January 28, 2006

Always remember...

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I'm a bit late to the party, but there you go. Click on the link for as much of an explanation as there is for this.

January 26, 2006

Shade, the Changing Man #3 [1977]

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SHADE was one of Ditko's major mainstream works of the 1970s, a decade during which he mostly drew stand-alone short stories and stories from other writers. He did plots and art for SHADE, though, with Michael Fleisher handling the script. The book lasted for 8 issues, with a 9th issue only showing up for copyright reasons in the CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE #2 photocopy package.

The series was pretty densely written, with a lot of characters and concepts introduced in the first few issues, and a pretty unusual pacing, with a lot of short scenes jumping from character to character. A very weird sort of intensity, and also some weird visuals, perhaps none moreso than the villain, Sude, who operates behind a giant red globe head with hands. Seriously, what's that about?

In this issue, "Escape into...the Trap!", Shade escapes from his love, Mellu, who thinks Shade is behind a bomb attack on her parents. Shade returns from Earth to Meta and is on the run, hoping to find a way to clear his name, while Sude has sent another agent, the invisible Cloak. Shade manages to escape, but not before being framed for another death, and going back on the run.

Ditko plots and draws the 17-page story and draws the cover.




"Escape into...the Trap!" J-4720
Cover C-475

January 22, 2006

Eclipse Monthly #2 [1983]

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Static was one of Ditko's main works of the 1980s, clearly one he cared about finishing since he eventually took it to four publishers to finish. The first was Eclipse, where he ran the first three chapters in their anthology title. This is the second chapter, which he later revised when it was re-published, including completely re-lettering the story, plus some minor art changes. The biggest change in the script is that he changed the name of the lead character from "Mac Rey" to "Stac Rae". I'm not sure that was an improvement...

In "The Exploder", Mac is testing the new magnetic powers and suit he got in the previous chapter, while Dr. Serch and his daughter Fera observe, with Fera thinking he's being too reckless. While not planning to use the powers in any adventures, and despite being cautioned against it by Fera, pretty soon Mac is in costume and fighting the Exploder, who killed a friend of Dr. Serch. In the end, Fera hides the suit, afraid that they'll be unable to resist the temptation to use it.

Static was a pretty fascinating series. Ditko does tend to over-write sometimes, and there's a reason "didactic" is often used to describe him, but there are quite a few surprises and interesting twists in the full series, though it takes a few chapters for that to start. I'll post more about those when I get to the full book on the weblog someday.

For the early chapters, there's a lot of nice visuals to admire under the heavy word balloons.

Ditko writes and draws the 10-page story.



January 19, 2006

--Link-- Strange Tales custom covers

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Via Fred Hembeck, here's a page where Howard Hallis went through all of the STRANGE TALES issues with Ditko Doctor Strange stories but usually without Doctor Strange covers and created alternate covers using the interior artwork.

http://www.howardhallis.com/drstrange/customs/index.html

January 18, 2006

Unknown Worlds #50 [1966]

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Right after his departure from Marvel, Ditko lined up a lot of other work from various publishers in 1966. A lot of them (for ACG, Dell and DC) were with Sal Trapani, who apparently would quite often line up work and then farm out the pencilling to others. "It Keeps On Happening" is a 3-page example of such a Ditko/Trapani collaboration. A pretty minor story over-all, sort of an even lighter version of the many 5-page stories Ditko used to do for Marvel, this one with a man dreaming he's being chased by robots, then it happening in real life, where they capture and shrink him. After he escapes (and that scene of the robots toasting their success is kind of odd but great) he grows again and is chased, only to wake up and find everything starting over.

Not quite the classic "Dream World" level of "constantly waking from a dream" story, but the robots are cute, and you get one of those creatures that passes for a cat in Ditko's world.


January 17, 2006

Upcoming Ditko - TALES TO ASTONISH reprint

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Out soon, Ditko does some work in every issue reprinted in here, for a total of nine stories solo, two inking Jack Kirby's pencils, one solo cover and three inking over Kirby. Several have never been reprinted before.




