Steve Ditko dies at Age 90.
July 6, 2018 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Steve Ditko, was the co-creator of Spider-Man, The Creeper, Mr. A, as well as being one of the last old guard comic book writers and creators was found dead, confirmed New York City Police. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died at age 90. The New York Police Department confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was announced. Ditko was found dead in his apartment on June 29 and it is believed he died about two days earlier."

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He also was a key player in Charlton Comics in the 1960s, where he created the Ted Kord version of the Blue Beetle, and The Question, and of course, Marvel's Squirrel Girl.
posted by Alexandra Kitty (60 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh. Wow. What a huge impact he had on my childhood. I’m sorry to read this.
posted by greermahoney at 8:44 PM on July 6


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posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:55 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


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posted by Sphinx at 8:56 PM on July 6


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posted by one for the books at 8:57 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


The co-creator (at minimum) of Spider-Man—inarguably one of the most celebrated characters in American fiction—died alone in his New York apartment and wasn't found for two days. I'm ambivalent about that. On one hand, I cherish my own privacy and have absolutely gone days at a time without social contact, happily. On the other hand...fuck, but that seems weird and sad.

I used to be a jazz musician. In jazz, we converse. Our songs are vehicles for that conversation. Traditionally we've used show tunes, which we call "standards" because every jazz musician is expected to know them. If you're on a bandstand with three unknown musicians playing together for the first time, someone will say, "Let's play 'Autumn Leaves,'" and now instantly everybody is on the same page. We'll pick a key and tempo, and then collectively we'll develop the song as we play. Maybe we'll end up in some weird, abstract and deconstructed place; but knowing that we're playing "Autumn Leaves" is enough commonality for us to converse, just like a couple strangers at a cocktail party can base a conversation on having read that morning's newspaper.

In comics, Spider-Man is a standard. That's what the enduring characters are. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. They have endured for exactly the same reasons as "Autumn Leaves" or "Body and Soul" or any jazz show tune: because they work exceptionally well as vehicles for collaboration, conversation, and storytelling. You can randomly hire four people who have never met—a writer, an artist, an inker, and a colorist—and you can tell them, "Okay, we're going to do Spider-Man," and instantly they're on the same page. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. He climbs walls and shoots webs. GO!

To have created a great American character is a big thing. But Steve Ditko did more than that. He created a great American standard, one that's served as a canvas for untold numbers of great artists and art, one that's grown even more vibrant and prolific and that will continue to bear fruit for decades to come, maybe centuries. That's Bach-level achievement.

And the guy died quietly and alone.
posted by cribcage at 9:18 PM on July 6 [91 favorites]


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posted by tzikeh at 9:25 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 9:31 PM on July 6


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posted by praemunire at 9:41 PM on July 6


His Spider-Man and Dr. Strange are how I always see those characters in my head. Vivid, iconic images.

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posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:48 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


It does seem sad, but that's probably just the way he wanted it; Ditko was comics' J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon, very rarely photographed or even seen outside the editorial offices of comics companies, and not often even there. His impact on comics is vast, not just through his signature characters, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but also through the Charlton Comics characters who would serve as the basis for Watchmen.

Someone may mention Ditko's Objectivist views, which could be strident in his own self-published work. But, I tell you, even though I couldn't disagree more with most of his rants, some of that art (google "steve ditko avenging world") is among his most striking and creative.

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posted by Halloween Jack at 10:08 PM on July 6


And the guy died quietly and alone.

Being a weird recluse was very much his thing, so, you know, he went out doing what he loved.

We may be at risk from attack by whatever supernatural dimension he was holding at bay now of course.

Here’s a fave story of his.
posted by Artw at 10:09 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


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posted by limeonaire at 10:18 PM on July 6


Artw, thanks for posting that Creepy excerpt. Ditko contributed to our national mythology with his work for Marvel, but his black and white horror comics were also just mind-blowing. This collection from Dark Horse is one of my favorite acquisitions from the last few years.

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posted by MrBadExample at 10:24 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 11:00 PM on July 6


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There is black and there is white, and there is wrong and there is right, and there is nothing in between
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:05 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:15 PM on July 6


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posted by Pendragon at 12:05 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


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posted by Samizdata at 2:57 AM on July 7




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I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I like to think that he and Jack Kirby are creating some amazing work together right now.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:29 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


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posted by filtergik at 3:36 AM on July 7


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If you've never read his Doctor Strange run, go do so now.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:56 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


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posted by crocomancer at 4:26 AM on July 7


Obit from The Comics Journal, which is probably as detailed a description of his life as we will ever get.
Ditko would seem to have been as faithful a follower of Randian philosophy as Rand could have wished for. It’s not hard to find contradictions in Ditko’s logic, but he could never be accused of hypocrisy. When movies based on characters he had been instrumental in creating began earning millions of dollars for their corporate owners, he made no attempt to claim a share in the profits. He even declined to support the campaign for Marvel to return Jack Kirby’s original art. He seemed to have little interest in fame or wealth, asking only that be allowed to practice his art in his own way.

