'Amazing Spider-Man' #14.

Steve Ditko was one of the most iconic and influential American comic book artists. Together with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he was a pillar of Marvel Comics during the so-called "Silver Age of Comic Books". His best-known co-creations are the more true to life superhero 'The Amazing Spider-Man' (1962-   ) and the highly imaginative worlds of 'Dr. Strange' (1963-   ). Ditko is (co-)creator of a host of remarkable and offbeat superheroes for other companies, such as 'The Question' (Charlton, 1967), 'Mr. A' (Witzend, 1967), 'Hawk and Dove' (DC, 1968), 'The Creeper' (DC, 1968) and 'Shade, the Changing Man' (DC, 1977). He could let his vivid imagination run free even more in his many visually experimental and innovative supernatural short stories for Charlton Comics, and in his personal comics essays. Although a reclusive man himself, Ditko was known for adding a personal touch to all of his characters, and bringing subtle emotions into his panels. As a storyteller he was one of the first to apply philosophy in his stories, most notably the Objectivism theory by Ayn Rand.

Dr. Strange by Steve Ditko
'Dr. Strange' (Strange Tales #128).

Early life
Although one of the most praised artists in the industry, little is known about the man himself. He has hardly given any interviews since the 1960s, and only a few pictures of him are known to exist. Stephen John Ditko Jr. was born in 1927 in the industrial city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as the son of first-generation Americans of Czechoslovak descent. Ditko grew up reading newspaper comics like Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant', but also comic books with Bob Kane and Bill Finger's 'Batman' and Will Eisner's 'The Spirit'. After leaving high school he enlisted in the US army and served in post-war Germany from October 1945 onwards. He drew comics for his army newspaper and upon his return to civilian life, enrolled in the New York-based Cartoonist and Illustrators School under the G.I. Bill in 1950. He was a pupil of classic 'Batman' artist Jerry Robinson, who trained him for two years. During this period he became close friends with the future fetish artist Eric Stanton. During the 1960s, the two men shared a Manhattan studio, where they often helped each other with their work.

Secret Mission (Tales of the Mysterious Traveler #3, 1957)
'Secret Mission' ('Tales of the Mysterious Traveler' #3, 1957).

Early career
Ditko began his professional career working for Stanley Morse's Key Publications in the early 1950s. His first known published work was a romance story in the first issue of the Key comic book 'Daring Love'. Morse sold Ditko's first fantasy work to publisher Robert W. Farrell, who published them in his comic books 'Strange Fantasy' and 'Fantastic Fears'. The Key imprint Timor also ran one of Ditko's western stories in 'Blazing Western' in 1954. At this point, Ditko was already working as an assistant inker at Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Crestwood Studios. He most notably worked with Mort Meskin on inking Kirby's 'Captain 3-D' for Harvey Comics (1953) and created short stories for the comic book 'Black Magic' (1953-1954) by Crestwood's Prize Comics imprint.

Konga by Steve Ditko
'Konga' #1 (1961).

Charlton Comics / Captain Atom
In 1954 Ditko also began his fruitful collaboration with Charlton Comics, based in Derby, Connecticut. He would continue to work for them, albeit with intermissions, until the company's demise in 1986. He quickly made his mark in Charlton's supernatural, horror and science fiction titles, such as 'The Thing' (1954), 'Space Adventures' (1954, 1957-1961, 1968-1969), 'This Magazine Is Haunted' (1954, 1957-1958), 'Strange Suspense Stories' (1954, 1957-1961), 'Tales of the Mysterious Traveler' (1957-1959), 'Out of This World' (1957-1959), 'Unusual Tales' (1957-1961), 'Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds' (1957-1961) and 'Outer Space' (1958-1959). He was also present in western-oriented titles like 'Rocky Lane's Black Jack' (1958) and 'Black Fury' (1959). At the dawn of the Silver Age of Comic Books, Steve Ditko and writer Joe Gill created 'Captain Atom' in Charlton's 'Space Adventures' #33 of March 1960. The main character was technician Allen Adam, who gained nuclear powers after being atomized in a rocket explosion in the upper atmosphere. Ditko's initial run on the character lasted until issue 42 in October 1961. Ditko and Gill also cooperated on several issues of the Charlton comic books based on the British-American giant monster films 'Konga' and 'Gorgo' (both 1961). Ditko drew the first issues, which were adaptations of the films, and then provided both cover and interior art to several later issues in both series until 1963.

