In Search of Steve Ditko
A couple of days ago I made a post about the Spider-Man rockcomic that I got as a present when I was a kid. Reminiscing about that got me thinking about Spidey and Doc Strange — two of my favorite comic characters, and both created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. And that got me thinking about Ditko, himself.
When I first started getting into comics, Ditko was just getting BACK to doing work with Marvel, after many years away. Of course, I didn’t know that … I just knew that he didn’t draw like John Byrne or George Pérez, which was the only thing that really mattered to me artistically at the time. (One of the ironic things I see in retrospect is how much the styles of both those artists owe to Ditko.) I knew he’d been a big deal once, and I quickly learned that he’d recently been creating weird semi-independent stuff like The Question. He’d drawn the first issue of Man-Bat, which was pretty cool, but he also had created Hawk and Dove, which really wasn’t. (In the intervening years, I’ve come to reverse my opinion on those last two.)
In fact, for a while, Ditko was one of the artists that my friends and I liked to mock the most, particularly for “Ditko fingers” — the strange contortions he created for Spider-Man’s and Doc Strange’s hand gestures. Anytime you saw a character with his or her fingers splayed out in a strange way, we figured Ditko was to blame.
Of course, the more I was exposed to Ditko’s work, the more it grew on me … and the sillier I felt for having mocked it. And the more I learned about comics, the more I came to really admire the work he’d done and the more I thought it was a shame that he was so marginalized in the modern comics culture. I mean, Unlike Jack Kirby or Will Eisner or so many of the greats from the earliest days of the Silver Age, Steve Ditko is still alive. But, in all the time I’ve been going to conventions and following the industry as a whole, I’d never seen him as a special guest or even as the subject of a feature interview, and that seemed just plain WRONG to me.
Only recently have I become aware of just how PURPOSEFUL that is on Ditko’s part. As near as I can tell, there only a couple of photographs of him have ever been published, and it seems like he’s NEVER given a interview about his work.
In poking around, though, I found out that back in 2007 the BBC aired a short documentary called In Search of Steve Ditko. It’s pretty informative AND fun … and you can watch the whole hour-long show (as a slow-loading single file or in 10-minute segments) on YouTube. It features interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Joe Quesada, and (yes) Stan Lee, too.
Hour-Long Whole Show (slow to load)