely duo of Steve Ditko and Flo Steinberg answered questions from the audience.

One fan asked how much money comic artists were paid. Ditko declined to answer with a shake of his head.

Another fan, Ethan Roberts, described Ditko as "Tall, thin, balding, dour, with glasses.” When Roberts asked the artist about pursuing a career in comic, Ditko responded by telling him “how hard the job was, that it paid too little, and had few lasting rewards.”

Ditko had described the industry honestly. It wouldn't be until decades later that comic fans would discover the horrifying treatment comic creators endured from the companies they made rich. In 1964, Marvel fandom was still very much in the thrall of Stan Lee, whose popular "Bullpen Bulletins" pictured the company as a jovial group of happy-go-lucky frat boys.

In reality, no such bullpen existed. It was just Stan and a bunch of freelancers who rarely if ever got together as a group. Even Lee himself was only in the office three days a week! He spent Tuesdays and Thursdays in his home in Hewlett Harbor, Long Island, writing, and only came in to the Marvel offices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But in 1964, when fans were still buying Stan Lee's hyperbole hook, line and sinker, Ditko's honest answers had rocked the boat.

The audience was full of young innocents with dreams of becoming a comic artists. Many were mildly horrified at Ditko's answers, despite -- actually, because of -- their honesty. Ditko never appeared at another convention.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #18, plotted entirely by Steve Ditko without any input from Stan Lee, opens with Spider-villains and prominent members of the Marvel Universe. What a sequence! Let's unpack it. First of all, we realize that anyone who's anyone subscribes to the Daily Bugle. Everyone -- except Doc Ock, who is in jail, and Daredevil, who is blind -- is holding a copy of the newspaper!

I always loved the opening of this story. It's like a superhero "Entertainment Tonight" report where celebrities all make comments on the latest scandal.

At a time when the Marvel Universe was still getting off the ground, this sequence gave readers a sense that they were part of the "Marvel Family." Who cared if that family included villains? Every family has its black sheep. Gobby, Doc Ock, Kraven and the Vulture -- at this point, it was like seeing old friends. Old frenemies?!

Plus, we got to see Steve Ditko's version of all Marvel's top characters...
In the letters pages of the FANTASTIC FOUR and other Marvel comics that month, Stan took the unprecedented step of announcing in advance that many people would hate the story in ASM #18. He said everyone should buy a copy, just to see what all the criticism was about -- which implied that there WOULD be plenty of criticism, and actually almost invited it. "How's THAT for a left-handed sell?" the latter-day P.T. Barnum asked his readers.
In the same issue, Ditko had Spidey visit a trading card company to make an inquiry about merchandising his likeness! An astonishingly forward-looking move for the enterprising young web-slinger. But Spidey was refused on grounds that he was unpopular. HA! If only the poor man Spidey met with had known he was talking to a future Hollywood megastar! The passage of time has made this once-plausible sequence unintelligible to today's kids. It would be like turning down an exclusive merchandising offer from Andrew Garfield. Shows you how far we've come, reader!

In May 1965, fanzine THE COMIC READER (issue #37) published a brief but revealing preview of things to come in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic. Since Stan and Steve were no longer on speaking terms at this point, there was no way Stan or anyone at Marvel could have provided this information. It HAD to have come directly from Ditko, who was listed as a regular contributor to the publication.
What the blurb reveals is how FAR in advance Ditko plotted the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series, with no input from Stan Lee whatsoever. All of Ditko's plots were his, and his alone. Stan Lee had no idea what would be happening to Spidey until a messenger hand delivered Ditko's penciled pages to the Marvel offices each month.

At the time this issue of THE COMIC READER came out, in May 1965, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was on issue #27. Ditko already knew which villain would be featured in issue #29, the Scorpion. He also had plans for many months into the future. The blurb mentions upcoming villains, The Octopus and Meteor Man. "The Octopus" seems to be a reference to the Master Planner story arc, which ran in ASM #31-33, three months away.

Ditko also knew Spidey would meet Doc Strange in the annual, seven months away, and that he would fight Meteor Man in ASM #36, a full eight months away! Perhaps it was telling that no plans were mentioned beyond ASM #38, which was to be Ditko's final issue of the book, and the last time he would ever draw Spider-Man.

Before people quit a job, they usually try to line up another one first. Sometimes they contact previous employers to check out the situation. In June 1965, Ditko contacted his old employer, Charlton, and asked if they had any work for him. Charlton immediately offered Ditko a slot in their anthology title STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES, and Ditko began doing new stories featuring CAPTAIN ATOM -- a powerful superhero with a "remarkable brain," an abundance of goodness, and no "super problems."


In ASM #24, Spidey planted his Spider-Signal on top of a building, and in Stan's thought balloon, he was glad he remembered to retrieve it (below, right)! But Ditko intended Spidey to retrieve the device in the NEXT issue (below, right), which the wall-crawler did, despite having "grabbed" it the previous issue. Subsequent reprints corrected this error, but the fact that such an error could be made in the first place indicates a growing communication problem between Stan and Steve.
Communication problem? By ASM #25, and likely way before this issue, Stan and Steve were officially no longer on speaking terms! Apparently because Stan wanted it that way, though accounts differ. Ditko continued to plot and draw the stories, then he delivered or messengered them to Marvel, where Stan Lee filled in the captions and word balloons like a talkative silent partner.

