Sunday, July 08, 2018


Last week Steve Ditko left us to join the hoary hosts of Hoggoth.  He will be remembered worldwide for his role in creating Spiderman, definitely one of his lesser artistic achievements.

Ditko was a highly imaginative comic artist whose half baked political philosophies eventually led him to a role as a hermit and an outsider artist.  He would disapprove of any tribute that purported to interpret his work.  He felt his pictures should speak for themselves: "[I]t's not my personality that I'm offering the readers but my artwork. It's not what I'm like that counts; it's what I did and how well it was done."

So out of respect for the talented Mr. Ditko, I'll be uncustomarily restrained and let his pictures speak for themselves.  These are the kinds of wonderful pictures for which I think he should be remembered.

Note how Ditko's distinctive personality shows up in his drawings of trees, bushes, mountains, and smoke

What a marvelous page, dense with the hard work of excellent compositions and creative angle shots.   

It's difficult to think of a comic artist with better cinematic instincts.

When set free by Warren magazines, Ditko indulged in moody, Kafka-esque surrealism

Ditko was an enemy of compromise. That was both his strength and his weakness.


But in between those two extremes, Ditko deserves great credit for contributing excellent work to the field of comic art for decades.


Anonymous said...

I was hoping you might comment on him . He was my favorite artist as a kid , spent many hours drawing from his figures which led to Bridgman and others . As a teen , from his influence , I read Rand - which led to N. Brandon's work and other philosophies . Called him ( # was listed ! ) in '78 and he could not have been nicer - spoke of Rand , Bridgman , Frazetta , fine art , asian design principles influences in Dr Strange . I always wondered if he received royalties from the Marvel movies , but wondered if he would have accepted them anyway .

Like to think in his life he had a girlfriend , or some kind of contact on that level ; maybe his work filled his needs .

Al McLuckie

Rick said...

Nice tribute. The Spidey stuff is played out, and your choices were excellent.

Anonymous said...

He would have hated to be called a legend but he was exactly that. I remember first encountering his work in the 1960s when reprints of Dr Strange were published in glorious B&W in UK comic 'Terrific' or was it 'Fantastic'? I will be venturing into my loft to reconnect with these dusty reminders of my childhood tonight!


xopxe said...

The fifth pic was rotulated by him?

David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie-- wow, I can't believe you actually spoke with the elusive Mr. Ditko. That's like getting in to see the Wizard of Oz. And it sounds like you had a long conversation. I don't need to know what he said abut Rand-- he has made it all to clear in his endless polemics-- but I would be very interested in hearing about his views of Frazetta and Bridgman. What a thrill!

Rick-- Many thanks.

Ken-- Yes, those Dr. Strange stories were marvelous, unique in the silver age of comics. After Ditko left Marvel, there was no one who could recreate that mood. As I recall, they tried Adkins, Colan, and other talents but Ditko could not be imitated.

xopxe-- I'm sorry, but I can't find a definition of "rotulated" that helps me with this. Can you elaborate?

xopxe said...

Sorry, mistranslation from spanish, don't know the exact term, perhaps "lettered" or "labeled". Like the guy who wrote the text into the page.

It's just that it has those obvious grammatical mistakes. Like the last page, the typewritten one. I wondered if that was a just a sloppier approach to writing, like a cultural thing, or he just didn't give a shit, or something else.

(I believe in Europe or South America they would go ballistic if a major publisher went out with something like that)

Anonymous said...

Al McLuckie responding . Back in '78 something got into me and I called Ditko Neal Adams and Steranko - all three were really gracious . I met Steranko 2 summers ago in indiana at a con. 10 min. from where I live , talked 2 hours on film noir .

Ditko was very nice , a little reserved , but really nice . I asked him who/what he studied that was an influence and he spoke highly of Jerry Robinson and Bridgeman . When asked of Frazetta's work and fine art in general , and if he ever considered painting , he said he liked Frazetta's bookcovers and many fine artists, but that he basically liked to tell stories . I asked what influenced his Dr Strange work , he said he basically wanted to do something really different , and that asian design motifs played a part in his approach .

He wrote me a note on where I could get some articles on objectivism , which I'd be glad to send to you .

Best Al

Anonymous said...

" llarth comguth tanneus kriigum " happened to be Steves favorite pick up lines in bars , as well as the original lines Patricia Neal was to recite to Gort in TDTESS , but were changed to klaatu barada nikto .

Gianmaria Caschetto said...

Nice to read a Ditko tribute on your blog!
I would still consider Spider-Man a major artistic achievement, though.
The art may not be Ditko's finest, and even if the series wasn't pure Ditko, due to Stan Lee's involvement, what it brought to the super-hero genre in terms of visual vocabulary is pretty remarkable.

Mort said...

Anxiously waiting for those tributes for Carlos Nine and Marcel Gotlib.

David Apatoff said...

xopxe-- Yes, I noticed that in Ditko's later, political work those types of errors began to show up. I suspect it was a combination of two things: 1.) Ditko became fiercely resentful of any kind of editing or censorship; this gave him complete editorial freedom but also meant that unintended errors weren't caught by a proof reader; and 2.) Ditko seemed to work himself into a lather about certain political subjects, which caused him to make the kinds of careless mistakes you make when you get overheated.

Al-- Thanks for sharing a cool story. I'd be interested in his note on objectivism, if you want to send it to me at

Anonymous-- Very funny. Following up on xopxe's point about technical errors, I'm sure you picked up on the typo in " llarth comguth"

Gianmaria Caschetto-- I too loved Spiderman growing up (the Ditko version, not Romita's). I agree that it was a significant achievement. However, I think Ditko did far superior work that hasn't been worshipped and fawned over, and that's kind of the specialty of this blog: quality work that hasn't been fawned over too much.

Mort-- Like many others, I admire Carlos Nine but rather than repeat what everyone else on the internet has already said about him, I look for something different to contribute, such as scans of originals (which, alas, I do not have for Nine). Nobody wants to hear me blabber about my personal preferences, without bringing something new to the table.

Anonymous said...

He was an absolute genius in the world of comic art. He will of course be hating all the gushing obituaries !


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Mort said...

Since I sounded a bit like a prick and I´m all for putting my money were my mouth acts up, here´s a small selection of material from Nine´s work at the magazine Humo(R) [Humor registrado], chiefly obtained form a series of articles on said magazine from an argentinian site called rafaela.

Yes, it´s a 4chan derivative imageboard, but I wasn´t too keen to sign up for imgur; and this board is clean and SFW.

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