January 31, 2010

Unusual Tales - The Menace Of The Maple Leaves

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

Today we have the 8-page story "The Menace Of The Maple Leaves" from Charlton's STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #33 [1957].  An unusually long story for Ditko's work of the period, where the average story he drew was 5-pages, and he only got up in the 8/9 page range 4 times in over 250 stories from 1955 to 1959.

Anyway, despite what you might think from the title the story isn't about hockey players, or any kind of Canadians at all.  It's about a stand of trees outside a town that are ripe for harvesting for lumber, but which no one will touch, as explained by a story told by an Eisner-esque old man.  Hard-nosed businessman Mike Stone isn't buying, of course, with predictable but amusing results.

Couple of really good artistic bits by Ditko here, pay close attention to page 7, which is just wonderfully laid-out, one of my favourite pages from this era (and even including a Ditko signature move, the classic double-take head-turn).

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
A DITKO ACT TWO out before you know it
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
New issue out now, on-going bi-monthly fanzine action
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
The Creeper, including the unpublished issue, out soon
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, site seems to be down right now, back soon I hope

Click images to rain-forest size.

 
 

January 26, 2010

New Ditko - DITKOMANIA #77

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Just got the 77th issue of DITKOMANIA from editor/publisher Rob Imes, with a focus on Ditko's independent work.  Cover by Dave Sim of Ditko's recent creation !?, articles on Mr. A (published and unpublished), the "H Series" adventures of D. Skys, the Mocker, Static and Ditko's newest comics, along with some rarely seen Ditko art and quite a bit of new fan art (see some examples here).

This issue, back issues and subscriptions available directly from Rob Imes, full details over here as always.  Next issue is in March, focus on Ditko's horror/supernatural work, so if you have any art or articles on that theme send them in.

January 23, 2010

Unusual Tales - The Other Form

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

Charlton's TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #11 [1959] is the source for the 7-page story "The Other Form", seen below. Our usual host, the Mysterious Traveler, takes a more personal interest in this story than usual, as it tickles his love of irony, and then the anonymous writer really has to stretch things to arrange an ending that sort of qualifies as ironic, as we follow wealthy businessman Baron de Fiche as he travels the east looking to see if any of the ancient secrets from there can increase his wealth and power.

Quite a bit of neat Ditko touches in this one. The setting, of course, is one that he'd come back to in any number of later fantasy stories and a few Doctor Strange tales. The big panel inside an outline of the Traveler's head on the first page is kind of clever, but doesn't quite work. The stepped up progression of panel heights on the top of page three and the bottom of page four look really good, and the fakir with the snake on page five is a great looking image.

So not the greatest of story, but as usual Ditko goes that extra mile to make it worthwhile. Isn't that ironic? No, wait, I don't think it is...

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
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 learn ancient magical secrets


 
 
 

January 21, 2010

Unusual Tales - Repair Stop

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

"Repair Stop" is a 4-page story from Charlton's OUTER SPACE #18 [1958].

Most visually interesting thing in this one is probably the space-ship.  I'm not sure if that's supposed to be an exaggerated foreshortening effect to emphasize the size of the space-ship or just an odd shape.  Certainly is memorable.  The aliens are pretty much your 1950s Ditko default aliens.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
New comic on the way
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
New issue in the mail now
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Reprint of Spider-Man/Kraven battles just announced
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.


January 19, 2010

--Link-- Me on STRANGE SUSPENSE

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I've been asked a few times what I think of some of the recent Ditko reprints.  Perils of writing a weblog called "Ditko Comics", I guess.  Anyway, for what it's worth, my thoughts on STRANGE SUSPENSE (summary, 6/10, but would be 8/10 if the stories weren't readily available elsewhere).  I haven't as yet read THE ART OF DITKO, but given the still unaddressed issue of a missing page in one story I'll give it an incomplete for now.

Upcoming Ditko - Kraven reprints

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Coming out in April is this one-shot that reprints two Ditko-era AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues that featured Kraven the Hunter. No idea if the actual reprints will be presented straight, or if the "all-new pages" by people not named Ditko will intrude on them, and no idea what "remastered color" entails, if it's the stuff they use in other recent reprints of those stories or that modern stuff like the recent reprints of Kirby's Tales of Asgard stories. Still, two good issues of Spider-Man there, though I imagine most people reading this who care already have them in some form, can't hurt to  have some cheap Ditko reprints out there for people not familiar with his work.


