November 30, 2009

Black Magic #47 [v8n2] [1961]

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Here's an interesting anomaly. As most people know, following a few scattered stories when he began working in comics, most of Ditko's work in comics from early 1954 to early 1966 was for Charlton and Marvel.  One of the exceptions to this was "The Black Fog", a single 6-page story late in the run of BLACK MAGIC.

Ditko had drawn three stories for the series early in his career. The series continued until #50 in 1961, with several long publication gaps along the way.  I'm almost certain this particular story was drawn well before its publication, but also does not date from the 1953 era of Ditko's previous BLACK MAGIC stories.  From the style I think I'd place it around 1957, which might be a clue to its origin, but I'd be curious what other people think.

Anyway, "The Black Fog" is a story about a man who is plagued by dreams of darkness, death and falling. He gets a pill from his friend that's supposed to keep him awake for 24 hours to stop the dreams, and if that sounds like a bad prescription to you, well, there's a good reason for that.



Whatever the story behind the story, it's a well drawn effort from Ditko, who does a good job with the nightmare sequences, with the smokey blackness enveloping the character and the robed figure of  Death.  There are a few stray panels that seem off, maybe re-drawn by someone else during whatever path saw this story published when it was, but that's a minor thing compared to the strengths of the story.

November 25, 2009

Unusual Tales - Forever And Ever

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"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.


"Forever And Ever" from Charlton's STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #33 [1957] is a 6-page story by Ditko, and I think anyone even semi-knowledgeable about comic book history will look at the image to the right and think one thing:  Will Eisner.

There are a lot of hints of an Eisner influence in Ditko's early work, but I don't think I've ever seen it more clearly than in the art for this story.  It's perhaps not a coincidence that elements of the plot in this story would also fit in well with Eisner's Spirit stories.  A hobo straight out of Eisner central casting tells the story of a stranger he met on the road, who told an unbelievable story about being 400 years old, as a result of a formula he took as the apprentice of  an Italian alchemist centuries ago which granted immortality, but with a curse.  A very enjoyable story, definitely a notch above the standard for these tales, with very good art by Ditko, very distinctively his work of the era even with the influences showing through.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
News on upcoming releases expected soon
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Lots of great reading in those back issues, stock up now
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Brand new essay on-line now
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
scans in this series generally adapted to my personal tastes from those copies, plus, did you know, there are actually comics done by people other than Ditko?  I know, it surprised me, too!

Click images to enjoy the full-sized sequential art


 

November 23, 2009

Unusual Tales - The Perfect Forecaster

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"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.


"The Perfect Forecaster" is a 5-page story from Charlton's OUT OF THIS WORLD #10 [1958].  It's one of the less interesting stories from that era, about a man who calls in to a meteorologist with accurate predictions of the weather, claiming the information comes from a "weatherscope".  Apparently he can also predict irrational greedy behaviour from people at the weather bureau.


There's no real strong visual hook to give Ditko's design skills a chance to come through, but the characters look pretty good, especially the young girl Dorothy.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
MR. A. now available
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
New issue out soon
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Pet Avengers, eh?
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
(scans in this series generally adapted to my personal tastes from those copies)

Click images to big-up.




November 21, 2009

New Ditko --Link-- The Ever Unreachable

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Batton Lash has previously posted some reprints of a Ditko essay and a Ditko comic over on his blog on Big Hollywood. Now, he's posted an original Ditko work, "The Ever Unreachable", an essay in 90 bite sized and numbered chunks.

76.  The hero acts on principle, not on short-term, pragmatic expediency. He is dedicated to the realization that the fraud and fakes have no human value and that only the actually earned and deserved are truly human.

[note links removed, no longer active]

November 20, 2009

Charlton Premiere #4 [1968]

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"The Time Machine" is a neat little 7-page time travel story with art by Ditko. The title page is a really great image of a ship going through time, shown as a tunnel with slices of various times going from the far future back into history.  It starts in the very advanced looking 2037 A.D., and now that we're more than half-way there from when the story was published, I'm pretty confident we won't have those flying cars by then.  A young scientist is trying to get an elder one to help him develop his time travel theories, but the older man doesn't believe it's possible, and even if it is considers the consequences of changing the past too dangerous.  Evidently he grew up reading old Charlton comics...