As fans, we think we’re entitled to know everything about our heroes, but Ditko had nothing but disdain for this hunger. If he had no time for us, it may have been because he believed, perhaps rightly, that we were a distraction from his work. But still he kept reaching out to us, to anyone who was still listening, through his art. Now that Steve Ditko, the man, is gone, his life’s work is what we have left: just the way he always wanted it.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:28 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


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posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 5:42 AM on July 7


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posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I like to think that he and Jack Kirby are creating some amazing work together right now.

One of the rare times I'm disappointed that Kirby drew nearly everything he wrote is when I think of what Steve Ditko might have done with one of Kirby's cosmic stories.

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posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:16 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 9:11 AM on July 7


If anyone spots a collection of Mr. A, I'm still looking. In the meantime, thank God we had him. :)
posted by WCityMike at 9:29 AM on July 7


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:36 AM on July 7


The writer Fred Van Lente has a story about a time he got hate mail from Steve Ditko, along with some ideas Ditko added to the Marvel canon outside the characters he's officially credited with creating.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:44 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 11:19 AM on July 7


Years ago, I read an interview with P. Craig Russell (I think it was in an issue of Epic Magazine). When talking about his influences, Ditko came up. Russell emphasized how well Ditko drew hands and their gestures and damn if that little snippet hasn’t followed me ever since.

Also; given his trippy, psychedelic work in Dr. strange, Shade the Changing Man, and others, it’s no wonder Ditko never did drugs. He didn’t need them.
posted by Eikonaut at 11:50 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]




I was always a huge fan of Golden & Silver Age comics growing up and as much as I liked a lot of Kirby's work I absolutely loved Ditko's work. I read anything I could get my hands on regardless of the writing quality or the philosophical bent (circa late 80's I was the only one excited of my friends about the then upcoming release of Speedball). Just last month I was pulling out some of my old comics for my son and I pulled a few issues of his run on Machine Man and one of the many reprints of his Dr. Strange run. I spent a warm summer afternoon on the couch re-reading them - a fine day.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:52 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gelatin at 7:38 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


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(It's his web.)
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posted by homunculus at 7:21 AM on July 9


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🐲🦁🐙🦅🦎

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posted by DigDoug at 10:11 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Steve Ditko: Beyond Spider-Man
The sheer artistry of Ditko’s dynamic mix of abstract composition and elastic figuration received showcase treatment in Warren’s black-and-white horror publications.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:15 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


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posted by nicebookrack at 2:10 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I don't know if anyone here is on Facebook anymore, but there is a new group called "Steve Ditko Letters" where people are posting their letters they got from Ditko. Apparently if you wrote to him and asked him a question he would reply. If you didn't ask him a question, he wouldn't reply. The letters are fascinating if anyone on FB wants to go take a look. One friend of mine was in contact with Ditko via letters when said friend was publishing fanzines back in the 1970s. This friend later became creative director for The Muppets. He called Ditko and invited him to tour the Muppet workshop. Ditko was like "Yeah!"

Here's a quote from the account of Ditko's visit:
I somewhat nervously phoned Ditko and invited him over for lunch and a tour of the Muppet Creature Shop. He nicely agreed! Our receptionist in the lobby of the grand old four-story uptown Victorian that housed Muppet headquarters buzzed me that a Mr. Steve Ditko was there to see me.
I walked down the grand spiral staircase to find Ditko sitting in the theater chairs positioned to make the waiting person look like they were sitting in the front row of a Muppet Theater. Muralized Kermie, Piggy, Animal and the whole crew were peering over Steve Ditko’s shoulder.

The fantastic denizens assembled, including the artist, were all looking at me. I ignored the others and excitedly greeted Spider-Man’s artist creator.... STEVE DITKO! We walked around the corner for lunch.

Conversation was difficult. Ditko was not unfriendly but offered terse answers to any questions I brought forth about how he liked the weather or the food or about his philosophy about creativity. After a few tries I began to see that any inquiry or opinion I myself made was met with quiet, some rigid, some disagreeable responses no matter what the topic. I wanted to be respectful, of course, but I was increasingly uncomfortable and found myself glad when Ditko passed on dessert!

Instead of pie we soon made our way to a third location, the nearby Muppet Creature Shop. There Steve seemed relaxed and relatable as HE opened up with soft-spoken but eager questions about how the Muppet puppets were made. His enthusiastic curiosity about the Muppets creativity was sincere and refreshing. Steve was enjoying himself and I was relieved.

In my mind, the environment at the disheveled Creature Shop with all of the creature parts, exotic feathers, gizmos, large eyeballs, fantastic sculptures, and more was like some scene Steve might have drawn for the pre-superhero Strange Tales comic book, so maybe Ditko, himself a creature creator felt more at home.

Time flew and It was now quickly time to go back to the Victorian mansion/offices in order to have Steve Ditko and Jim Henson meet each other. I honestly don’t think the two were all that aware of each other’s contributions to art and culture. I was, however, never more thrilled than when I introduced the creative titans and witnessed the magical hand that brought Kermit the Frog to life and the wizardly hand that created the art of Dr. Strange clasp!
As someone commented in a Facebook discussion, "For someone who 'turned his back on fandom,' Ditko sure spent a lot of time answering fan mail." I haven't seen it here, but lots of people like to say Ditko was a recluse. He was in the NY phone book and his name was on his studio door. If he was a recluse, he was a lousy one.
posted by marxchivist at 11:30 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


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