SPIDER-MAN: ORIGIN OF THE HUNTER
Written by STAN LEE & MARC GUGGENHEIM
Penciled by STEVE DITKO & MIKE MAYHEW
Cover by MICHAEL LARK
You know them as the sinister masterminds behind AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: THE GAUNTLET, now rediscover the origin of Spider-Man's fiercest familial foes, the Kravinoffs! Once the greatest hunter of all time, Kraven had single-handedly trapped and killed every type of beast that lives, until his obsession with Spider-Man drove him to his grave. Now, with his journal uncovered by his daughter Ana, witness a more in-depth look at his earliest battles with Spider-Man! Reprinting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #15 and #34 in fully remastered color, with all-new pages and framing sequence by Marc Guggenheim and Mike Mayhew.
64 PGS./One-Shot $3.99

January 18, 2010

--Link-- DITKOMANIA covers for sale

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There are a pair of DITKOMANIA covers up for auction on ebay right now.

One is the Dave Sim's cover for issue #77, which should be out this week, featuring Ditko's recent creation, The !?.  Watch Sim ink the cover over at cerebustv.com (the 8 episodes run on a loop right now, so you might have to wait a while for that segment to come up.  Hey, it's not my idea).

The second is Rodney Schroeter's cover to #11, from 1984, featuring Peter Parker, Betty Brant and various Spider-Man villains.

Details on subscribing to DITKOMANIA and getting back issues over here.

Unusual Tales - Return From Saturn

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


Charlton's SPACE ADVENTURES #26 [1958] featured four 5-page stories by Steve Ditko. This is the last of them, "Return From Saturn".  It's a rather sedate story about the first people sent to Saturn, and what they found there that might get in the way of the army's hopes for conquest.

Solid work without too many chances to shine from Ditko, although I do like the panel of the city on Saturn, and that panel on the bottom of page two is nicely drawn and would turn out to be a good reinforcement of the theme of the story.

Some links to check out
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
New comic, A DITKO ACT TWO, is imminent
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
#77, focus on Ditko's independent work, Dave Sim cover, mailing this week
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
 All of Ditko's Indiana Jones stories soon to be in-print.  Didn't see that coming...
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.


 
 

January 17, 2010

Marvel Tales #153 [1983]

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The reprints of the original Spider-Man comics that ran in MARVEL TALES from #137 to #177 (1982-1985) get up to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #15 [1964] this issue, with the 22-page story "Kraven The Hunter" drawn by Steve Ditko.  As you'd guess from the title, this introduces the last of the classic villains who would make up the Sinister Six in the landmark THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 [1964] soon after (but oddly reprinted in this run a few months earlier, in #150).  That's quite a few classic designs in a short amount of time (including non-members of the Six, the Lizard, the Green Goblin and the Chameleon), and there were still a few left, though none quite as notable as the ones introduced in the first 15 issues.

Anyway, the story opens with Spider-Man breaking up a gang planning a robbery.  One of the members is able to get away, and it turns out to be one of Spider-Man's earliest foes, the Chameleon from back in #1. Tired of Spider-Man's interference, but realizing he's out-matched by our hero, he decides to bring in an old friend, Kraven the Hunter, who is up for the challenge.  After all, don't all hunters eventually decide to go after the most dangerous game, man?

Kraven arrives in New York to great fanfare, easily re-capturing some snakes and gorillas who conveniently get loose on his arrival, and then first observes and then confronts Spider-Man, leading to their confrontation in the park.  Meanwhile, Peter Parker's life keeps getting more complicated, with Betty Brant getting jealous of Liz Allen paying attention to him and his Aunt trying to set him up with the niece of a neighbour.  That'll never go anywhere...

A great little issue from the heart of the classic run.  Kraven is pretty much a text-book Ditko design, with distinctive elements on all parts of his body to that he's easy to recognize in any pose, and his shtick makes him a good foil for Spider-Man, matching him in acrobatic ability.  The Parker elements of the story are a nice balance to the super-heroics, and help to make it more than just a standard slugfest.

The original Ditko cover is also reprinted on this issue, although as usual with some modifications (removing the blurb and headshot about the Chameleon and a big UPC box over Spider-man's foot, although at least in the direct market edition that gives them a place to credit the creators).




January 16, 2010

New Ditko - THE COMICS v21 #1 cover

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THE COMICS v21 #1, the January, 2010 issue of Robin Snyder's monthly newsletter, features a cover drawn by Steve Ditko (adapting the lettering from the logo above, by Creig Flessel), celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication launched in January 1990.