The Coming of the Krills (Amazing Adult Fantasy #8)
'The Coming of the Krills' (Amazing Adult Fantasy #8).

Atlas Comics (Marvel)
After a hiatus from comics while recovering from tuberculosis in 1954-1955, Ditko had made his first appearance in the comic books of Stan Lee's Atlas line, the forerunner of Marvel Comics. After some initial work in 1956 he returned to the company from 1959 until the mid-1960s. Working in the genres he was used to at Charlton, he became a regular in anthology titles like 'Journey into Mystery' (1956, 1959-1963), 'Strange Tales' (1956, 1959-1965), 'Mystery Tales' (1956), 'Strange Worlds' (1958-1959), 'Tales of Suspense' (1959-1964), 'Tales to Astonish' (1959-1965) and 'World of Fantasy' (1959). Especially the short stories produced by Ditko and Stan Lee proved to be popular among readers. These odd fantasy tales had surprise endings in the tradition of American short story writer O. Henry and such sophistication that they inspired the reformatting of 'Amazing Adventures' into 'Amazing Adult Fantasy' in December 1961. Nine more issues of this revamped title appeared until August 1962 and were completely filled with Ditko-Lee material.

Cover by Steve DitkoCover by Steve Ditko

In the 15th and final issue, which appeared in August 1962 under the title 'Amazing Fantasy', Ditko and Lee's most beloved creation made its debut. Jack Kirby was originally intended to draw 'The Amazing Spider-Man', but Lee was more eager to let Steve Ditko do the job. Although Kirby had already made some initial designs and pages, Ditko quickly made the character his own. He designed the trademark costume with its well-known web shooters. The character's back story was also changed from the original Kirby-Lee concept. Instead of an orphaned boy who finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers, Peter Parker became a high school student who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. This set-up provided more material to work with. Parker was an average kid, who had to deal with his newly acquired powers and its responsibilities. Already in the first story, Peter's uncle Ben is killed, an act that Spider-Man could have prevented. His feeling of guilt remains a driving force throughout all of his further adventures. While fighting a host of colorful villains at night, Parker has to keep his secret identity hidden from his aunt May, and continue his everyday school life. This soap opera approach made 'Spider-Man' a relatable character for the Marvel readership. 'The Amazing Spider-Man' was an instant hit and got its own monthly title in March 1963.

Amazing Spider-Man #38
'Amazing Spider-Man' #38.

Much of the success of the 'Spider-Man' franchise can be attributed to Ditko. Although Stan Lee came up with the initial idea and the original story outlines, the artist was quickly plotting and scripting the issues himself, with Lee filling in the dialogues afterwards. This working method, now known as the "Marvel Method", didn't satisfy Ditko. He demanded writing credits, which he got from issue #25 on in June 1965. Ditko was a talented visual storyteller. His approach has remained an inspiration for many of his successors. His almost claustrophobic nine-panel page grids enhance the hero's inner struggles and insecurities. The dramatics he added to his characters also made them more relatable. Ditko's Peter Parker was not the heroic or handsome type, but a struggling and somewhat geeky teenager. Several of the franchise's most popular supervillains were introduced during Ditko's tenure, such as Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, the Lizard, Electro and the Green Goblin.

Amazing Spiderman by Steve Ditko
'Amazing Spider-Man' #33.

While most of the stories are action-filled, Ditko's most striking work was the three-page scene in issue 33, in which Spider-Man has to find the inner force and will-power to escape from underneath heavy machinery. Steve Ditko's run on 'The Amazing Spider-Man' ended after 38 issues in July 1966. The artists merely announced his retirement from Marvel Comics after bringing in his final story. He didn't elaborate, but both creative and political differences with Lee seem to be the reason for his decision. Ditko, for instance, objected to Stan Lee's ideas to have Peter Parker graduate from high school and to Lee's revelation of the Green Goblin's true identity. Lee wanted him to be the father of Parker's best friend, while Ditko rather kept him "a nobody". The 'Spider-Man' series and its many spin-offs remained best-selling properties for Marvel Comics in the following decades. As the series was stripped from its "Ditko DNA", it took his successor John Romita Sr. some time to win the readers' acceptance.

Dr. Strange by Steve Ditko
'Dr. Strange, from Strange Tales' #133 (1965).

