Ditko, Steve

Tagged: Comics | Art | Author

(1927-2018) US Comics artist and writer, active from around 1953, his first professional assignment of genre interest being "Stretching Things" by Bruce Hamilton (1900-1974), which was eventually published in Fantastic Fears #5 for February 1954 [for a more detailed description of Ditko's early fantasy and other work, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. A long, complicated but mutually fruitful association with Jack Kirby began about this time; Ditko also did his first work for Charlton Comics, not ending his connection with that firm until its dissolution in 1986.

Far more importantly in sf terms, Ditko also began illustrating and writing for Atlas Comics, a precursor embodiment of what would become Marvel Comics; his first tale for Atlas was "There'll Be Some Changes Made" (April 1956 Journey into Mystery #33). He was soon contributing to several other Marvel comics, including Amazing Adventures, which was renamed Amazing Adult Fantasy in December 1961. It was here that Ditko published the first Spider-Man story, "Spider-Man!" (August 1962 Amazing Adult Fantasy #15), whose immediate success led to The Amazing Spider-Man (1963-current), now one of the longest-running Superhero comics (for Cinema and Television iterations, expansions, revisionist reversals and revanchist remakes of the series, see Spider-Man; Spider-Man [tv]; Spider-Man 2; Spider-Man 3; Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends). Though the inception of the character was, as usual with Marvel, a team effort, and though Stan Lee took co-creation credit as usual, Ditko was Spider-Man's main instigator, as Lee acknowledged. In his iconic rendering of the teenage Peter Parker alias Spider-Man, Ditko captured a sense of greyed-down urban immurement, while at the same time executing moments of empowering if temporary release that haunted the imaginations of early readers of the comic. Ditko was the central creator of Spider-Man from 1962 until he left The Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Comics as of the July 1966 issue.

Ditko is perhaps less well-known for his creation for Marvel's anthology title Strange Tales of the supernatural occult Superhero Doctor Strange (for film renderings see Doctor Strange; Avengers: Infinity War), whose travels into mystic Dimensions were depicted with surreal and sometimes near-psychedelic extravagance. Ditko remained complexly involved in Strange Tales from July 1963 until his departure from Marvel in July 1966. His later career was various, including stints back with Marvel, and work for several other firms including DC Comics; his advocacy of Ayn Rand's Objectivism as a philosophy shaped stories featuring his continuing steel-masked vigilante character Mr A, whose first appearance (1967 Witzend #3) was succeeded by adventures in various venues until around 2009.

Ditko effectively retired from full-time professional work around 2000. A comprehensive overview of his career, initiated with The Ditko Collection Volume 1 (1966-1973) (coll 1985), was terminated after the first volume. [JC]

see also: Get Smart!; Konga.

Stephen J Ditko

born Johnstown, Pennsylvania: 2 November 1927

died New York: circa 27 June 2018

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