THE COMICS (originally ROBIN SNYDER'S HISTORY OF THE COMICS) has been one of the primary forums for Ditko's essays over that time, including "An Insider's Part Of Comic History - Jack Kirby's Spider-Man", "The Sore Spot Cause And Crusade", "The Stolen Art Page", "A Mini-History", "The Avenging Mind", "Toyland" and "The Ever Unwilling". It also saw a fair bit of Ditko's art, most notably the first printing of "Laszlo's Hammer" in 1992.

In addition to the Ditko, the newsletter has also printed extensive first person accounts of comic book history and unseen art and scripts from the likes of Robert Kanigher, Ric Estrada, Sheldon Mayer and dozens more.

Ordering info for the newsletter is on this page. Many, but not all, of Ditko's contributions to the first decade are included in the 2002 AVENGING WORLD collection (including "Laszlo's Hammer") and in STEVE DITKO'S 32-PAGE PACKAGE TSK! TSK! . Most of the later issues with Ditko work, including last I checked all 16 chapters of "A Mini-History", discussing the creation of the early Spider-Man comics, are still available directly from Snyder, contact him for availability and pricing.

January 15, 2010

Upcoming Ditko - A DITKO ACT TWO

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Robin Snyder has informed me that the release of the next new Ditko comic, A DITKO ACT TWO, is imminent.  It continues directly from last year's DITKO PRESENTS, $4 cover price.  Available directly from Robin Snyder, along with more than a dozen prior Ditko publications, ordering details at the link.

Retailers who wish to carry the books should contact Snyder for terms, minimums and discounts.

I should also have some copies available through the usual methods, for those who want to mail-order paid by PayPal.  Keep an eye here for when I have copies.

January 12, 2010

Unusual Tales - The First Satellite

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


The 5-page story "The First Satellite" comes from Charlton's SPACE ADVENTURES #25 [1958]. It's an interesting little tale about a war between Earth and Venus which takes an unexpected twist that took me by surprise. One which I'm tempted to spoil right now by making one of several obvious STAR WARS based jokes. Oh, I'll save it for the comments...

Several quality Ditko bits in the art. It's always nice how he comes up with different alien city designs and space-ships for these stories. I especially liked the ships for the big final attack. You'll know what I mean when you see them.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
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 double up size.




January 11, 2010

Blue Ribbon Comics #12 [1984]

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One of the more temporary stops the THUNDER Agents made over the years was over at Archie. The previous year several comics had been published by JC Comics with new and reprint stories, including one cover by Ditko inked by Willie Blyberg. This issue of Archie's anthology adventure title continues from those, apparently to help save a deadline (there's an ad in here with a cover for BLUE RIBBON #12, but with the cover that eventually was on #14).

Anyway, Ditko art is on the 10-page back-up story, "The Making Of A Monster" featuring the robotic Agent with an invisibility cloak, NoMan, inks by Blyberg, story by John Carbonaro and Charlie Boatner. NoMan goes to a remote island after getting a letter from Wildey, an unstable old associate (who isn't aware of his current robotic state). On the island he finds that his old friend has set himself up as a modern Doctor Moreau, creating hybrid beasts in out of control genetic experiments, and buying human slaves to experiment on.

Some really attractive work by Ditko in this one, with Blyberg's inks really bringing the work alive. I especially liked all the strange creatures. That faceless gorilla is just creepy, and that horned cat looks like something out of WATCHMEN a few years later. There are some more freakish chimera later in the story, and good action scenes of NoMan fighting them.

Not a must have, but definitely one of the better examples of Ditko's commercial work in the mid-80s, worth picking up if you see a copy.



January 9, 2010

Unusual Tales - Ten Billion B.C.

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


"Ten Billion B.C." is a 7-page story from Charlton's OUTER SPACE #19 [1958].  I guess you could call it a cautionary fable about an ancient civilization on the world Primus, a giant globe that was then the only planet in the universe, and developed an advanced society of people with really high foreheads.  Unfortunately, there's always a hitch, in this case a man named Accra who's not content in paradise.


A very strange little story, as usual it's Ditko's visual flare that brings it to life. The balance of white-space on page 4 is nicely done, and the innovative layout on the final page works really well.

Some links to check out:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Find out about the fanzine DITKOMANIA
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
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.





 
 

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