new
archives
faq
links
contact
facebook
X
X
X
CHAPTER SEVEN
X
TRIVIA QUESTION: How many times did Steve Ditko draw the famous "SPLIT FACE" -- half Peter Parker, half Spider-Man? Thousands? Hundreds?

No! Believe it or not, Ditko only used this story-telling device about two dozen times!

And the SPLIT FACE has a far greater significance than has been previously realized. In fact, it was almost a character unto itself, with its own "story arc" and everything! This issue, we're going to reveal the startling secrets of the Ditko SPLIT FACE -- starting with its secret origin!

The first time Ditko used the image of a half-secret identity, half-superhero image was in Space adventures v3, #36, Oct. 1960. As pictured below, the left half is the secret identity, Captain Adam, and the right half is the superheroic identity -- CAPTAIN ATOM! This image was a precursor to SPLIT FACE, and also to the radiating WAVY LINES of Spider-Man's Spider Sense. As we'll see, they go hand in hand!
X

OK, let's get started! Here's the first-ever Peter Parker/Spider-Man split face image, from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2. Right from the start, SPLIT FACE appears in conjunction with Peter's "Spider-Sense," which warns him of impending danger. In this case, "odd electric impulses."
X
SPLIT FACE appears for the second time on the next page of the same issue, in the panel pictured below. Here, Stan's thought balloon explains the effect by saying it represents "the part of me which is Spider-Man."
X

The next time Ditko used SPLIT FACE was in ASM #3. This time, it denotes a "Spidey THOUGHT" in reaction to Flash's nasty barbs. And a pattern seems to be forming. The SPLIT FACE always happens to Peter Parker in times of frustration or stress. Times he wishes he was Spider-Man! That's why the SPLIT FACE never happens to Spidey. We never see Spider-Man with half a "Parker face." Spidey never wishes he was Parker! Only visa versa.
X

In ASM #4, for the first time, Ditko extends the effect all the way down the body, to the arm and fist. Why? Because this time the "Spidey Thought" involves pulverizing someone, so it makes sense to show a glove-covered Spidey fist, rather than Parker's ungloved hand. After all, that's the hand that would do the "pulverizing."
X

By ASM #5, although it's only appeared five times, SPLIT FACE has made such an impression, and become so highly-recognizable, it's used for the character's official splash-page portrait shot. It's the perfect way to show both Peter and Spidey in a single box, and at the same time clue in new readers to the fact that Peter IS Spidey!
X
The SPLIT FACE seen inside ASM #5 looks almost identical to the version seen on the issue's splash page (the one pictured above). As is customary by this point, SPLIT FACE is always accompanied by radiating "Spider Sense" lines, and appears in conjunction with a "Spider Thought" -- this one happy!
X

In ASM #6, SPLIT FACE appears in conjunction with the first time the phrase "senses" is used, a foreshadowing Spidey's soon-to-be-christened "Spider Senses."

With ASM #8, SPLIT FACE hits the big time with its first (and only) front cover appearance! True to form, it symbolizes Peter's concern that his Spider-powers might cause him to accidentally injure Flash when he goes up against him in a climactic boxing match. Note that in addition to the usual "Spider Sense" lines radiating from Peter's head, in this case there are also lines radiating from his BOXING GLOVE! Ditko's wry sense of humor.
X
At this point, SPLIT FACE is so well established that Ditko feels comfortable poking fun at his creation. Below, in a panel from ASM #8, Ditko extends the effect all the way down Peter's arm, stops it at his elbow, then resumes it on his wrist. It ends up neatly tucked into Peter's boxing glove! A marvelous little touch.
X
Later that same issue (ASM #8), for the first time ever, SPLIT FACE becomes SPLIT BODY as Ditko extends the effect all the way down the entire figure, and we see a completely split Spidey/Peter. This denotes a complete separation between the two identities!
X

After a two-issue break, SPLIT FACE returns in ASM #10, when Peter stresses out over a blood transfusion that will have tremendous ramifications in issues to come. As Peter looks directly at YOU, the reader, his "other self" appears on the far side of his face.
X
Ditko gave SPLIT FACE a real workout in ASM #10. In another first, Ditko uses the effect continuously during a three-panel action sequence, to show Peter's continuous and mounting frustration at not being able to change into Spider-Man...
X

