November 30, 2006

Marvel Age Annual #4 [1988]

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This issue previewed Marvel's upcoming comics for 1988, including a few short original stories of new books, among them 5-page Speedball story "The Mystery of Crooked Face", plotted and pencilled by Ditko, scripted by Roger Stern and inked by Jackson Guice.

This story presents some of the background of Speedball, teenager Robby Baldwin who got super-powers in an accident that enable him to absorb and release kinetic energy. His father is a district attorney and his mother is a former actress. In this story, Robby's father loses a trial in which the defendant, who was accused of crimes committed wearing a goofy mask, was identified by a witness who removed his mask but also had an airtight alibi. "Crooked Face" tries to get even with the Baldwin family, leading to some confrontations with Speedball, until it's eventually revealed that the original defendant was the twin brother of "Crooked Face", and they planned the crimes together.

I'm pretty fond of Speedball, who's a well designed character with some nice visual gimmicks that Ditko uses to good effect. I think Guice's inks are a bit too slick at points, but they work nicely at some points, bringing a bit of a then-modern look to Ditko's style. The actual story in this one is a bit too quick, but then it is only 5-pages, even with the dense layouts Ditko used for this series (with a lot of pages with 10 or more panels). I do think that the Crooked Man villain is a nicely silly bit of Ditko design.


November 29, 2006

Who's Who - The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #19 [1986]

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Ditko drew the profile images for four of his creations for DC's first WHO'S WHO character directory series, including one of the characters published by Charlton and then-recently bought by DC, the Question.

Apparently there was some preliminary talk at the time of Ditko heading a revival of the character at DC, but not too surprisingly it didn't seem to go too far. It could have been interesting, certainly this page shows that he could still do some great artwork on the character. Well, at least we got this one great image that sums up some of the visual appeal of the character.

Vic Sage remains one of the definitive Ditko characters and an interesting middle-ground of his career, with a strong philosophical basis but with a stronger storytelling, characterization and dramatic sense than some of his most extreme early small-press stuff which can drift into the didactic and preaching.


November 23, 2006

Daredevil #264 [1989]

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"Baby Boom" is the 22-page Ditko pencilled Daredevil story from this issue, inked by Mike Manley and Al Williamson. I kind of had higher hopes for it before I got it, given the inkers, but for the most part it was a let-down, mostly thanks to a pretty awful story. Old-time DD foe the Owl hires a goofy group called the Bombers in some plot involving switching the shopping bags that a New York gang use to smuggle cocaine with bags containing bombs, or something. This all gets confused with a homeless man who has a baby he found, who accidentally places the baby in one of those bags. Yeah, I know, not a lot to work with there.

Actually, the more I look at it the art itself isn't that bad. The inking is a bit heavy at times, but for most of it the Ditko shows through, and has some goofy energy that comes as close to selling the story as anything can.

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