|Birth Day:||November 2, 1927|
|Birth Place:||Johnstown, United States|
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He studied at the Cartoonist and Illustrators School in New York, where he studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson.
Ditko was born on November 2, 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the son of first-generation American Rusyn immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), father Stephen Ditko, an artistically talented master carpenter at a steel mill, and mother Anna, a homemaker. The second-oldest child in a working-class family, he was preceded by sister Anna Marie, and followed by sister Elizabeth and brother Patrick. Inspired by his father's love of newspaper comic strips, particularly Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, Ditko found his interest in comics accelerated by the introduction of the superhero Batman in 1939, and by Will Eisner's The Spirit, which appeared in a tabloid-sized comic-book insert in Sunday newspapers.
Ditko in junior high school was part of a group of students who crafted wooden models of German airplanes to aid civilian World War II aircraft-spotters. Upon graduating from Greater Johnstown High School in 1945, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 26, 1945, and did military service in postwar Germany, where he drew comics for an Army newspaper.
Following his discharge, Ditko learned that his idol, Batman artist Jerry Robinson, was teaching at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts) in New York City. Moving there in 1950, he enrolled in the art school under the G.I. Bill. Robinson found the young student "a very hard worker who really focused on his drawing" and someone who "could work well with other writers as well as write his own stories and create his own characters", and he helped Ditko acquire a scholarship for the following year. "He was in my class for two years, four or five days a week, five hours a night. It was very intense." Robinson, who invited artists and editors to speak with his class, once brought in Stan Lee, then editor of Marvel Comics' 1950s precursor Atlas Comics and, "I think that was when Stan first saw Steve's work."
Ditko began professionally illustrating comic books in early 1953, drawing writer Bruce Hamilton's science-fiction story "Stretching Things" for the Key Publications imprint Stanmor Publications, which sold the story to Ajax/Farrell, where it finally found publication in Fantastic Fears #5 (cover-dated Feb. 1954). Ditko's first published work was his second professional story, the six-page "Paper Romance" in Daring Love #1 (Oct. 1953), published by the Key imprint Gillmor Magazines.
After he recovered and moved back to New York City in late 1955, Ditko began drawing for Atlas Comics, the 1950s precursor of Marvel Comics, beginning with the four-page "There'll Be Some Changes Made" in Journey into Mystery #33 (April 1956); this debut tale would be reprinted in Marvel's Curse of the Weird #4 (March 1994). Ditko would go on to contribute a large number of stories, many considered classic, to Atlas/Marvel's Strange Tales and the newly launched Amazing Adventures, Strange Worlds, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish, issues of which would typically open with a Kirby-drawn monster story, followed by one or two twist-ending thrillers or sci-fi tales drawn by Don Heck, Paul Reinman, or Joe Sinnott, all capped by an often-surreal, sometimes self-reflexive short by Ditko and writer-editor Stan Lee.
From 1958 to 1968, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate. When either artist was under deadline pressure, it was not uncommon for them to pitch in and help the other with his assignment. Ditko biographer Blake Bell, without citing sources, said, "At one time in history, Ditko denied ever touching Stanton's work, even though Stanton himself said they would each dabble in each other's art; mainly spot-inking", and the introduction to one book of Stanton's work says, "Eric Stanton drew his pictures in India ink, and they were then hand-coloured by Ditko". In a 1988 interview with Theakston, Stanton recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. But the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands".
Back at Charlton—where the page rate was low but creators were allowed greater freedom—Ditko worked on such characters as the Blue Beetle (1967–1968), the Question (1967–1968), and Captain Atom (1965–1967), returning to the character he'd co-created in 1960. In addition, in 1966 and 1967, he drew 16 stories, most of them written by Archie Goodwin, for Warren Publishing's horror-comic magazines Creepy and Eerie, generally using an ink-wash technique.
In 1967, Ditko gave his Objectivist ideas ultimate expression in the form of Mr. A, published in Wally Wood's independent title witzend # 3. Ditko's hard line against criminals was controversial and he continued to produce Mr. A stories and one-pagers until the end of the 1970s. Ditko returned to Mr. A in 2000 and in 2009.
Ditko moved to DC Comics in 1968, where he co-created the Creeper in Showcase #73 (April 1968) with Don Segall, under editor Murray Boltinoff. DC Comics writer and executive Paul Levitz observed that Ditko's art on the Creeper stories made "them look unlike anything else being published by DC at the time." Ditko co-created the team Hawk and Dove in Showcase #75 (June 1968), with writer Steve Skeates. Around this time, he penciled the lead story, written and inked by Wally Wood, in Wood's early mature-audience, independent-comics publication Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon (1969).