By ASM #12, SPLIT FACE has developed a routine. It appears when Peter thinks "Spider" thoughts, or wishes he could use his Spider-powers, or both, and it's always accompanied by radiating "Spider Sense" lines.
X

Believe it or not, SPLIT FACE confused some of Marvel's younger readers, who took the poor thing literally and wondered why Peter Parker's face kept suddenly half-changing into Spider-Man's mask. In ASM ANNUAL #1, Stan and Steve took the time to explain the effect...
X
This Ditko illustration, also from ASM ANNUAL #1, show how SPLIT FACE comes over Peter Parker whenever he thinks "Spider" thoughts, or is unable to use his Spider powers. It's a transformation reminiscent of Larry Talbot changing into the Wolfman! You can almost FEEL the sensation radiating off of him! Brrrrrr!
X
BELOW: Another panel from ASM ANNUAL #1, the return of SPLIT BODY! Stan and Steve go to great lengths to make sure their younger readers understand Spidey and his world.
X

Ditko did an interesting variation on SPLIT FACE in in ASM #13. When Peter thinks he's going insane, his Spidey mask appears on half on his face -- but not in full. It's as if it's growing out of his skin! This is the only time Ditko drew the SPLIT EFFECT this way, probably because it's the only time Peter thought he was going insane.
X

In ASM #15, Peter is frustrated that he cannot change to Spider-Man in front of Kraven Cue SPLIT FACE, complete with wavy line entourage, this time extra THICK, because with Kraven around, there's extra DANGER!!
X

In ASM #15, guest-starring The Human Torch, SPLIT FACE appears for a brand new reason: Anger! As Spider-Man, Peter is Johnny's EQUAL, but as Peter, he must control himself.
x

In ASM #16, a poster causes Peter to think a "Spider Thought." But look! For the first time, no radiating lines. The lines are gone because this is the first time SPLIT FACE has appeared in reaction to a relatively benign thought. There's no danger, no "Spider Wish," just a harmless thought.

Harmless thoughts don't produce radiating lines -- but DANGER does! That's why the lines soon return, as a disguised Daredevil (an adversary in this story) walks near Peter in the crowd.
X

SPLIT FACE gets a high-profile splash page appearance in ASM #17, "THE RETURN OF THE GREEN GOBLIN," Peter is simply daydreaming in class, and there's no immediate danger -- signified by the fact that SPLIT FACE has no radiating lines, and the black around the eyepiece is totally absent, as if SPLIT FACE hadn't fully formed yet!
X
Below, in panels from in ASM #17, Spidey passels by the Green Goblin in his secret identity, setting off the alarm bells.
X

SPLIT FACE didn't make an appearance in ASM #18, but the issue did climax with Peter finally accepting his Spider-Man identity as his "destiny."

SPLIT FACE took a two-issue vacation, and returned, tanned and rested, in the panel pictured below, from ASM #20. This panel was cannibalized for a Marvel Trading card, pictured below, RIGHT. This time, the appearance was all about Spider-Senses, not identity conflict.

The card's version of Spidey's mask may SEEM miscolored at first glance, but look at the original panel on the LEFT. Ditko didn't color the eye black either!
x

This "curtain call" panel ended ASM #24. It's the farewell appearance of SPLIT FACE in a story -- and this one is a bit different. In this panel, Peter is smiling, and there are no radiating lines warning him of danger. By this point in the series, Peter was totally at peace with his Spider-Man identity, and no longer at war with himself. No longer SPLIT!
x

xThe "roll call" style splash page of ASM #25, not really part of the story (pictured right), marked the FINAL appearance of SPLIT FACE as drawn by Ditko. Although the SPLIT FACE effect was later employed by John Romita and numerous other Spider-Artists, it was never again used by its creator, Steve Ditko.

Of course, Ditko went on to do another eight issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but SPLIT FACE never appeared again. Ditko had employed the effect to make a point, and the point had been made. Peter Parker was no longer divided -- he had completely accepted his alter ego, and he was at peace with his Spider-Man identity.

Goodbye, SPLIT FACE! We hardly knew ye.

X
BIG FINISH!
Here's a letter Steve Ditko wrote to Bryan Stroud, discussing the "Split Face."

X
X
The SUPERHERO of a LIFETIME
gets a LOGO for the AGES!

...OR DOES HE?
X

X