January 5, 2006

Journey Into Mystery #59 [1960]

Before the super-heroes took over, Ditko spent years at Marvel doing fantasy stories, several hundred of them, most 5-pages long, such as "The Revenge Of The Wooden Woman".

It starts with a wonderful splash of a boat breaking against rocks while, in the background, the head of a woman with wood textures is seen. The only problem is that this page shows the abysmal state of comic colouring/printing at the time. Put any sort of light on this, and the piece is destroyed by ugly splotches of colour (which is why I like b&w reprints of Ditko's Charlton work of the era). The story is simple. An old man, owns a ship with a female figurehead named Valkyrie, which he talks to. One day, the ship is attacked by pirates, the crew is left in the lifeboat with hardly any supplies. The pirates can't control the ship, it crashes, leaving the pirates stranded. They even comment on the irony that the are "left with no hope, even as our victims were". Always good when pirates understand irony. Meanwhile, Valkyrie floats before another ship, and leads them to the lifeboat. We also find out the Valkyrie's features are fashioned after the captain's late wife. As the men are rescued, they see the wooden woman sink beneath the waves, now with a smile on her face.

The story is your basic, somewhat predictable, sailor's folktale. What makes it special is Ditko. From the nice splash, to the typical Ditko weathered old man. Many of the panels are all coloured in just plain shades of blue (to indicate fog), and make me wish the whole thing was like that, or better, in b&w. Ditko faces always show emotion, even when made of wood. Ditko figures are always in motion. And now I know he can do pretty good boats, too. Is there nothing this man could not do?

Ditko also inks the cover, over Jack Kirby pencils, a great giant monster attacking a village with fleeing people in the foreground.

"The Revenge Of The Wooden Woman" T-717

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