April 30, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - The Worm Turns

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If you like this you're going to love what you'll find here: http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories

"The Worm Turns" is the cover-featured story for Charlton's THE THING #15 [1954], one of Ditko's best early covers, and a great little story about a giant mutant worm unleashed on the world by the misguided work of scientist Norman Thoma (whose name appears to have been changed at some point, since every time it appears there's some weird lettering or odd spacing around the name).

Lots of great things to point out in this one. The splash panel is a nice variation on the cover.  Bottom of page one is an imaginative look at prehistoric life. Page two has an early look at the classic Ditko bird which would figure into some later work (most notably THE SAFEST PLACE). Then it all just gets more and more creepy as the worm growns and eats bigger things, and that ending is just absolutely crazy. Amazing stuff.  After I finish posting all the 1953-1955 stories I'm going to try to have some sort of poll on what the best story is, and I think this one has a good shot.

Most scans in this series adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, first head over here for ordering info on his available creator owned material co-published with Robin Snyder and take a look over here for info on recent and upcoming books with Ditko from all publishers, even lousy ones. And be sure to check out the fanzine DITKOMANIA.

  
 

April 29, 2009

Solar, Man of the Atom #11 [1992]

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Ditko is credited with breakdowns for the 22-page story "Justifiable Homicides" in this early Valiant comic reviving the old 1960s Gold Key character. Ted Halsted does the finished pencils, and Golzalo Mayo inks, so you can imagine with that many hands in the art not a huge amount of the Ditko comes through, but there are a few spots where it does, and the overall storytelling is clear.

The story is all in the middle of some longer tale, so it isn't really that clear to someone not reading the whole series.  You have Solar, who apparently got turned into living energy in an accident, being attacked by a bunch of not very interesting young kids with names like Fort, Jolt, Sponge and Rock, who have been misled by someone named Harada into thinking Solar is a menace.  He's defended by someone named Gilad (the Eternal Warrior, I think), who has a history with Harada.  Most of the issue is taken up with that fight, which ends with a dramatic phone call, and then there's the set-up for some sort of crossover which took up the next two (non-Ditko) issues of the title.

Ditko was doing some decent work around this time, but Valiant really didn't seem to know what to do with him, and tended to bury his work with some lackluster inking, with a few exceptions. The stuff's worth checking out, but I'd probably recommend his issues of MAGNUS before this.


April 27, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - The Night People

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You do know you can go to http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories to get links to all of these as they're posted? I thought so...

"The Night People" is a 4-page horror story from Charlton's THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED #17 [May 1954], one of three Ditko stories (plus a cover) in that issue. In this quick story, weaselly looking thief Gary Conrad manages to hide in a department store after closing time, and plans to make off with some valuables, only to find out that the store manikan's have some nightly rituals of their own.

This is one of the lesser of the early Ditko efforts, with a bit of stiffness in the artwork and a few staging bits in the storytelling that don't quite work. But even lesser Ditko is at least historically interesting.

Most scans in this series adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, check over here for ordering info on his on-going creator owned material co-published with Robin Snyder and take a look over here for info on recent and upcoming books with Ditko from all publishers, including the recently revived DITKOMANIA.

Click to biggify.

  
 

April 24, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Day of Reckoning

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Visiting http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories buys you the full list of these.


So, did you know that in his first year at Charlton Ditko did stories called "Dead Right", Dead Reckoning" and "Day of Reckoning". That's just asking for confusion, isn't it? Hopefully I got them right...

"Day of Reckoning" is a 6-page story of maritime horror from THE THING #15 [July 1954]. Pretty standard story about a miserly ship-builder who tries to cheat some workers, gets entombed in his ship, vowing revenge, and then then we see how the three killers get their comeuppance.

Some great looking period-piece artwork in here, with lots of ships and pirates to draw. Of particular note, the panel I chose for the close-up here of the man having his mouth stitched shut is an especially gory moment among Ditko's early work. And kind of looks like something Steve Bissette would draw...

Scans adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, go over here for ordering info on his ever-expanding catalog of creator-owned works and over here for info on recent and upcoming releases from various publishers, good and evil, and find out more about the fanzine DITKOMANIA over here.

Click images to increase size exponentially.

Upcoming Ditko - Marvel 70th

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Just a handful of Ditko in this upcoming collection of Marvel through the ages. The ASTONISH #13 choice could be drawn by Ditko or inked by Ditko. Not sure what they mean by AMAZING FANTASY #12, if that's a typo for #15 or they're actually going to do a book about Marvel history without a Ditko Spider-Man story. That issue of FF they're including is the one Ditko inked, and presumably the origin of Doctor Strange is the story from STRANGE TALES #115.