Dr. Strange
While working on 'The Amazing Spider-Man', Steve Ditko has also worked on several other Marvel projects. Whenever Jack Kirby was too busy, Lee could rely on Ditko to fill in on stories of 'Iron Man' (in 'Tales of Suspense') and 'The Mighty Thor' (in 'Journey into Mystery'). Ditko also succeeded Kirby in the final issue of 'The Incredible Hulk' (March 1963), and then revived the character with Lee and inker George Roussos in 'Tales to Astonish' from October 1964 until May 1965. Ditko came up with the idea for 'Doctor Strange' all by himself. He submitted a short story for publication about a supernatural hero in the anthology 'Strange Tales'. After this first publication in July 1963, Ditko and Lee continued to work on the concept. The hero was once a brilliant surgeon called Dr. Stephen Strange, who suffered injury on his hands. While in search of repairing his hands, he encounters the "Ancient One", who serves as Sorcerer Supreme to protect earth from mystical threats. Strange becomes one of his students. The "Master of the Mystic Arts" brought elements of mysticism and black magic to the new Marvel universe. On the graphical part, Ditko could let his mind run free on the nightmarish and surreal dimensions through which the doctor travelled. His vivid drawings especially appealed to the student and hippie communities, who thought that these hallucinogenic and almost psychedelic graphics must have been inspired by LSD. Ditko was however no drug user and came up with these strange worlds by thought alone. His most abstract creation was probably the cosmic character Eternity (1965), who personified the universe and was drawn as a silhouette filled with the cosmos. Ditko's final work on the feature appeared in 'Strange Tales' #146 of July 1966. His successor was industry veteran Bill Everett.

Who's There? (The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #38, 1967)
'Who's There?' ('The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves' #38, 1967).

Revival of Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and Liberty Belle
After leaving Marvel in the mid-1960s, the man could even further indulge in graphical experiments when he returned to Charlton. Although the low-budget company was infamous for its low pay rates and inferior printing quality, the editors gave their authors more artistic freedom than for instance Marvel Comics. From late 1965 until 1967 he returned to 'Captain Atom', drawing new episodes throughout the character's run in its own title. Ditko was aided by Joe Gill and David Kaler for the scripts, while Rocco Mastroserio and Frank McLaughlin served as inkers. Ditko was also responsible for the reboot of the Golden Age comic book character 'Blue Beetle' (1967-1968), which was created in 1939 by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski for Fox Comics. Another Golden Age character revived by Ditko and writer Joe Gill was Chuck Winter and Don Cameron's 'Liberty Belle' (1974) as a back-up feature in 'E-Man'.

The 9th Life by Steve Ditko
'The 9th Life' (Ghostly Tales #85, 1971).

Supernatural short stories
Ditko also returned to short stories in the supernatural genre, and by now he had acquired such graphical skills that he could produce them quickly and still experiment with innovative lay-outs. Ditko's short stories appeared in many of Charlton's 1960s and 1970s anthology, such as 'Ghostly Tales' (1966-1977), 'Shadows from Beyond' (1966), 'The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves' (1967-1978), 'Ghost Manor' (1970-1978), 'Haunted' (1971-1978), 'Ghostly Haunts' (1972-1978), 'Beyond the Grave' (1975-1976), 'Creepy Things' (1975-1976), 'Scary Tales' (1975-1978) and 'Monster Hunters' (1975-1977). Reprints of his older stories ran in several of the above titles until 1986. In 1969 and 1970 he drew a couple of stories with Alex Raymond's 'Jungle Jim' for the comic book. Also critically acclaimed are the supernatural stories in either pen-and-ink or ink-wash, which he made with Archie Goodwin for James Warren's black-and-white magazines Eerie and Creepy in 1966 and 1967.

Creepy Magazine #12 - Blood of the Werewolf
Creepy Magazine #12 - 'Blood of the Werewolf'.

Mr. A
Steve Ditko's post-Marvel superhero creations were even more unconventional. The most eccentric was 'Mr. A', who made his first appearance in the third issue of Wallace Wood's independent magazine Witzend in 1967 and was therefore completely creator-owned. Ditko was inspired by the Objectivism theory of the Russian-American novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. The main thought was that one could only get personal fullfillment through a rational code for morality. There is only right and wrong, and no grey area in between. Applied on superhero comics, this translates into a radical no-nonsense vigilante who has no mercy and kills even the pettiest criminals. The philosophy was even more exemplified in Mr. A's half white-half black calling cards. After his first two appearances in Witzend, the character continued to appear in indie magazines and fanzines during the 1960s and 1970s, including Marty Greim's Comic Crusader and Bruce Hershenson's Wha!?!. A one-shot independent comic book devoted to 'Mr. A' was published under the Comic Art Publishers imprint in 1973.

