August 29, 2009

Eerie #9 [1967]

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From Ditko's run of 16 stories for the Warren mags CREEPY and EERIE, this issue features the 6-page "Isle Of The Beast", written by Archie Goodwin. It begins in mid-story, as a man named Amberson is run down to the point of collapse through a thick jungle, hunted by a barely human beast. Flashing back, we see how he was rescued from a shipwreck by a man named Rochefort, who it turns out is quite crazy, having mistaken Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" for an instruction manual, creating a formula which gives him the strength and cunning of beasts and using it to hunt men, as you can see from his wall decorations. Unfortunately for him, the hunt on this full moon is going to be foiled by Amberson's dark secret. Emphasizing the full moon there didn't give it away, did it?

While not the most original story by Goodwin, he at least does namecheck the big influence, and tells it well. The real point of something like this is to give Ditko interesting stuff to draw, which he does even more than normal here. Most of his Warren work used an inkwash effect that Ditko proved to be an absolute master of, but this one is probably the most extreme, not just using the various grey tones for shading but for the most part not using solid blacks at all and doing the full drawing in various shades of grey. It's really an unsettling effect, especially with the subject matter, and the scenes in the jungle, with multiples shades and levels, are very effective.

It really is one of those "what could have been" situations when you look at how quickly Ditko grew in this style in the previous year and realize that because of circumstances he'd only be there for a few more months.



Dark Horse has all of that era of the mags reprinted now, so all 16 of Ditko's stories are available now. Unfortunately, you need to get 5 books at $50 cover price each to get all of them. I guess you can write them to let them know if you'd like to see some artist-specific collections, starting with a Ditko book.

Creepy Archives #2
Creepy Archives #3
Creepy Archives #4
Eerie Archives #1
Eerie Archives #2

August 27, 2009

--Link-- Ditko's "In Principle" on-line

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Steve Ditko's 4-page "In Principle: The Unchecked Premise" is available on-line, posted by Batton Lash on Big Hollywood, like the previous posting of Ditko's "Toyland" essay.

[links removed, no longer active]

The story was originally published in the 1988 book STEVE DITKO'S STATIC, and is included in both the 2000 complete STATIC book and in the 2002 AVENGING WORLD collection, both of which are still available.

August 25, 2009

Cracked #218 [1986]

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This issue features Ditko's first work for one of America's favourite mental illness based humour magazines, and the first installment of his brief regular feature with Mort Todd, "Robot War". A 1-page story, as most of them were, with no dialogue but a lot of sound effects well incorporated into the artwork, really great doutone shading  in the artwork and the disturbing sight of robot cannibalism.  Man, when they said that Robot War is Hell they didn't know the half of it...

This page got reprinted with 3-D treatment for The 3-D Zone #19 [1989].



August 24, 2009

Marvel Super-Heroes #8 [1992]

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This issue of Marvel's quarterly anthology of the early 1990s closes with the 22-page Iron Man story "The Coming Of Squirrel Girl". Officially the plot, as well as pencils and inks, are credited to Ditko, but apparently credited scripter Will Murray was actually the plotter as well. Never trust those printed credits...

The story features Tony Stark flying in the woods to test some new collision avoidance technology in his armour when he's attacked by a young 14-year-old mutant who wants to be his sidekick, introducing herself as Squirrel Girl.  Despite her enthusiasm and display of powers (including the ability to talk to squirrels), Iron Man isn't interested in taking on a sidekick (though he does try to foist her off on the X-Men or Captain America), but before he can finish making his point they're attacked by Doctor Doom, who takes them prisoner aboard his conveniently low-flying craft.  This opens the door to SG calling on her squirrel friends for a rescue, delivering Doctor Doom one his more embarrassing defeats (and this is a guy who once stumbled in front of his own shrink ray). Somewhat more impressed, Iron Man promises to put in a good word for her with the Avengers after she finishes college.

Actually not too bad a story.  A bit of a throwback, more of a 1960s story than a 1990s one, but for the most part that's a good thing.  And Doctor Doom fighting squirrels as drawn by Ditko?  That's worth the price of admission right there.



This story has become one of the most frequently reprinted of Ditko's later day works for Marvel, appearing in a Great Lakes Avengers collection (SG was a member of the group), MARVEL VISIONARIES - STEVE DITKO and apparently in the upcoming PET AVENGERS CLASSIC collection.

August 23, 2009

Ghostly Haunts #50 [1976]

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The lead story in this issue is the 6-page "Banquo's Ghost" written by Don Glut and drawn by Ditko. As the more literary minded among you might have already guessed, this is a ghost story involving Shakespeare's Macbeth, specifically a stage presentation of the play which gets interrupted by a ghost, leading to the theatre being shut down and the star having a breakdown.  Ten years later, they decide to re-open the theatre, and bring back the star who desperately needs the work, only to find out what the secret of the ghost is on opening night.

A nice little story by Glut, using a lot of lines from the play to good effect. Artistically this is about average for Ditko's work for Charlton in this era, solidly telling the story but not having a strong visual hook to make it stand out, but also much sharper than some of the stuff with went out with less detailed inks.

Closing out this issue is some more Ditko, a 1-page feature called "Are Zombies Real?", which postulates that the "walking dead" of legends are really just victims of voodoo priests who put people into death-like trances and then dig up and partly revive the bodies. Makes sense to me.  Some good spooky artwork by Ditko make it more than your average filler.


August 13, 2009

--Link-- Review of new Ditko books

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Artist Javier Hernandez has some words of appreciation for the new series of Ditko comics that have come out in the last year, in particular the new character in the latest one, Miss Eerie.

August 12, 2009

New Ditko - Ditkomania #74 available

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Rob Imes has announced that that latest issue of DITKOMANIA, #74 focusing on Ditko's work at DC, with a vintage Shade illustration for the cover, is ready and should be on its way to subscribers this week. Info on how to become one of those subscribers, or just order a single issue, are over here, as usual. This is the eleventh issue since the revival last year.

I have my copy now, and it's a very enjoyable issue. I've been reading a lot of Ditko's DC work recently, and this gave me an interesting perspective on a lot of it.

Pacific Presents #3 [1984]

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This issue features the fourth and final Missing Man story from the 1980s, the 18-page "Am I Maro, Roma, or Raem?", scripted by Robin Snyder. Security consultant Syd Mane happens to be on-hand when a conflicted half-robotic man attacks the offices and computers of Mr. Wrds, which Syd manages to minimize both as the Missing Man and as himself, fighting the attacker and using his computer skills to prevent a programming contradiction that threatens the integrity of the data in the computers.  The half-robot turns out to be a former employee of Wrds, Raem Lanet, who has been in an accident which destroyed half his body and introduced a contradiction in his mind, and Syd has to see if he can be stopped and if he can be saved.

A nice little story, I think my favourite of the Missing Man tales, with a nice integration of Ditko's favourite philosophical themes (with a nod to Aristotle and the Law of Identity) with a solid action story with a lot of clever visuals, including Missing Man's design and a very effective use of close-ups and lettering effects in the climax.

All the original Missing Man material was reprinted with some revisions (adding some shading for the black and white reprint) and some new stories in the still available 1999 collection.

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