The kid doesn't buy it, and throws himself into his research with renewed vigor, perfecting his invention with a minimum of design work.  Seriously, the thing looks like a giant bullet.  It works, though, and he decides to go check out the cavemen.  Oddly, we're taken back to the past by a previously unseen narrator, a guy in a green hooded robe.  Not sure what his name is.  Anyway, he introduces us to a particular caveman who's destined to be the ancestor of half of humanity.  Well, until his hunger leads him to the wrong place and he gets killed by a time machine.  Fortunately for humanity, the rules of time travel in this particular reality aren't the same as that old comic.

A nice little story, although some of the narration is a bit too cute, trying a bit too hard.  In addition to that great time tunnel image, Ditko's version of savagery (something he uses in a lot of his independent work as well) is always a treat.

According to an intereview in ALTER EGO, Steve Skeates wrote this story.



Unusual Tales - Stranger In The Herd

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"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.


Prior to 1960, when the first Captain Atom and Konga stories appeared, the vast majority of Ditko's work was for one-shot stories, with no recurring characters (other than the interchangeable hosts/narrators for some stories).  Even when he did do recurring characters, he usually only did one story in a pre-existing feature (like Radio Patrol or Robin Hood [coming later]).

The main exceptions to that in Ditko's first decade are a pair of very similar horses...

BLACK FURY was a long-running western for Charlton, featuring a wild horse that roamed around the old west, protecting his herd.  Ditko did a few stories in three consecutive issues, BLACK FURY #17 [1959] is the middle of those issues and opens up with the 5-page "Stranger In The Herd", which you can see below.  Not too much to say about it, Ditko does a good job with the horses and overall setting, and page three has an interesting look where it drops out the panel borders.

More on Ditko's other regular horse soon.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work

New stuff coming out at a steady clip
Check out the fanzine DITKOMANIA
I'm sure the horses will get mentioned if that Ditko's animals theme issue gets done
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Some Marvel stories from this era in the Tales to Astonish/Tales of Suspense hardcovers
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
scans in this series generally adapted to my personal tastes from those copies

Click images to big-up.


 

November 19, 2009

Ghostly Tales #55 [1966]

5 comments
Shortly after Ditko's return to Charlton in 1965 doing Captain Atom stories his work also started appearing in Charlton's ghost/fantasy titles, where a large percentage of Ditko's work for the next dozen years would be featured. GHOSTLY TALES #55 [1966] has the first of those stories, the first issue of the title (taking its numbering from BLUE BEETLE). This issue features the 7-page "Great Caesar's Ghost", and is among the handful of stories from that era inked by Rocke Mastroserio. I have to say, I rather enjoy Mastroserio's inks the more I look at them, never quite as good as Ditko's own would be, but pretty on the mark, moreso on the fantasy stuff than the super-hero stuff he was also inking at the time.

This ghost story is narrated by Mr. L. Dedd, that pasty faced fellow in purple who seems to really enjoy his work. It's about a writer named Tony August who ventures into some catacombs beneath Rome to search for the coffin of Augustus Caesar. For some reason, because he's a distant descendant of Caesar, and his local guide is a descendant of a Christian martyr also buried down there, they both get a glimpse of the past revealing that Caesar wasn't guilty of one particular bad act. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense to me, either, but the moody art in the catacombs sure is nice...


November 16, 2009

Unusual Tales - The Little Things

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"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.


OUT OF THIS WORLD #16 [1959] is the source for the 5-page science fiction story "The Little Things", a clever little tale that explores the ramifications of time travel in a way that no prior story ever imagined...

What's that?  One of the most famous science fiction stories of all time?  From 1952?  Even adapted to comics in 1954?  Hm, that would be earlier, right?

Oh, then, never mind...