Mr A by Steve Ditko
'Mr. A - Right to Kill!' (1973).

The Question
A softer and more mainstream appliance of the Objectivism philosophy was Ditko's 'The Question' (1967-1968) for Charlton Comics. The Question was the secret identity of crusading TV journalist Vic Sage in his fearless battle against corruption and villains like the Banshee. A toxic gas allowed him to wear a featureless artificial skin on his face, making him the anonymous enemy of the excesses of society. Like Mr. A, he had his own calling card, this time with a question mark. 'The Question' started as a back-up feature in the 'Blue Beetle' comic book from June to December 1967, and then became a one-time lead feature in 'Mysterious Suspense' in October 1968. The two stories of 'Killjoy', Ditko's back-up feature in Charlton's 'E-Man' (1973-1974,) share the same tone as 'The Question' and 'Mr. A'.

The Question by Steve Ditko
'The Question', from Blue Beetle #4 (1967).

The Creeper, Hawk and Dove and other late 1960s work
The second half of the 1960s were further characterized by short-lived associations with Dell Comics, Tower Comics and DC Comics. In 1966, Ditko was present at Dell, producing art for comic books based on TV series like the secret agent pastiche 'Get Smart' (1966) and the World War II sitcom 'Hogan's Heroes' (1966). The artist also drew the final issue of 'Nukla', another nuclear powered hero created by Joe Gill and originally drawn by Dick Giordano and Sal Trapani. Between 1966 and 1968 Ditko worked for Wallace Wood's 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' and 'Dynamo' titles at Tower Comics. By 1968 he briefly joined DC Comics. His first creation for Marvel's major competitor was 'The Creeper', another eccentric superhero with super strength, agility, and stamina, whose main weapon was a physically painful laughter. Ditko created the character with co-writer Don Segall for DC's try-out title Showcase in March-April 1968. This Joker-like creation then starred in his own short-lived comic book called 'Beware the Creeper' in 1968-1969, with scripts by Denny O'Neil and art by Ditko. With writer Steve Skeates, Ditko developed 'Hawk and Dove' around the same time. Created at the height of the protest movement against the US involvement in the Vietnam War, the feature presented a conflicted superhero team. The militant Hawk (Hank Hall) represented force and aggression, while his pacifist brother Dove (Don Hall) stood for reason and non-violence. Like 'The Creeper', Hawk and Dove first appeared in the Showcase (June 1968), before they starred in the short-lived comic book 'The Hawk and the Dove' (1968-1969). Ditko drew only the first two issues in 1968 and was then succeeded by Gil Kane.

The Creeper by Steve DitkoThe Hawk and the Dove by Steve Ditko

1970s work
Although Ditko's later-day superhero characters were unique in bringing philosophy and questions of morality into comic book stories, they had less commercial appeal than his work with Stan Lee. Their own titles were generally short-lived, although his Charlton and DC creations have later appeared in limited series and team-up comic books set in the DC Universe. With his more idiosyncratic and offbeat new work, the artist was considered a bit of an oddball in mainstream comics during the 1970s. Most of his 1970s output was therefore for small press/independent publishers. Ditko further proclaimed his worldview and philosophies in the independently published 'The Avenging World' (Bruce Hershenson, 1973), which can be considered one of the first graphic essays. In 1975 he was present at Seaboard Periodicals, the new imprint of former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman. The company was one of the first to grant author rights to its co-workers, which attracted many industry giants. Ditko was one of them, and he worked with writer Archie Goodwin and inker Wallace Wood on the superhero 'The Destructor' (4 issues in 1975). He and writer Gerry Conway succeeded Ernie Colón and Gabriel Levy on 'Tiger-Man' (2 issues in 1975), while Ditko and Bernie Wrightson drew the third and final issue of 'Morlock 2001' (1975).

The Avenging World by Steve Ditko
'The Avenging World - Part 2' (1976).

