October 10, 2009

Big Boy #470 [1997]

BIG BOY was a long-running give-away comic produced for the restaurant chain of the same name since 1956 (with some of the early issues even being produced by Marvel). Ditko's path didn't intersect with the character at that point, but in the 1990s, when Craig Yoe's YOE! Studio took over production, Ditko was brought in to do an issue, #470 published in 1997.

Ditko got quite a warm welcome, with a "Special Steve Ditko issue" blurb above the logo on the cover, and a mention on the inside cover (using his ink-bottle head self portrait from the cover of FANTASTIC GIANTS #24 [1966]) mentioning his history with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange and urging you to check out his then-current series (that turned out to be a one-shot) STRANGE AVENGING TALES.

After that, we get the 5-page story "The Amazingly Incredibly Improbable Journey" written by Craig Boldman, penciled by Ditko and inked by Luke McDonnell.  Big Boy's friend Professor Fineman has invented a robot dog which he leaves in Big Boy's care while he goes to a conference in Hawaii.  Of course the robot goes rogue and runs away, forcing Big Boy and his dog Nugget to go chasing cross-country, and cross-ocean, after it, seeing the various transformations it's capable of along the way.

An interesting curiosity in Ditko's career, among the last handful of commercial jobs he did.  Obviously this is something that was done to a house style, and Ditko apparently stuck pretty close to Boldman's layouts for the story in addition to that, but you can definitely see some signs of him in the artwork, especially in the hands.  The story itself is pretty much a good variation on the classic Richie Rich type story (without the money fetish), which kind of makes me wonder what it would have looked like if Ditko had gotten some work for Harvey Comics back in the day.  And then I think it's a shame that while he was doing some super-hero work for Archie he didn't also do some Little Archie stories, or maybe some issues of Jughead or Sabrina.

I've never been sure about the credits for the covers of this issue, with a colour front cover and a black and white colouring page on the back, both based on the story.  The front I think Ditko might have had a hand in, maybe a bit more heavily inked, or with a tighter layout, than the interior pages.  The backcover I'm more inclined to think had minimal, if any, Ditko involvement, though I can't put my finger on why I think that.  If you have a copy, let me know what you think.





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