Despite the unoriginality of the central plot, a lot of Ditko touches to like in this story.  The Wells-style time machine is pretty cool.  The voyage back in time on page three has some good effects, both the middle panel with the multiple heads and that well designed bottom sequence.  And of course, any excuse to get some dinosaurs by Ditko, as we do on page four.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Some work from around this era in THE LONELY ONE
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Detailed articles on all eras of The Ditko
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
All of Ditko's Warren material now in-print, though across five books
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
(scans in this series usually adapted to my personal tastes from those copies, sometimes some good non-Ditko material in there)

Click images to go back in time, careful not to step on anything...


 
 

November 13, 2009

Unusual Tales - Little Boy Blue

1 comments



"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.


"Little Boy Blue" is an excellent 6-page story from Charlton's TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #10 [1958]. I strongly suggest you scroll down to read it before reading any of my blatherings. Come back when you're done if you feel like.


Done? Man, that's something, isn't it?  The writing is definitely a notch above the standard for these stories, with an almost poetic rhythm, and Ditko's art pushes it even further.  In particular I like the use of the musical notes as design elements (something Ditko used a few times in his career), getting more and more pronounced until that climactic bit on the top of page six.  And of course the use of the Traveler on every page as the imposing background figure narrator was seldom done better. This is one of my favourite of the 1950s Ditko stories.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Find out the answer to "When Is A Man to Be Judged Evil?" and other pressing questions
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Running bi-monthly, covering all aspects of Ditko's career
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Have there really been more reprints of SPEEDBALL than Ditko's 1956 work for Marvel? Why?
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
(scans in this series generally adapted to my personal tastes from those copies)

Click images to immerse yourself in the melody.


 

Space War #34 [1979]

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A trio of Ditko reprints in this issue. The cover is the absolutely splendid giant alien squid monster cover to SPACE ADVENTURES #11 [1954], one of Ditko's best from his first stint at Charlton. Recoloured the monster green here, but that works.

The issue opens with the oft-reprinted 6-page "Mystery Planet" from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 [1958]. There are some excellent visuals in this one of a killer planet on the rampage, with an evil face on it and destroying other worlds. I'm pretty sure this is the only story with this cast, the heroic Commander Bryan Bodine, his beautiful navigator Nedra and Dr. Wradek, but they're treated as on-going characters very much in a Buck Rogers type set-up. Anyway, the story is a visual treat, with the planet and the aliens and lots of heroics. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but about what you'd expect in a 6-page story. An interesting note is how well this story would fit in with some of the solo stories Ditko did 20 years later for QUESTAR, so I guess he found a lot to like in the basic set-up.

Later in the issue is the less well known "Automata Ultima", a 3-page story from MYSTERIES OF UNEXPLORED WORLDS #12 [1959], in its only reprint to date. An intriguing title, although the story doesn't quite live up to it. It opens with a future Earth, where the automated machines continue to make an endless supply of weapons long after the human civilization is dead and gone. This turns out to be a nightmare of a 1950s arms-maker, I guess reflecting his fears about the weapons he's working on. I'm guessing this made more sense in 1959. A couple of neat images by Ditko, not marred by any speech balloons on the first two pages.



November 11, 2009

Unusual Tales - Through The Walls

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"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.  Another never-reprinted one here, as they'll be for a while.


The 5-page "Through The Walls" is one of four Ditko stories from OUT OF THIS WORLD #7 [1958]. It's the story of Paul Corrida, a man jailed in Brazil for a murder he didn't and the inexplicable way he gains his freedom.

A decent enough story, though I'd have liked to see more done with the Brazilian setting.  The few hints of it are nice, but the vast majority of the panels might as well have been set in a US prison.

Of course, in retrospect the main point of interest in this story is the visual gimmick, referred to as a "strange thing" on page 3, which a few years later became very much a "Strange thing", a ghostly projection of a person rising from their body, depicted by a sparser line style with no shading.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Excellent MR. A. reprint now available, plus over 1000 pages of other stuff
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
#76 just around the corner
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
If you're jonesing for some Ditko Indy, you're in luck
Download public domain comics, likely including the one this story is from
(scans in this series generally adapted to my personal tastes from those copies, most scans cover to cover so go see the stories in their original context)

Click images to embiggen.


 
 

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