Ditko returned to mainstream comics in the mid-1970s when he created the sword and sorcery series 'Stalker' (with writer Paul Levitz, 1975–1976) and the extraterrestial superhero 'Shade the Changing Man' (1977-1978), both at DC Comics. With Gerry Conway he produced the first issue of the solo title of Frank Robbins and Neal Adams creation 'Man-Bat', a supervillain from the 'Batman' universe. He briefly relaunched 'Creeper' in 'World's Finest Comics' (1978-1979), and drew some short stories for the anthology titles 'House of Mystery' (1975-1980) and 'Secrets of Haunted House' (1978-1982). He additionally drew a back-up feature with the Jack Kirby creation 'Demon' for 'Detective Comics' (1979) and made a new rendition of the classic DC superhero 'Starman' with Paul Levitz for 'Adventure Comics' (1980). His final regular DC work was filling in on several issues of the all-star title 'The Legion of Super-Heroes' (1980-1981).

'Shade the Changing Man' #3 (1977).

Return to Marvel
In 1979 he returned to Marvel Comics, although at this point mainly as a work-for-hire artist. He continued to freelance for the company until the end of his mainstream career in 1998. His first work was taking over Jack Kirby's android superhero 'Machine Man' (1979-1981) from issue 10. He produced the title until the end of its 19-issue run with writers Marv Wolfman and Tom DeFalco. The 'Marvel Spotlight' collection had Ditko art in issues featuring 'Captain Universe', 'Captain Marvel' and 'Dragon Lord' (1980-1981). He replaced Frank Springer for the 12th and final issue of 'U.S. 1' in 1984 and Chas Truog on the 'Djinn' back-up stories in Steve Englehart's 'Coyote' comic book (1984-1985). Throughout this Marvel period, he drew 'Fantastic Four', 'Hulk', 'Daredevil', 'Iron Man' stories for annuals, specials fill-in issues, and introduced the character 'Speedball' in the 22nd 'Amazing Spider-Man Annual' (1988) with writer Tom DeFalco. 'Speedball, the Masked Marvel' got its own 10-issue comic book in 1988-1989, mostly created by Ditko in cooperation with scriptwriter Roger Stern and inker Bruce Patterson. Ditko worked his way into the 1990s with contributions to 'The Destroyer' (1990-1991) and new 'Speedball' stories in the 'Marvel Super-Heroes' anthology series (1990-1991). He also created the satirical superheroine 'Squirrel Girl' with writer Will Murray for this title in 1991.

ROM by Steve Ditko

Much of his 1980s and 1990s Marvel work was for comic book series related to toy lines, TV series and movies. With writer Bill Mantlo he made comic stories based on the toy lines 'Micronauts' (two annuals and one issue, 1979-1980) and 'ROM' (17 issues, 1984-1986). He provided artwork for several 'Transformers' coloring books, and produced issues of the movie tie-in comic book series 'The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones' (with writer Linda Grant, 1984-1986) and 'Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos' (with writer Mary Jo Duffy, 1987). In the 1990s, he drew a four-issue mini-series based on the TV series 'Phantom 2040' (script Peter Quinones, 1995), which was in turn a futuristic sequel to Lee Falk's famous comic series. Among his later work for Marvel were stories based on the TV series 'Mighty Morpin Power Rangers' (1995-1996) and 'VR Troopers' (1996). His final Marvel work was a 12-page 'Iron Man' story for the first issue of the 'Shadows & Light' comic book (1998).

'The Mugging' (The Fly #2, 1983).

Pacific Press / Archie Comics/ Renegade Press / Cracked / Globe Communications
In addition to his work for Marvel Comics, Steve Ditko worked for many of the independent and smaller publishing labels of the 1980s. For Pacific Comics, he drew issues of 'Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers' (1982), in which he introduced the superhero 'Missing Man' with writer Mark Evanier. The character later appeared in solo stories in 'Pacific Presents' (1982-1984). In the second issue of Pacific's 'Silver Star' (1983), Ditko introduced his character 'The Mocker', who would later return in the artist's self-publishing endeavours. Ditko contributed stories with the character 'Static' to Eclipse Monthly (1983), and produced the back-up feature 'The Faceless Ones' with writer Jack C. Harris in the 'Warp' comic book of First Comics (1983). He was also present in the short-lived superhero comic book line of Archie Comics, drawing 'The Fly' (1983-1984) for editor Rich Buckler. For Deni Loubert's Renegade Press, he drew for issues of 'Revolver' (1985-1986) and 'Murder' (1986), while he also got his own title called 'Ditko's World featuring Static' (1986), in which he revived 'Static', but also introduced new characters like 'Comic Action Kid', 'Thunbolt' and 'Mr. Quiver'. With writers Ron Frantz and Joe Gill, Ditko was involved in new stories with the Golden Age superhero 'The Face' (1986-1987), which appeared in three issues at Frantz' A.C.E. Comics label. The character was originally created by Mart Bailey for Columbia Comics. In 1986-1987 Ditko had a remarkable appearance in the humor magazine Cracked, for which he made the gag feature 'Robot War' with writer Mort Todd. For the same publisher (Globe Communications), he additionally made a couple of new supernatural stories for 'Monsters Attack' (1989-1990).