MARVEL MASTERWORKS: ATLAS ERA TALES TO ASTONISH VOL. 1

By STAN LEE, JACK KIRBY, STEVE DITKO, JOHN BUSCEMA, AL WILLIAMSON, DON HECK, JOE SINNOTT & FRIENDS
Cover by JACK KIRBY
Marvel Masterworks have brought you classic stories from Marvel’s Silver Age super-hero heyday and the start of it all with its Golden Age. Now thrill to the first offering of Marvel’s Atlas Era! Before the dawn of the Marvel Age, the comics world sat astride the shoulders of Atlas Comics - a world full of gun-fighting outlaws, romantic heartbreak, death-defying heroism in battle, terrifying depths of horror, and visionary science fiction. In TALES TO ASTONISH return to the days when atomic monsters roamed the Earth and alien invasions were a daily occurrence. Marvel’s classic creators will make you quake at the sight of the 9th Wonder of the World! You’ll tremble before the Things on Easter Island! Beware the might of Mummex-King of the Mummies! Flee before the Giant from Outer Space! Dare defy the Floating Head! Prepare to be Astonished! Collects TALES TO ASTONISH #1-10 (1959-1960).
272 PGS. $49.99

Upcoming Ditko - THE THING from PI

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Another Ditko reprint book of 1950s Charlton and St. John work by Ditko from Pure Imagination is scheduled for next month.



STEVE DITKO'S THE THING! VOLUME 1 TP
by Steve Ditko
The Thing! is one of the most sought-after series by Ditko and pre-Code fans alike. Packed with wild ideas and wilder images, The Thing! #12-15 feature some of Steve Ditko's earliest work in the field of comics. It's almost 100 pages of the kind of comics your parents didn't want you to see. Also included in this volume are some of Ditko's best work for the Charlton horror books. Save yourself hundreds of dollars and years of search for some of Ditko's most sensational work!
SC, 8x11, 160pgs, B&W $25.00

UPDATE
Greg Theakston posts that the following stories are in the book
“Cinderella” from THE THING! #12 (Feb. 1954)
“Library of Horror” from THE THING! #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Die Laughing” from THE THING! #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Avery and the Goblins” from THE THING #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Rumplestiltskin” from THE THING! #14 (June 1954)
“The Evil Eye” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“Doom in the Air” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“Ingeritance” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“The Worm Turns” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Day of Reconing” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Come Back” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“If Looks Could Kill” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Family Mix-Up” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Live for Reunion” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Stranger in the House” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Stowaway” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“A Dreamer’s World” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Nightmare” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Sonambulist” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Strange Silence” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“You Can Make Me Fly” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Man Who Crashed” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Elixar” from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 1958)
“Failure” from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 1958)
“Confederate Girl” from UNUSUAL TALES #25 (Dec. 1960)

Upcoming Ditko - Various Marvel in MILESTONES

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Scheduled to come out in February, 2006, a one-shot of various reprints of Ditko work, one of them (the Dragon Lord story) never reprinted before. Nothing great, but somewhat interesting stuff.



MARVEL MILESTONES: DRAGON LORD, SPEEDBALL & THE MAN IN THE SKY
Written by MARV WOLFMAN, STEVE DITKO, TOM DEFALCO, ROGER STERN & STAN LEE
Penciled by STEVE DITKO
Cover by FRANK MILLER

Who - or what - is the Wani? And can Tako Shamara, latest in the line of men trained to combat the creature, stay its wrath? It’s a question of honor as the Dragon Lord debuts in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5 (March 1980). Plus: A colorful new bouncing, brawling crimebuster bursts forth in in SPEEDBALL #1 (September 1988). Also featuring “The Man in the Sky” from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #14 (July 1962) - the first Marvel mutant story!?
48 PAGES $3.99

Upcoming Ditko - Djinn in COYOTE reprint

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Steve Englehart continues to reprint his 1980s COYOTE series through Image later this year, including the Djinn back-up with Ditko pencils that ran in #7 - #10. I'm not sure if all four chapters will be in this book.