Though often overshadowed by his Spider-Man work, Ditko's Doctor Strange artwork has been equally acclaimed for its surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly psychedelic visuals that helped make the feature a favorite of college students. "People who read 'Doctor Strange' thought people at Marvel must be heads [i.e. drug users]," recalled then-associate editor and former Doctor Strange writer Roy Thomas in 1971, "because they had had similar experiences high on mushrooms. But ... I don't use hallucinogens, nor do I think any artists do."
For Charlton in 1974 he did Liberty Belle backup stories in E-Man and conceived Killjoy. Ditko produced much work for Charlton's science-fiction and horror titles, as well as for former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman's start-up line Atlas/Seaboard Comics, where he co-created the superhero the Destructor with writer Archie Goodwin, and penciled all four issues of the namesake series (Feb.–Aug. 1975), the first two of which were inked by Wally Wood. Ditko worked on the second and third issues of Tiger-Man and the third issue of Morlock 2001, with Bernie Wrightson inking.
Ditko returned to DC Comics in 1975, creating a short-lived title, Shade, the Changing Man (1977–1978). Shade was later revived, without Ditko's involvement, in DC's mature-audience imprint Vertigo. With writer Paul Levitz, he co-created the four-issue sword and sorcery series Stalker (1975–1976). Ditko and writer Gerry Conway produced the first issue of a two-issue Man-Bat series. He also revived the Creeper and did such various other jobs as a short Demon backup series in 1979 and stories in DC's horror and science-fiction anthologies. Editor Jack C. Harris hired Ditko as guest artist on several issues of The Legion of Super-Heroes, a decision which garnered a mixed reaction from the title's readership. Ditko also drew the Prince Gavyn version of Starman in Adventure Comics #467–478 (1980). He then decamped to do work for a variety of publishers, briefly contributing to DC again in the mid-1980s, with four pinups of his characters for Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe and a pinup for Superman #400 (Oct. 1984) and its companion portfolio.
Two "lost" stories drawn by Ditko in 1978 have been published by DC in hardcover collections of the artist's work. A Creeper story scheduled for the never published Showcase #106 appears in The Creeper by Steve Ditko (2010) and an unpublished Shade, the Changing Man story appears in The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 (2011). A Hulk and the Human Torch story written by Jack C. Harris and drawn by Ditko in the 1980s was published by Marvel as Incredible Hulk and the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1 in August 2011.
Ditko returned to Marvel in 1979, taking over Jack Kirby's Machine Man, drawing The Micronauts and Captain Universe, and continuing to freelance for the company into the late 1990s. Starting in 1984, he penciled the last two years of the space-robot series Rom. A Godzilla story by Ditko and Marv Wolfman was changed into a Dragon Lord story published in Marvel Spotlight. Ditko and writer Tom DeFalco introduced the Speedball character in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22 (1988) and Ditko drew a ten-issue series based on the character.
Ditko's stay at DC was short—he would work on all six issues of the Creeper's own title, Beware the Creeper (June 1968 – April 1969), though leaving midway through the final one—and the reasons for his departure uncertain. But while at DC, Ditko recommended Charlton staffer Dick Giordano to the company, who would go on to become a top DC penciller, inker, editor, and ultimately, in 1981, the managing editor.
In 1982, he also began freelancing for the early independent comics label Pacific Comics, beginning with Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #6 (Sept. 1982), in which he introduced the superhero Missing Man, with Mark Evanier scripting to Ditko's plot and art. Subsequent Missing Man stories appeared in Pacific Presents #1–3 (Oct. 1982 – March 1984), with Ditko scripting the former and collaborating with longtime friend Robin Snyder on the script for the latter two. Ditko also created The Mocker for Pacific, in Silver Star #2 (April 1983).
For Eclipse Comics, he contributed a story featuring his character Static (no relation to the later Milestone Comics character) in Eclipse Monthly #1–3 (Aug.–Oct. 1983), introducing supervillain the Exploder in #2. With writer Jack C. Harris, Ditko drew the backup feature "The Faceless Ones" in First Comics' Warp #2–4 (April–June 1983). Working with that same writer and others, Ditko drew a handful of the Fly, Fly-Girl and Jaguar stories for The Fly #2–8 (July 1983 – Aug. 1984), for Archie Comics' short-lived 1980s superhero line; in a rare latter-day instance of Ditko inking another artist, he inked penciler Dick Ayers on the Jaguar story in The Fly #9 (Oct. 1984). Western Publishing in 1982 announced a series by Ditko and Harris would appear in a new science-fiction comic, Astral Frontiers, but that title never materialized.
