January 31, 2012

Unreprinted DC Ditko

I've got my copy of THE STEVE DITKO OMNIBUS VOLUME TWO, to go with  VOLUME ONE and the earlier CREEPER BY STEVE DITKO volume. Those three books combine to reprint 1102 pages of Ditko artwork published by DC between 1966 and 2008, which is impressive but unfortunately just a bit shy of complete, so an overview of what's missing.

  • [DC has also acquired or licensed some Ditko work originally published by Charlton, Tower and others. Most if not all of the Ditko comics available to them in those deals were reprinted in the ACTION HEROES ARCHIVES and THUNDER AGENTS ARCHIVES collections]

"The Gnark Is Coming, The Gnark Is Coming"
This 4-page story written by Steve Skeates and inked by Wallace Wood was intended for PLOP, but remained unpublished until this issue of DC's promotional magazine. A cute little fantasy, Wood has a heavy hand in the inks but the Ditko still comes through, and this is an unfortunate omission since it's probably the hardest Ditko story at DC to find.

"The Cosmic Quest For The Disk Of Mars"
Ditko draws a 6-page chapter and 5 later pages for the 64-page story written by Jack C. Harris for this issue, with other artists including Jose Delbo, Russ Heath and Dick Ayers drawing the rest. I guess it's understandable not either including the full 64-page story or just excerpting the 11 Ditko pages, but it's some decent work. Wonder Woman doesn't actually appear on the Ditko pages, by the way, except as a chess piece on the God of War's board (with the other piece being Hitler).

THE UNEXPECTED #190 [1979]
A single page black and white illustration in the inside cover with Abel and Madame Xanadu on the occasion of their cancelled titles (HOUSE OF SECRETS and DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE) being folded into THE UNEXPECTED.  Written by Mike Barr, this is a doubly frustrating omission since Barr's intro to OMNIBUS v2 mentions the page and the fact that Ditko gave him the original art, so not only could it easily have been reprinted, but a superior copy from a fresh scan of the original art could have been used.

"Once A Legionnaire"
An odd omission, since the other six Ditko Legion stories were reprinted, this first one, a 7-page back-up written by Gerry Conway and inked by Dan Adkins, was not.

"The Odd Man"
This 8-page story, originally intended to be a back-up in SHADE #9, actually was reprinted in OMNIBUS v1, in the version that appeared in CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE #2 [1978], in black and white and under the title "The Pharoah And The Mummies". The script was heavily revised in this printing, so if they were only going to include one version it's nice that they included the rarer one, but it does look much better in colour.

BATMAN #322 [1980]
And possibly some other DC comics out that month. DC ran short biographies of their creators for a while, and #58 in the series was Steve Ditko.  Instead of the biographical information typical of those profiles, Ditko did an illustration of seven of his characters (The Creeper, The Hawk, The Dove, Stalker, Odd Man, Rac Shade and Starman) to "let his work speak for him".

Ditko did illustrations for four entries featuring his characters in this series, a shame they weren't included since they were all enjoyable. The Shade entry is just a great encapsulation of the graphic strength of the concept Ditko created. Romeo Tanghal's inks on the Starman piece are very strong, and Joe Orlando does an interesting job on the Stalker page.  The most missed piece is the Question entry, a brief return by Ditko to one of his greatest creations, and again one that Barr even mentions in his introduction, so really no good excuse not to include it.

ACTION COMICS #642 [1989]
"Where There Is A Will - Chapter II: The Decline"
Ditko pencils and Art Thibert inks an 8-page chapter to Elliot S. Maggin's 38-page story featuring Superman, Green Lantern, Deadman and Nightwing, all regular features in the 42 issue weekly run of ACTION COMICS that ended with this issue. Ditko's chapter only features Green Lantern, and doesn't really work as a stand-alone story, so understandable omission, I guess.  Other artists were legends Gil Kane, Jim Aparo, Curt Swan, Jim Mooney and Carmine Infantino (with inking by younger artists John Nyberg, Ty Templeton, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey and Kevin Nowlan), so it's a full story worth having a copy of.

So by my count we could have used another 44 pages in these books, or 129 if you want to include the full Wonder Woman and Action stories.  Hey, I wouldn't say no to a slim OMNIBUS v3 to catch everything else. There are also a few other known unpublished things it would be nice to see, including a few short anthology stories ("Woro and the Liquid Man", "The Robot and... The Ghost"), a Plastic Man illustration (possibly for WHO'S WHO) and some work for a Green Lantern colouring book. There are also a few pretty interesting house ads for his books, some of which appear to have original artwork, which are worth seeing again.


  1. Thank you for detailing what is missing. I knew some of it (the Legion story, the pieces Barr mentioned, the DC Feature Page illustration), but had forgotten the rest. Sadly, I doubt that stuff will get reprinted.

  2. One more page to add to the list: Ditko illustrated what is, in essence, a Man-Bat pin-up to advertise the first issue of the short-lived "Man-Bat" series. I too doubt that these will ever be reprinted---but it certainly would be nice to supplement the Creeper and Ditko Omnibus volumes with a "Ditko Appendix"!

  3. Very frustrating to read about those two pages and then see they are not in the book! LAME!

  4. A third volume seems unlikely when compared to how quickly the first two volumes were announced essentially back-to-back.

  5. Hmm. DC released a 96 page comic called the Jack Kirby Omnibus Sampler. Maybe they could put out a similar 44 pager for the remaining Ditko work? 'The Ditko Appendix', as mentioned above....



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