COYOTE VOL. 3 TP
April 19, 2006 128 pg Full Colour $12.99

written by STEVE ENGLEHART
art by CHAZ TRUOG, STEVE DITKO, STEVE LEIALOHA & BOB WIACEK
cover by CHAZ TRUOG

Coyote's wormed his way deep into the Shadow Cabinet, and things are going so good that a Trickster just knows things have to go bad. What he thought was deep is barely scratching the surface, though, and by the time this latest adventure is are over, he's raced the ghost of James Dean, fought the legendary X-Caliber, spooked the Dark Cardinal and had half his brain removed by a Venusian. (Allegedly!) And he doesn't even know that the Djinn is having his own adventure, drawn by Spider-Man co-creator and comics legend STEVE DITKO in a series devised especially for the pasha of paranoia.

January 14, 2006

Where Creatures Roam #2 [1970]

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 The lead story on this issue is "I Spent Midnight With The Monster On Bald Mountain", a 5-page reprint from TALES TO ASTONISH #7 [1960], though originally titled "I Spent Midnight With The Thing On Bald Mountain". I guess by 1970 "The Thing" had a different connotation when printed on a Marvel comic (pre-hero reprints using "hulk" had similar changes).

In this story, an acclaimed sculptor retreats to a mountain-top castle to work on his greatest creation, a sculpture called "Good Versus Evil", two battling giants, one made from earth taken from sacred ground, the other from places of infamy, and built from the skeleton out. Somehow a lightning strike brings Evil to life, and on a rampage, but some unknown also brings Good to life, in time to rescue the sculptor and battle his rival, sending them both plunging off Bald Mountain to their doom.

I assume Ditko really liked these kinds of stories, given how often he returned to similar themes and visual motifs (allegorical sculptures and the like) in his later work that he wrote himself. I especially love the panel in this story of the artist first building the skeletons of the figures.





You know, I never considered it before, but given how often sculptors figure into Ditko's work, I wonder if he ever tried his hand at the form?

The cover is a Kirby piece for the story, inked by Ditko, also from TtA #7.

January 13, 2006

Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #12 [1978]

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In the late 1970s, a bunch of complete Charlton comics were reprinted with a "Modern" logo on the cover. This is one such comic, reprinting the original MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES #12 from 1969, including an 11-page Ditko story. Doctor Graves is a kind of interesting character. He seems to clearly be based on Doctor Strange, although from what I've seen for most of his history he just served as one of the many interchangeable hosts for the Charlton fantasy/horror titles. From what I can tell, he first shows up in GHOSTLY HAUNTS right around the time Ditko left Doctor Strange, but he's drawn by Ernie Bache, in short 3-page stories. Ditko did later draw some stories with the character, apparently only three or so with him as an active character and others with him as the host. I'd be curious to read the other Ditko stories and the early non-Ditko stories to see if the Doc Strange elements were there from the beginning.

"The Ultimate Evil" is the only example of a story with Graves as an active participant that I have, and it very much feels like something meant for Strange, with his fancy garb replaced with a business suit. He's even based in Greenwich Village, New York. In this story, he detects an evil astral force approaching Earth and sends out his spirit form to stop it. Unfortunately he fails when the evil force detects no weakness in Graves, and decides to destroy the Earth if it can't conquer it. Graves is just barely able to project his spirit back in time to warn himself and better plan for the battle.

This would have been a very good Doctor Strange story, and the visuals are easily up there with some of the classic Strange stuff of a few years earlier. Unfortunately the scripting isn't at the level of those, not even close, and that had a lot to do with setting the mood and sense of menace of those stories.

The cover is a collage of four panels taken from the story.




"The Ultimate Evil" B-1858

January 11, 2006

Detective Comics #487 [1979]

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The Odd Man was intended to be a back-up feature for Ditko's SHADE series starting with #9. When that was cancelled, the issue was semi-published as part of the photocopied CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE #2 in 1978, along with many other cancelled books. Unlike the majority of the contents of those photocopies, the Odd Man story did eventually run for real, in slightly modified form, the following year. Among the changes, the original title, "The Pharoah And The Mummies" is removed, adding a brief blurb about the character, and numerous changes are made in the script.

