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CHAPTER SIX - PART NINE
"A LAUGHING MATTER"
Steve Ditko is the brooding type, right? The kind of guy who has no sense of humor, right? Wrong! TOTALLY wrong! Even in his earliest work, the artist has always displayed a wry sense of humor, often inserting secret gags in the stories he did. For example, Ditko inserted secret in-jokes into this stories he did for Charlton's SPACE ADVENTURES #7 (July 1953), and FIGHTIN' ARMY #20 (1955).
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THIS PARAGRAPH IS HAUNTED

Lots of horror comics have spooky hosts. The host of Charlton's THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED was named Dr. Haunt. Unlike his fellow mystery-mag hosts, who like to stand next to panels, Dr. Haunt once decided (In THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED #13) to get a better look at the story action by RIPPING RIGHT THROUGH THE COMIC'S PAGES! Dr. Haunt is pictured below, doing his Jack the RIPPER thing, courtesy of artist John Kodti... oops, I mean Steve Ditko!
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FEET OF HEROISM 1

During Ditko's historic run on Spider-Man, the artist inserted countless small touches of visual humor into the stories. One of my favorites, a very subtle graphic "joke" which I find to be quite amusing, is on this page from ASM #31. Do you see it?
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You didn't see it, did you.

OK -- I was talking about the way Spidey's FOOT breaks through border of the final panel. It's like he's sticking his foot into the "real world." I love it! And it also happens to be very risky! How so? Well, back in a time when "bleeds" were unheard of, this was quite a daring little act. Anything outside the panel boarder might be cut off when the book was printed. Not everyone knew exactly how far they could successfully "push" the boundaries -- but Ditko did. And so, Ditko pushed the boundaries -- this time, literally!

FEET OF HEROISM 2

A second all-time classic Spidey "foot" moment occurred as a result of a fan's letter making the absurd complaint that Ditko "couldn't draw feet." Stan and Steve responded humorously in Amazing Spider-Man #22, by having Spidey attend an art show sponsored by J. Jonah Jameson.

As pictured BELOW, Ditko not only included a huge "portrait" of a foot, he stuck himself in the scene, hiding himself behind a conveniently-placed marble pillar (seen below, with Ditko to the right of the pillar). Then Stan, perhaps working from Ditko's marginal notes, added a funny thought balloon for Ditko reading, "Boy! I wish I could draw feet like that!"

Of course, ironically, double ironically, Ditko actually DID draw that foot!
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The vintage Ditko doodle BELOW, sent to Roy Thomas' ALTER EGO, shows that the artist did NOT always approach his characters with deadly seriousness. Sometimes, "off camera," there was time for fun. Note Ditko's shadowy self-portrait, imprisoned in an ink bottle, between the two panels. In his brief letter, Steve also jokes about "stealing all Stan Lee's fanzines."
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BELOW: Ditko's humorous pencils for an unpublished GET SMART book, featuring Ditko's representation of Don Adams as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart, partially inked by Sal Trampini.
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XRINGO READS DITKO. YEAH YEAH YEAH!

In the 1965 movie HELP!, starring the Beatles, there are several scenes which show comic books.

As covered in Dial B for BLOG #542, the movie itself features only Silver Age DC books, but one of the promotional stills for the film (pictured right) shows Ringo Starr reading a copy of a British comic book titled "Amazing Stories of Suspense," issue #23, 1963.

The cover of this 1963 book, which reprinted Charlton stories from the Fifties, was drawn by Steve Ditko.

BELOW: Steve Ditko, a fan of MAD magazine, did this one-page gag strip for Wally Wood's Witzend.
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On this page from THE CREEPER #2, Ditko parodied the BATMAN TV show's trademark sound effects, first showing them on a billboard, then incorporating them into the action!
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"A HAPPY-GO-LUCKY GUY"

Frank McLaughlin, inker and former Charlton Art Director (pictured), described Ditko as, "A very happy-go-lucky guy with a great sense of humor." Mike Gold says Ditko is "a tremendously happy man who is pleasant, a practical joker, charming, generous and well-dressed."

Pictured below is another example of Ditko's sense of humor. While he was working for DC Comics, the company published the humorous "profile" of the artist seen below (from Batman #322, 1980), featuring a great piece of Ditko art showing the DC characters he was working on at the time: Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Stalker, Oddball, Shade and Starman.

Unlike every other profile in this lengthy series, there was NO TEXT accompanying the illustration -- except for the caption in the upper left corner, which reads: "Steve Ditko says we should let his work speak for him. So..."
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The debut of Squirrel Girl in Marvel Super Heroes #8 (1991) is BELOW...

Cerebus creator Dave Sim wrote, in a letter in DITKOMANIA #91, "Venturing into borderline sense-of-privacy violation (forgive me, Steve!), I have to say that Steve is the best-dressed, best-groomed octagenarian in whose company I have ever spent time. He even edges out Will Eisner in that category (which is really saying something, if you know how well-dressed and well-groomed Will was!). Steve's environment and Steve's appearance were, to me, at striking variance with what has been presented to Ditko fandom over the years. I also found him gracious, hospitable, engaging and extremely patient, and sharp as a tack. Just for the record."

BELOW: Ditko penciled this cartoon-style story for TINY TOON ADVENTURES #4 (a Marvel-UK comic book) in 1992. Inks by Steve Collins.
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And finally, here's a humorous ad Ditko did for Charlton in 1985, featuring the companies current roster. This was the first and only time Ditko ever drew the characters Yang, Thane, Li'l Genius, Timmy the Timid Ghost and Atomic Mouse.
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ABOVE: Truck seen in the ending of Frank Miller's THE SPIRIT (2008).
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