'A Simple Misunderstanding' (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2, 1995).

Valiant Comics / Dark Horse Comics
With Jack C. Harris, Ditko returned to more experimental grounds for the two issues of the comic book '3-D Substance' (1990-1991). The 3D effects on Ditko's art were applied by publisher Ray Zone, who was well-known for his 3D conversions of comic books and films. Between 1991 and 1993 he was present at Valiant Comics with comic books commissioned by the World Wrestling Federation (1991) and issues of 'Magnus Robot Fighter' (1992), 'Solar, Man of the Atom' (1992), 'X-O Manowar' (1992), 'Battlemania' (1992) and 'Shadowman' (1992), although some of these had only lay-outs by Ditko. In 1993, Steve Ditko wrote and drew the one-shot comic book 'The Safest Place in the World' for Dark Horse Comics, and he drew the trial issue of Jim Shooter's 'Dark Dominion' comic book for Defiant Comics. Ten issues of the regular series (1993-1994) were then produced by writer Len Wein and several other artists. In that same year he also made stories for 'Jack Kirby's Secret City Saga' with writer Roy Thomas at Topps. In 1997 he produced a 5-page story for the 'Big Boy' comic book, which was produced by Craig Yoe for the restaurant chain of the same name.

Collaboration with Robin Snyder
While his career in mainstream comics came to an end in 1998, Steve Ditko has continued to release self-published small press comic books in cooperation with Robin Snyder, his personal friend and former editor at Charlton, Archie Comics and Renegade Press. The two men had begun their joint venture in the late 1980s, when they released new stories of 'Static' (1988-1989) and 'The Mocker' (1990) in black-and-white comic books. They have since then collected several of Ditko's older productions, including his supernatural stories, 'Missing Man', 'Killjoy', 'Konga', and 'Mr. A', while original stories were also created for the irregular appearing 'Ditko Package' and 'Ditko Act' series and a host of independently titled books. Snyder and Ditko have additionally issued and extended version of Ditko's 1973 graphic essay 'The Avenging World' in 2002. It also included earlier essays written and illustrated for Snyder's The Comics and other fanzines. Subsequent essays appeared in books like 'The Avenging Mind' (2008) and 'Ditko, etc.' (2008), while several comic books with new 'Mr. A' stories have also seen the light. Ditko's new 32-page comic book releases have additionally introduced new creations like 'The Hero', 'Miss Eerie', 'The Cape', 'The Madman', 'The Grey Negotiator', 'The !?' and 'The Outline'. Between 2008 and 2018 a total of 26 issues has appeared.

'The Cape', from Ditko Act 6 (2011).

Feud with Stan Lee
Although the man refused any interview since the 1960s, he has used his essays to share his points of view. One of the most interesting was the one in which he claimed co-creatorship of 'Spider-Man'. For many years, Stan Lee was credited as the sole creator of Marvel's best-selling superheroes. Jack Kirby had given a scornful interview with The Comics Journal about Lee's actual contributions to the creation of 'The Incredible Hulk', 'The Mighty Thor' and other heroes in 1990. Ditko elaborated on the actual creation of 'Spider-Man' in several of his essays. Especially his 'Steve Ditko's 32 Page Package: Tsk! Tsk!' (2000) attacks Lee and blasts "Stan the Man" for things that have been said over the years in the media. By 1999 Lee had already handed Ditko a written statement saying that he "considered Steve Ditko to be the co-creator of Spider-Man'. He has also made sure that Ditko's name is mentioned next to his on the credits of the movie adaptations directed by Saim Raimi (2002-2007), Marc Webb (2012-2014) and Jon Watts (2017). But that was perhaps a cold comfort for missing out on all the money Lee and the Marvel Entertainment Group had cashed in from his co-creation throughout the years.