As you can see, the name of the character is apt, very odd. We don't find out too much about the character in this initial and only story, even with the added blurb, except that he's really Clay Stoner, private investigator in River City, and he's handy with the gadgets. At the beginning of the story he's questioning a fence in a topsy-turvy room, with no information given about whether it's that way from trickery or some powers Clay has.

Not a great thing, but could have been with more time to develop, and would have been a nice counterpart to the more serious goings-on in the main SHADE stories. One of the things I wonder while reading it is if Ditko was a fan of the 1960s Batman TV series, since parts of it do seem like a comics homage to the style of that show, especially the villains.




"The Odd Man" J-6354

January 9, 2006

Monsters on the Prowl #9 [1971]

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Ditko very rarely inked the work of other pencillers. The major exception to this is Jack Kirby (I know of under a half-dozen non-Kirby examples), whose work he inked on a few dozen stories and covers at Marvel between 1959 and 1963, including several monster stories and a few scattered super-hero stories. It's a pretty pleasing combination, not how I'd want to see all Kirby stuff inked, but usually enjoyable, and very well suited to Kirby's style at the time.

Two of the stories, both 7-pagers, are reprinted in this 1971 comic. "I Discovered Gorgilla", from TALES TO ASTONISH #12 (1960) is a classic of the giant monster genre, taking more than a few cues from KING KONG as a group of scientists travel to Borneo to find the remains of a "missing link" between man and ape, only to discover native traditions of a living intelligent ape-man in a fenced off area. They find Gorgilla, who rescues them from a dinosaur, and decide to leave him be in gratitude, rather than cart him off to New York (but there's still a sequel to come, although without Ditko).

"Kraggoom", from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #78 (1962) is more suited to Ditko's inks, being a moody science-fiction drama about a creature lurking in space, waiting for mankind to venture beyond the Earth so it can possess and control someone and conquer the world. Unfortunately for Kraggoom, the man chosen for the mission is an unqualified spoiled rich jerk, who bought and cheated his way to the mission. He panics just as Kraggoom possesses him, effectively forgetting everything and trapping Kraggoom. A close call for mankind. A lot to like in this one, Ditko's inks bring out the menace of the shapeless lurking creature nicely, as well as the arrogance of the astronaut.



January 8, 2006

Strange Tales #139 [1965]

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 Ditko's final year on Doctor Strange is some of his best work ever, 10-page segments of pure magic every month. "Beware...! Dormammu Is Watching" is right in the heart of that run, a great chapter in the saga. As Strange returns from his quest for Eternity, he finds that Mordo, working for and powered by the Dread Dormammu, has taken the Ancient One prisoner. What follows is an epic magical battle, while Dormammu, the Ancient One and the as-yet-unnamed Clea look on, amazingly drawn by Ditko.

As you can see by the choice of close-up scans, one of the things I love about this story is the way Ditko would draw hands, especially of anyone engaged in casting magic spells. I don't believe in magic, but I know in my heart that if it did exist, it would have to be accompanied by hand gestures straight out of the Ditko playbook.

Lots of other classic Ditko bits in this page, from that weird hair on Clea, and the worried look on her face to the disheveled hair on Doc in the last panel. I think I even catch a hint of a Ditko sneer on Dormammu in the third panel, and that's an impressive thing to manage with that character design.




January 5, 2006

Journey Into Mystery #59 [1960]

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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

January 1, 2006

Daughters of Time 3-D [1991]

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Unlike some artists of his stature, it's pretty rare to see Ditko do covers for books where he didn't do the interior art, and almost all the examples that there are come from Charlton and often not really related to any interior story or feature. One of those rare exceptions is DAUGHTERS OF TIME 3-D, a 1991 book published by 3-D Zone and created by frequent Ditko collaborator Jack C. Harris. Kurt Schaffenberger designed the characters and was the interior artist for the book, and he also inked the Ditko cover, which also appears on the back-cover with 3-D effects. I really like the design of the piece, very well suited for the 3-D theme even without the actual effect (and I can barely see actual 3-D comics), as well as the goofy nature of the feature, and Schaffenberger's inks look really nice with the Ditko.



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