Ditko then began a long association with the Derby, Connecticut publisher Charlton Comics, a low-budget division of a company best known for song-lyric magazines. Beginning with the cover of The Thing! #12 (Feb. 1954) and the eight-page vampire story "Cinderella" in that issue, Ditko would continue to work intermittently for Charlton until the company's demise in 1986, producing science fiction, horror and mystery stories, as well as co-creating Captain Atom, with writer Joe Gill, in Space Adventures #33 (March 1960). He first went on hiatus from the company, and comics altogether, in mid-1954, when he contracted tuberculosis and returned to his parents' home in Johnstown to recuperate.
In the early 1990s Ditko worked for Jim Shooter's newly founded company Valiant Comics, drawing, among others, issues of Magnus, Robot Fighter, Solar, Man of the Atom and X-O-Manowar. In 1992 Ditko worked with writer Will Murray to produce one of his last original characters for Marvel Comics, the superheroine Squirrel Girl, who debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2, #8, a.k.a. Marvel Super-Heroes Winter Special (Jan. 1992).
In 1993, he did the Dark Horse Comics one-shot The Safest Place in the World. For the Defiant Comics series Dark Dominion, he drew issue #0, which was released as a set of trading cards. In 1995, he pencilled a four-issue series for Marvel based on the Phantom 2040 animated TV series. This included a poster that was inked by John Romita Sr. Steve Ditko's Strange Avenging Tales was announced as a quarterly series from Fantagraphics Books, although it only ran one issue (Feb. 1997) due to publicly unspecified disagreements between Ditko and the publisher.
Ditko retired from mainstream comics in 1998. His later work for Marvel and DC included such established superheroes as the Sub-Mariner (in Marvel Comics Presents) and newer, licensed characters such as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The last mainstream character he created was Marvel's Longarm in Shadows & Light #1 (Feb. 1998), in a self-inked, 12-page Iron Man story "A Man's Reach....", scripted by Len Wein. His final mainstream work was a five-page New Gods story for DC Comics, "Infinitely Gentle Infinitely Suffering", inked by Mick Gray and believed to be intended for the 2000–2002 Orion series but not published until the 2008 trade paperback Tales of the New Gods.
One of the most celebrated issues of the Lee-Ditko run is #33 (Feb. 1966), the third part of the story arc "If This Be My Destiny...!", and featuring the dramatic scene of Spider-Man, through force of will and thoughts of family, escaping from being pinned by heavy machinery. Comics historian Les Daniels noted, "Steve Ditko squeezes every ounce of anguish out of Spider-Man's predicament, complete with visions of the uncle he failed and the aunt he has sworn to save." Peter David observed, "After his origin, this two-page sequence from Amazing Spider-Man #33 is perhaps the best-loved sequence from the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era." Steve Saffel stated the "full page Ditko image from The Amazing Spider-Man #33 is one of the most powerful ever to appear in the series and influenced writers and artists for many years to come." Matthew K. Manning wrote that "Ditko's illustrations for the first few pages of this Lee story included what would become one of the most iconic scenes in Spider-Man's history." The story was chosen as #15 in the 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time poll of Marvel's readers in 2001. Editor Robert Greenberger wrote in his introduction to the story, "These first five pages are a modern-day equivalent to Shakespeare as Parker's soliloquy sets the stage for his next action. And with dramatic pacing and storytelling, Ditko delivers one of the great sequences in all comics."
Thereafter, Ditko's solo work was published intermittently by Robin Snyder, who was his editor at Charlton, Archie Comics, and Renegade Press in the 1980s. The Snyder publications have included a number of original books as well as reprints such as Static, The Missing Man, The Mocker and, in 2002, Avenging World, a collection of stories and essays spanning 30 years.
The cartoonist and fine artist Seth in 2003 described Ditko's style as:
Whichever feature he drew, Ditko's idiosyncratic, cleanly detailed, instantly recognizable art style, emphasizing mood and anxiety, found great favor with readers. The character of Spider-Man and his troubled personal life meshed well with Ditko's own interests, which Lee eventually acknowledged by giving the artist plotting credits on the latter part of their 38-issue run. But after four years on the title, Ditko left Marvel; he and Lee had not been on speaking terms for some time, with art and editorial changes handled through intermediaries. The details of the rift remain uncertain, even to Lee, who confessed in 2003, "I never really knew Steve on a personal level." Ditko later claimed it was Lee who broke off contact and disputed the long-held belief that the disagreement was over the true identity of the Green Goblin: "Stan never knew what he was getting in my Spider-Man stories and covers until after [production manager] Sol Brodsky took the material from me ... so there couldn't have been any disagreement or agreement, no exchanges ... no problems between us concerning the Green Goblin or anything else from before issue #25 to my final issues". Spider-Man successor artist John Romita, in a 2010 deposition, recalled that Lee and Ditko "ended up not being able to work together because they disagreed on almost everything, cultural, social, historically, everything, they disagreed on characters. ..." A friendly farewell was given to Ditko in the "Bullpen Bulletins" of comics cover-dated July 1966, including Fantastic Four #52: "Steve recently told us he was leaving for personal reasons. After all these years, we're sorry to see him go, and we wish the talented guy success with his future endeavors."
