Steve Ditko, Comic Book Artist and Creator, Dead at Age 90

Image copyright Marvel Comics

The comic book world lost a truly inspirational individual on 29th June.

A man who could genuinely be described as being an icon, comic book legend Steve Ditko, unfortunately, has passed away.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Ditko was found in his New York apartment on 29th June, although it is believed he could have passed away as long as two days earlier.

Ditko was 90 years old.

Whilst he has worked for numerous comic book publishers over his illustrious career, he is perhaps best known for his work on Marvel’s Spider-Man and Doctor Strange – whom Ditko co-created alongside Stan Lee – series in the 1960s. During his time at Marvel, he incorporated a psychedelic style into his artwork that was at the cusp of the decade’s styling and at the very epicentre of the burgeoning counter-culture that the ’60s gave birth to.

He created classic Spider-Man foes, including Sandman, Green Goblin, and the Lizard, to name but a few, and made the Strange Tales’ Dormammu’s world equal parts surreal and bizarre thanks to his unique art style.

Ditko’s work on Spider-Man lasted from Amazing Fantasy #15 through to The Amazing Spider-Man #38 – a whole six years wherein Ditko put his signature touch to the webbed wonder.

However, due to a fight with collaborator and editor, Stan Lee, Ditko left Marvel. The truth behind Ditko’s departure was never publicly revealed, however, many believed it was due to Lee’s oversight. The truth, however, may never really be known.

From Marvel, Ditko headed to work at Charlton and DC for a number of years.

Whilst working at DC, Ditko created The Question, The Creeper, Shade, The Changing Man, and Hawk & Dove. The Question in particular closely mirrored Ditko’s increasing fascination with Randian Objectivist philosophy, something that affected his style well into his later years.

And whilst working at Charlton, Ditko created Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, both of whom were later acquired by DC, bringing that part of his career full-circle.

However, whilst he may have defected from Marvel, Ditko returned home once more in the 1990s, wherein he helped in the creation of new Marvel mainstays such as Speedball and Squirrel Girl.

Ditko’s influences have been felt across the industry, as Marvel Studios perfectly represented his iconic artwork in the Doctor Strange movie, and, further afield, Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Ross have revealed their sorrow at the loss. Gaiman, in fact, went as far as to say that, without Ditko, there would be no “The Question”, and without The Question, there would be no Rorschach, a character that has been integral in one of the greatest graphic novels ever created, Watchmen.

And, whilst he may have been a recluse during his twilight years, often refusing to give any sort of interview, Ditko’s aura and name hold so much gravitas that the whole industry has been shook to its core.

Whether thanks to his time at Marvel or DC, nearly every comic book fan has had some interaction with Ditko’s work during their lifetime. And whilst not as prolific or as self-congratulatory as some of his contemporaries, Ditko’s legacy will continue to live on.

Marvel.com produced some touching tributes and statements to the fallen Ditko, including a brief bio of Steve’s early years.

Hailing from Pennsylvania, young Steve’s love for comic strips expanded to comic books through characters like Batman and Will Eisner’s THE SPIRIT. During his U.S. Army service in postwar Germany, he began his art career by drawing comics for the Army newsletter and, after his discharge, found his way into the tutelage of one of his idols, Batman artist Jerry Robinson. By the early 1950s, Steve’s first work appeared in print: a short romance tale in DARING LOVE #1 from Gilmore Magazine and a science-fiction story in FANTASTIC FEARS #6 from Farrell.

Taken from Marvel.com, here are some statement’s covering the loss of Steve Ditko from some of Marvel‘s management.

Statement from Marvel Entertainment President Dan Buckley:

“Today, the Marvel family mourns the loss of Steve Ditko. 

Steve transformed the industry and the Marvel Universe, and his legacy will never be forgotten.

Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, and fans during this sad time.”

Statement from Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada:

“Only a small group of individuals can claim that they have effected and redefined not just an industry, but popular culture worldwide.

Steve Ditko was one of those few who dared to break molds every time his pencil and pen hit a blank sheet of paper.

In his lifetime he blessed us with gorgeous art, fantastical stories, heroic characters and a mystical persona worthy of some of his greatest creations.

And much like his greatest co-creation, Steve Ditko’s legend and influence will outlive us all.”

Statement from Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski:

“It’s impossible to put into words the impact that Steve Ditko had not just on comics, but on modern pop culture.

With ink and imagination, he thrilled readers with amazing and awe-inspiring adventures. Ditko didn’t just create characters – he built worlds.

But today it is our world that is saddened by his loss. While he may no longer walk this mortal plane, Steve’s legacy will continue to endlessly inspire us all.”

Statement from Marvel Executive Editor, Spider-Man Office and VP of Content, Digital Publishing Nick Lowe:

“Steve Ditko’s hands and soul are all over the best character in all of fiction.

He was a pillar of the House of Ideas who not only co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but many of the best villains in comic book history.

Steve was the first to make Marvel truly weird, and for that we are forever grateful.”

If one were to create a Mt Rushmore of comic books, Ditko would be one of the faces that adorn the monument. The man is as synonymous with American comic books as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Todd McFarlane.

Thank you, Steve Ditko.

-James, 10/07/2018

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