MARVEL 70TH ANNIVERSARY TPB
Written by BILL EVERETT, JOE SIMON, STAN LEE, LARRY LEIBER, STEVE DITKO, ROY THOMAS, BOB LAYTON, DAVID MICHELINIE, CHRIS CLAREMONT, FRANK MILLER, PETER DAVID, KURT BUSIEK, BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS & ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by BILL EVERETT, JACK KIRBY, GENE COLAN, STEVE DITKO, JOHN ROMITA, NEAL ADAMS, JOHN ROMITA JR., JOHN BYRNE, FRANK MILLER, TODD MCFARLANE, ALEX ROSS, GEORGE PEREZ, MARK BAGLEY, JIM CHEUNG & STEVE EPTING
Cover by ALAN DAVIS
Celebrate a senses-shattering 70 years of Marvel Comics with this fitting tribute to the storied history of the House of Ideas! This keepsake edition showcases the creative evolution of the Marvel Universe like never before by collecting some of the best stories from each of the past seven decades. With input from the True Believers themselves – the mighty Marvel fans – this is Marvel history as it was made! Collecting material from SUB-MARINER #1, CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #2-3, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #2, TALES TO ASTONISH #13, AMAZING FANTASY #12; and FANTASTIC FOUR #13, STRANGE TALES #115, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50, AVENGERS #93, IRON MAN #128, UNCANNY X-MEN #132, DAREDEVIL #168, INCREDIBLE HULK #340, MARVELS #0, AVENGERS #4, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13, NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #1 and CAPTAIN AMERICA #25.
344 PGS. $24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3743-6

April 23, 2009

Chuck Norris #1 [1987]

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For some reason Ruby-Spears decided the world needed a Chuck Norris cartoon back in the mid-1980s, and thus we got CHUCK NORRIS: KARATE KOMMANDOS (presumably because you can't trademark "Commandos"). Then Marvel decided to jump on the bandwagon, and a comic book version of the show was produced for their Star line, and Steve Ditko pencilled the first three issues.

And maybe they had something, because I never noticed before, but my copy of #1 is listed as "Second Printing" in the indicia. Who knew? I'm not sure where this is in the epic arc of Norris' career, whether he was actually hip at the time, or if he was ironically hip. Or has his hipness always been ironic?

Anyway, this issue has the 22-page "The Super Cruiser", and the title doesn't refer to Norris but to a high-tech anti-terrorism vehicle that Norris and his "Kommandos" have developed for the government, which is at the local school where Chuck's young friend Too Much is a student. So we get an attack by ninjas of the Cult of the Klaw (I'm surprised they didn't go with "Kult"), and the Kommandos stage a rescue, and we learn important lessons about doing your homework and how good some book called "The Children's Story" is. And if Chuck Norris recommends a book, you know it must be... something.

Pretty much for the Ditko completist only, although for what it is the art isn't bad, and the big fight scene, with lots of silent panels, isn't too shabby.  Jo Duffy writes and Art Nichols inks.

April 22, 2009

Marvel Tales #167 [1984]

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This issue features a reprint of "The Wondrous World Of Dr. Strange" from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #2 [1965], obviously the team-up between Ditko's two main Marvel characters of the 1960s. It's a real blast to see Spidey juxtaposed with all those weird and wonderful mystical visual effects that were at their peak at this time.

The villain of the story is Xandu, a mystic who has stumbled onto half of the powerful Wand of Watoomb and wants the other half, currently in the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange. He mentally controls some thugs, who manage to get the other half of the wand but fortunately for the cosmos also attract the attention of Spider-Man, who manages to delay Xandu long enough for Strange to catch up and they can team up to defeat Xandu.

Lot of great little touches in how these two worlds mix, with a good old fashioned rooftop fight in the first half for the Spidey side, and then one of the best mystic realm scenes Ditko ever did later in the book.

The cover to the Annual is also reprinted, though with some of the little Spider-Man figures moved around, and not looking quite right with the colouring on the giant Spidey head. Also, since they had an extra page, they were randomly reprinting some of the pin-ups each issue, this time the Lizard pin-up from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 [1964].



April 21, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - The Payoff

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You know the drill, http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories, link early, link often.

"The Payoff" is one of two Ditko stories from Charlton's STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #20 [August 1954], a neat little 7-page Cold War spy drama as we follow beautiful Magda Tonescu in her vain attempt to acquire ill-gotten riches by the smuggling of a vial of deadly poison on a train through Europe. lots of knives and gunplay along the way, and with a lot of faces intentionally in the shadows, we get a lot of great closeups of gloved hands which evoke, intentionally or not, some of Will Eisner's work on THE SPIRIT, in particular the Octopus stories. A nice change of pace from the horror/fantasy of most of the 1954 Ditko work.

Taking care of business:

Buy Ditko's creator-owned work including the upcoming DITKO PRESENTS
Subscribe to DITKOMANIA, now accepting PayPal payment
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from

Clicks make images bigger:

  
 

April 20, 2009

Cracked #225 [1987]

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Steve Ditko and Mort Todd (the same Mort Todd seen on the latest DITKOMANIA cover) bring us another 1-page look at the senseless, yet highly amusing, "Robot War" which is tearing our great nation apart. In this one, we find that in the hands of a crafty robot, anything can be a weapon of mass destruction.