Regardless, said Lee in 2007, "Quite a few years ago I met him up at the Marvel offices when I was last in New York. And we spoke; he's a hell of a nice guy and it was very pleasant. ... I haven't heard from him since that meeting."
In September 2007, presenter Jonathan Ross hosted a one-hour documentary for BBC Four titled In Search of Steve Ditko. The program covers Ditko's work at Marvel, DC, and Charlton Comics and at Wally Wood's witzend, as well as his following of Objectivism. It includes testimonials by Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Jerry Robinson and Stan Lee, among others. Ross, accompanied by writer Neil Gaiman, met Ditko briefly at his New York office, but he declined to be filmed, interviewed or photographed. He did, however, give the two a selection of some comic books. At the end of the show, Ross said he had since spoken to Ditko on the telephone and, as a joke, that he was now on first name terms with him.
The New York Times assessed in 2008 that, "By the '70s he was regarded as a slightly old-fashioned odd-ball; by the '80s he was a commercial has-been, picking up wretched work-for-hire gigs. ...following the example of [Ayn] Rand's John Galt, Ditko hacked out moneymaking work, saving his care for the crabbed Objectivist screeds he published with tiny presses. And boy, could Ditko hack: seeing samples of his Transformers coloring book and his Big Boy comic is like hearing Orson Welles sell frozen peas."
In 2008, Ditko and Snyder released The Avenging Mind, a 32-page essay publication featuring several pages of new artwork; and Ditko, Etc..., a 32-page comic book composed of brief vignettes and editorial cartoons. Releases have continued in that format, with stories introducing such characters as the Hero, Miss Eerie, the Cape, the Madman, the Grey Negotiator, the !? and the Outline. He said in 2012 of his self-published efforts, "I do those because that's all they'll let me do."
These Lee-Ditko short stories proved so popular that Amazing Adventures was reformatted to feature such stories exclusively beginning with issue #7 (Dec. 1961), when the comic was rechristened Amazing Adult Fantasy, a name intended to reflect its more "sophisticated" nature, as likewise the new tagline "The magazine that respects your intelligence". Lee in 2009 described these "short, five-page filler strips that Steve and I did together", originally "placed in any of our comics that had a few extra pages to fill", as "odd fantasy tales that I'd dream up with O. Henry-type endings." Giving an early example of what would later be known as the "Marvel Method" of writer-artist collaboration, Lee said, "All I had to do was give Steve a one-line description of the plot and he'd be off and running. He'd take those skeleton outlines I had given him and turn them into classic little works of art that ended up being far cooler than I had any right to expect."
In addition to the new material, Ditko and Snyder reprinted earlier Ditko material. In 2010 they published a new edition of the 1973 Mr. A comic and a selection of Ditko covers in The Cover Series. In 2011 they published a new edition of the 1975 comic ...Wha...!? Ditko's H. Series.
As of 2012, Ditko continued to work in Manhattan's Midtown West neighborhood. He mostly declined to give interviews or make public appearances, explaining in 1969 that, "When I do a job, it'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. I produce a product, a comic art story. Steve Ditko is the brand name." However, he did contribute numerous essays to Robin Snyder's fanzine The Comics. Ditko was an ardent supporter of Objectivism.
Ditko said in 2012 that he had made no income on the four Spider-Man films released to that time. However, a neighbor of Ditko's stated that he received royalty checks. Those involved with creating the Doctor Strange film purposely declined to contact him during production, believing they would not be welcome.
Ditko was found unresponsive in his apartment in New York City on June 29, 2018. Police said he had died within the previous two days. He was pronounced dead at age 90, with the cause of death initially deemed as a result of a myocardial infarction, brought on by arteriosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
The final words of Ditko's last essay, published posthumously in Down Memory Lane in February 2019, quoted an "old toast" and were appropriately cantankerous: "Here's to those who wish me well, and those that don't can go to hell."
Currently, Steve Ditko is 95 years, 7 months and 6 days old. Steve Ditko will celebrate 96th birthday on a Thursday 2nd of November 2023.
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