When Stan dialogued the stories, he wasn't always exactly sure of what was going on in them. He's said many times that filling in the dialogue was like doing a crossword puzzle. He had to fit the right amount of letters into the space based on clues he saw in the art, and descriptions in Ditko's script notes.

Steve Ditko once wrote, "Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took the penciled story, the cover, [and] my script [to] Sol Brodsky, who took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan." (Comic Book Marketplace #63, October 1998).

BELOW: In ASM #25, "Sturdy Steve Ditko" got a big yellow arrow announcing that he "dreamed up the plot" of the story, but the credits still read "Script by Stan Lee," which was not at all accurate, because there was never any "script." In reality, Stan's contribution was creating the dialogue. As we explained earlier in this series (DBB #692), the so-called "Marvel Method" really meant the artist created everything, and Stan did the dialogue.

Steve Ditko suffered from severe tuberculosis in the mid-1950s and again in the late Sixties. Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection most often found in the lungs, usually causes a great deal of coughing, and sometimes even requires use of an "Iron Lung." What does that have to do with Spidey?

The cover of ASM #26, seen below, depicts one of several times Spidey's adversaries have used a choking GAS against him. He's been gassed by Mysterio and The Green Goblin, among others. Below, it's the Crime Master.
Looking ahead a ways to ASM #36, we see that Ditko's villains also got a face-full of gas every once in a while, leading to... KOFF KOFF!

In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #27 (panels pictured below), Peter Parker suddenly realized that there were other publishers in town, and he decided to offer his photos to one of them, Barney Bushkin, picture editor of The Daily Globe...
In my view, this sequence has a hidden subtext. First, the name "Daily Globe" recalls the name "Daily Planet," where Clark (Superman) Kent worked. This would mean that despite Stan inserting an "in-joke" about the MMMS (Merry Marvel Marching Society) fan club into the panel, the Daily Globe offices may have been acting as a stand-in for the DC comic offices. If that's the case, was "Barney Bushkin" really Carmine Infantino? There is a resemblence...
..but no, Barney ISN'T Carmine. It would make more sense if Barney was someone who worked at Charlton comics, where Ditko would go after leaving Marvel. And, according to former Charlton editor Nicola Cuti, Barney Bushkin is a dead ringer for a man named SAUL MURRAY, who worked at Charlton! (Unfortunately, I could not locate a photo of Mr. Murray.)

"He was in distribution," Nicola Cuti told me recently, "And I'm certain Steve Ditko would have seen him at Charlton, in one of his many visits to the office, and may have even known him."

So here we have Peter Parker, representing Ditko, contacting a rival publisher, who represents Charlton comics! Seems like a reflection of the fact that Ditko had recently started doing new comic work for Charlton.

Peter Parker breaks off his relationship with Betty Brant. "It's over! I've lost her!"

BELOW: Ditko's uninked pencils for a page from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31.

Attention reader: Place your cursor over the image, and it will magically change into the published version!
ASM 31
In November or December of 1965, Stan Lee gave an interview to the New York Herald that was printed in the January 9, 1966 edition of the Herald's Sunday magazine section. In the article, titled, "SUPER HEROES WITH SUPER PROBLEMS," Lee made the following comments about Steve Ditko:
If Stan and Steve were not talking, how could Stan have known that Steve "thinks he's the genius of the world"? Ditko was a newspaper reader, so it's likely he read this article, and was disturbed by its entire tone, and especially by Stan's off-handed put-down.

The article's title, "SUPER HEROES WITH SUPER PROBLEMS," crystalized Ditko's problems with Stan Lee. Stan wanted "super-problems," while Ditko wanted his heroes to be flawless. Ditko once told Jim Shooter that he was only comfortable portraying Spider-Man as having problems because Spidey was a teenager. Ditko believed the entire point of creating a hero was to have a perfect role model.

Ditko had created Spidey and guided him through three years of classic adventures that are still being reprinted today. Over that time, he had allowed the Peter Parker character to grow and mature. He may have been planing for Petey to one day become an "adult" superhero, at which point he would be portrayed as flawless. He would no longer be one of Marvel's...
SUPER HEROES WITH SUPER PROBLEMS. The headline of the Herald Tribune article became Marvel's new rallying cry, and it was plastered across the top of a series of paperback reprints from Lancer. The Spider-Man book was published in January 1966, but Ditko could easily have seen advance mock-ups of the paperback's cover.

He may even have been paid for it, since it reused his art for the cover of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (pictured below, left). Marvel's new slogan was placed in a banner at the PB's top, and Spidey was proclaimed the GREATEST of that groovy new breed of "SUPER HEROES WITH SUPER PROBLEMS."
Stan and Steve were headed in completely opposite directions. And having his character proclaimed GREATEST of Marvel's problem-ridden superheroes -- in a banner headline plastered above Ditko's own artwork -- might have been the last straw.

Ditko had been paid to create a character for Marvel, and he had done just that. Marvel owned the character, and he was fine with that. But to Ditko, the story of Spidey was the story of a conservative high schooler who grows up to become a flawless superhero. It was an idealized version of HIS OWN LIFE.

Stan and Marvel had allowed Ditko an unprecedented degree of freedom in doing Spider-Man. Basically, they had let him run wild, and do almost whatever he wanted. Why not? The resulting comic had produced an immortal character who was well on his way to becoming a world-wide sensation.

But now, Ditko was under ever-increasing pressure to turn Spidey into a permanent college-age liberal who would NEVER be allowed to outgrow his flaws. As the banner on the Spidey paperback made clear, the battle lines were now drawn!