The scan really doesn't do this page justice, the way Ditko uses variations in the tonework to create depth, the wacky facial expressions and some of the goofy details in the header and the final panel.



April 18, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Rumpelstiltskin

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http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories for the full list of these. Pass it on.

The story this time around is the 8-page "Rumpelstiltskin" from Charlton's THE THING #14 [June 1954], the first of four Ditko stories in that issue.  As you'd guess from the title, this is another twisted take on an old fairy tale, just like "Cinderella" two issues earlier.

This one is visually quite a treat, with a lot of different types of demons, some of which I'm sure will remind you of some of Ditko's later work.  The extreme close-ups of the title character in particular are wonderfully creepy, and I especially like the the giant eyes leering over the crystal ball on page 4 panel 2. The actual story has a few lapses, but it does the job of giving Ditko an excuse to draw some weird stuff.

The links, a small price to pay for the story, I'm sure you'll agree:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work, including the new DITKO ONCE MORE
Subscribe to DITKOMANIA, #72 now available
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications, including a few newly scheduled ones (Indiana Jones reprints, who knew?)
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from

Clicky to biggy.

  
  
 

April 16, 2009

Questar #5 [1979]

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Ditko had a story in each of the first five issues of William G. Wilson Jr.'s science fiction magazine QUESTAR, with "The Rescue" in this issue being the final one. Only a 2-page story, unlike the 6-pagers in the previous issues.

The story is pretty basic, space hero Kace rescues his girlfriend Niela from some weird alien creature. In a nice change from the norm for these kinds of stories, Niela gets in a few shots of her own, and the dialogue is pretty snappy. I'm sure some people will be glad to hear there's not much philosophical preaching, other than Kace saying the villain will "get none of [his] tears" when the villain's weapon backfires on him.

The real star is the artwork. Ditko's work for QUESTAR is always very detailed, apparently drawn at a larger size than was standard for his DC/Marvel/Charlton work of the same era, and his inking is just stunning. It's an added bonus that this great work also got the best production Ditko's work had seen up to that point, still looking brand new on bright white paper after 30 years, unlike anything those other companies published then.


April 15, 2009

Upcoming Ditko - DITKO PRESENTS

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As is becoming traditional, the new Ditko publication DITKO ONCE MORE has an announcement about the next one, DITKO PRESENTS. See the cover for as much as I know about it.

Order info as usual, including the price when I know it for sure (more than likely the same $4 as the other recent books), over here.

Assuming PRESENTS comes out this year, and has the usual original Ditko work on three of the four covers in addition to the 32 interior pages, that'll make it 142 pages of new Ditko this year (counting the 2-page essay "The Ever Unwilling" in THE COMICS v20#3). Easily his most prolific year of the century, and if he keeps up this pace and writes a few more essays it could be his most prolific year since the early 1990s (and unlike in some years, he'll have written and inked and lettered all of the comics, too).

So, comments section of this post is the pool, how many pages of new Ditko will there be by the end of 2009. One guess per person, in the event of an over/under tie the under guess wins. Remember, this is not a competition, it is only an exhibition — please, no wagering (though if anyone gets it right on the dot I'll spring for an actual prize of some kind).

New Ditko - DITKOMANIA #72

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Rob Imes' latest issue of DITKOMANIA is out, copies are in the hands or on the way to subscribers right now.

This issue has a cover by Mort Todd (who worked with Ditko on a number of projects, including the Robot Wars feature in CRACKED), an article comparing Ditko's work with that high profile 1980s comic that was inspired by it, an article about the 1960s Charlton character Nightshade and much more.

Ordering info here, back issues to #64 still available, as well as second printings of many earlier issues.

April 14, 2009

Detective Comics #483 [1979]

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Ditko draws and Len Wein writes the 10-page "Return To Castle Branek" story, the first of three issues by the team featuring the Jack Kirby created Demon Etrigan against Baron Tyme, a character who had been introduced four years earlier in Ditko's only issue of MAN-BAT. The story actually began in the previous issue, with art by Michael Golden.

So we open in mid-story, as Tyme, now with his left half transformed into a cosmic state, confronts Etrigan with the power of the Eternity Book, recaps what happened to him after his confrontation with Man-Bat and demands that Etrigan lead him to Merlin, the only one with the power to free Tyme from his current state. This leads them to Castle Branek (where we also meet the one-armed police Inspector from the Jack Kirby stories), and a battle of magics which leads to Etrigan returning to the form of Jason Blood while Tyme finds out that Merlin's body isn't in his tomb.



Ditko doing Kirby characters doesn't always work, but this is pretty good, with Ditko capturing a lot of the mannerisms of the character. Having Tyme and his story also allows for a lot of Ditkoisms in the mode of Doctor Strange and the Warren horror stories, with the one panel of Tyme floating through weird mystic realms very much being a wonderful example of that kind of Ditko work. Ditko's inks are looking especially fine at this time, and overall it's a shame that this run only lasted three issues.

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