Tsk Tsk by Steve Ditko

Ever since the 1980s, compendiums of Steve Ditko's impressive body of work have been released. Fantagraphics published two volumes of 'The Ditko Collection' in the mid-1980s; the first one compiling his non-mainstream work from 1966-1973, the second one from the period 1973-1976. The Seattle-based publisher has resumed its Ditko activity with luxury releases of his Charlton work starting in 2009. Greg Theakston's Pure Imagination has compiled editions of Ditko's Charlton work as well in its collection 'Steve Ditko Reader' since 2002. The label also published 'Steve Ditko: Edge of Genius' (2009) and 'The Big Book o'Ditko' (2010). Marvel Comics has honored their veteran artist with an installment in their 'Marvel Visionaries' series in 2005. Comic historian and longtime Ditko fan Craig Yoe inaugurated IDW's Yoe Books! line with the luxury 'The Art of Ditko' (2009), which had a strong focus on the author's innovative Charlton work. The follow-up 'Creativity of Ditko' was released in 2012. A fanzine completely devoted to Steve Ditko was launched by editor Bill Hall under the title Ditkomania in January 1983. Hall published 63 issues until October 1999, after which Rob Imes resumed the title in March 2008.

Legacy and tributes
In the 2010s, Snyder and Ditko turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their projects. Their quick succession shows the high productivity which Ditko maintained in old age. In November 2017, the month that Steve Ditko reached the age of 90, a Kickstarter campaign for a new 'Mr. A' anthology was launched. Already in February 2018 another one was started for a new comic book starring 'The Hero' and 'Blue Beetle'. Their 20th and final campaign during Ditko's life regarded an anthology called 'Something Big', which was started on 1 June 2018. Although no longer on the forefront, he remained one of the oldest comic book artists who was still active, alongside Al Jaffee and Mort Walker. His career is held in high esteem by almost the entire industry. Despite their differences, Stan Lee has always praised Ditko in interviews, calling him the "perfect collaborator". Ditko has not only influenced a whole generation of American comic book artists, but also the top British comic writers, such as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar. Moore has even based the character of Rorschach from his best-selling graphic novel 'Watchmen' on Ditko's 'Mr. A' and 'The Question'. Moore has also written a song called 'Mr. A', which he has performed with his band The Emperors of Ice Cream. Another celebrity fan of Steve Ditko is BBC host Jonathan Ross. Ross made a documentary about his fascination for the man, called 'In Search of Steve Ditko' (2007). He spoke with many other Ditko fans, former co-workers and other industry giants, and accompanied by Neil Gaiman he even managed to track the man down himself in a New York office building. Ditko however refused to be interviewed, or even have his picture taken, but Ross declared that he and Gaiman had a nice 30-minute chat with the legendary artist. Rock band Pink Floyd hid an image from the 'Dr. Strange' story in 'Strange Tales' issue #158 (July 1967) on the cover of their second album 'A Saucerful of Secrets' (1968), although this story was drawn by Marie Severin

Haunted 14 by Steve Ditko
'Out of the Depth' (Haunted #14, 1957).

Steve Ditko has won eight Alley Awards in the period 1962-1965 alone for his work on 'Spider-Man'. The award stood for "Excellence in the field of comic books" and was organized by Jerry Bails' Academy of Comic Book Arts and Sciences in cooperation with the fanzine Alter Ego. His UK fanbase honored Ditko with the Eagle Award in 1985. Renegade Press publisher Deni Loubert accepted the 1987 Comic-Con International Inkpot Award in Ditko's name, although the artist insisted that Loubert returned it because he hated awards. However, Ditko was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994. Finally, his inking skills were lauded with the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award in 2015. Joe Kubert posthumously received this award in the same year.

Steve Ditko was found dead in his appartment on 29 June 2018. It is presumed that he passed away two days earlier. Coincidentally Stan Lee would pass away a half year later. 

Steve Ditko was a strong influence on Matt Howarth, Batton Lash, Alan MooreRobert Obert, Sebastião Seabra and Adam Weller

Self-portrait in Spiderman Annual 1964
'How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man!' (Spider-Man Annual 1964).


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