Panel One: Steve Ditko was born November 2, 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and developed an interest in comic books as a youngster. His brother claimed that in the early 1940s, Ditko would travel miles every week to buy a newspaper with Will Eisner's Spirit section; the future artist's mother made him a Batman costume, as well. In the early 50s, he attended Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York and studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson. Ditko was soon producing artwork for a number of mostly second and third string comic companies. He also worked for the successful Joe Simon and Jack Kirby team during this period. Stylistically, the great Mort Meskin, Robinson's sometime partner and another employee of Simon & Kirby, seems to have been an influence on the young Ditko.
Panel Two: During the late 50s and early 60s, Ditko mostly worked for two companies, Charlton and Atlas. His work during this period was primarily in the genre the artist referred to as fantasy, which included science fiction, horror and superhero comics. Ditko liked working for Charlton, where they pretty much left him alone. He was often teamed up with Joe Gill, a highly prolific writer, whom Ditko felt had a good grasp of comic book storytelling. During this period, they created the character Captain Atom and did many stories featuring Gorgo, a giant reptile from a British horror film, as well as numerous genre stories for anthology titles. At Atlas, which would soon transform into Marvel, Ditko worked almost exclusively with writer/editor Stan Lee. In fact, Lee was so fond of the artist's work that he refused to let anyone else at Atlas write Ditko's stories during this time period. Due to Lee's heavy workload, he and Ditko utilized a system of creating comics now referred to as Marvel style. Lee would provide the artist with a basic plot for a story, Ditko would draw the story based on the plot, and then Lee would add dialogue.
Panel Three: In 1961, Lee and artist Jack Kirby ushered in a new era in the history of comic books with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. Within a few years, Lee, Kirby and Ditko would create the characters that would be the foundation of the Marvel Comics empire. With Lee, Ditko co-created Dr. Strange, and the artist contributed to the early development of Iron Man and the Hulk. But most importantly, in 1962, Ditko and Lee created the most popular character Marvel has ever had, Spider-Man.
Panel Four: In the mid-60s, Dikto was working exclusively for Marvel, but his relationship with Lee had deteriorated. Soon, the artist was plotting his own stories and bringing them in complete, except for Lee's dialogue. Lee had no idea what the story was even about until the art was turned in. Even as Spider-Man's popularity was increasing, the two men were no longer speaking to each other, using Marvel's production manager as a go-between. Soon, Lee was assigning other writers to dialogue Dr. Strange.
Panel Five: No one knows for certain why Ditko decided to leave Marvel in 1966. It wasn't for money, as the day he quit, Lee had left him a note mentioning an increase in the artist's page rate-- and Ditko subsequently returned to Charlton, the lowest paying company in the field. Rumors have flown that the acrimonious split occurred over a difference Lee and Ditko had concerning the identity of Spider-Man's arch-foe the Green Goblin, but Ditko claims otherwise. Lee has said that he didn't know why Ditko left, and Ditko has said that Lee chose not to know. But there seemed to be indications that the split had its root in philosophical differences between the two men and Ditko's refusal to compromise his beliefs.
Panel Six: A number of associates have noted a change in Ditko in the mid-60s, and this change coincided with Ditko's introduction to the works of writer Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy. Rand's writings have had a tremendous impact on Ditko's work and his relationship to the comic book industry. Ditko now refuses to do interviews or make public appearance, but in the 60s, he did at least one interview via mail for a zine and attended one of the first comic book conventions. His output for the last three decades has consisted of what he considers fantasy stories, and his idiosyncratic and sometimes controversial political works, which are highly Randian in tone. He has refused to return to drawing Spider-Man.
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