March 31, 2013

Upcoming Ditko - THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES continues

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As announced in THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES #2...

Ordering info here.

March 30, 2013

New Ditko - THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES #2

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Continuing from the first FOUR-PAGE SERIES that was published as part of  Robin Snyder's THE COMICS, Vol. 23 No. 9, now available is THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES #2 published by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko, featuring five new essays by Steve Ditko:

“Circle The Mind”
“The Fixated Negative”
“For/Against One's Best Interest?”
“LINT”
“Honoring Or Dishonoring”

For a taste, here's the opening of each:
 
  
 



It's available directly from Robin Snyder for $1.50 in the US, $2.50 foreign, along with all the prior in-print Ditko publications from their 25 years of co-publishing.

Robin Snyder
3745 Canterbury Lane #81
Bellingham, WA
98225-1186 USA

SnyderandDitko @ icloud.com

Ditko books in print.

I've also got a handful of copies which will be available when ATE TEA N (#18) comes out.

March 28, 2013

Heroes, Inc. #2 [1976]

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As discussed recently, the first issue of Wallace Wood's HEROES, INC comic came out in 1969, designed to be sold to members of the armed services. With the first issue printed but getting little to no distributfeion, there obviously wasn't a second.

Then in 1976 HEROES, INC. #2 was published, this time as a larger sized black and white magazine from the fan publishers CPL/Gang, best known for their Charlton Comics themed fanzines. Two of Wood's features from the first issue continue here, The Misfits and Cannon. I assume the stories were at least written and penciled back around 1969, the tonework was probably added to compensate for the lack of colour the art was intended for.

This small press distribution means that, while HEROES, INC. #1 is probably the easiest 1960s Ditko comic to find, #2 is among the most difficult 1970s Ditko comics to find for a decent price. And I doubt there'll be a warehouse find of 70,000 copies of it. A tip of the hat to Brian Franczak for getting me my copy.

The story that concerns us here is the 14-page untitled "Cannon" story drawn by Ditko, written and inked by Wood. As I mentioned before, Wood continued Cannon without Ditko for military newspapers in the 1970s, and various subsequent reprints, heavily increasing the "adult" content, especially nudity. I haven't read those later Cannon stories, but this one seems to have a partial move in that direction, no nudity but definitely a more salacious rendering of the female character, and a bit more violence, though often partially obscured or implied.

As you can tell by the page below, the story this time is Cannon versus Nazis, who have taken over a small South American country. Cannon falls into a trap trying to help a woman in distress, only to find out she's a Nazi official named Erika Meissner, and is captured by her team of Specialists with self-explanatory names, Gunner, Lash, Blade and Archer (not unlike the Enforcers from a previous Ditko comic). Taken to their gorgeous castle base in the middle of the jungle, Cannon proves resistant to persuasion by torture or drugs (as a nod to his double-brainwashing origin), but turns after some seduction by Erika. Or at least he fakes it long enough to get more information, radio in for back-up and then take the Specialists and everyone else out.

Pretty decent story, well worth picking up if you can find a reasonably priced copy. The Wood inks are a bit more overpowering on Ditko's pencils than in the first story, but it's still very noticeable, especially with the Specialists and the head Nazi.


DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE Kickstarter - one week left

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One week left on Robin Snyder's Kickstarter for the 2nd edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE, the 112-page book first published in 1991 and long out-of-print. As I write this it's only a handful of backers away from 200, and well past it's $4900 goal. Spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested in knowing about it, especially those who would be interested in being in the acknowledgements or getting the limited numbered edition.

Here's another panel scanned from the first edition:


March 25, 2013

Eerie Greatest Hits [1994]

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The companion volume to CREEPY THE CLASSIC YEARS [1991], Harris comics reprinted this selection of stories from the first few years of Warren's EERIE magazine, mostly written by Archie Goodwin. It's not as good as the prior book. The choice of stories is fine, but overall the book is just cheaper looking, with thinner paper, weaker reproduction of the art and less relevant editorial material. There were two Godwin/Ditko stories.

"Room With A View" is a 6-page story from EERIE #3 [1966], the first Ditko story for Warren. It's a haunted hotel room story, where a traveler insists on taking the only empty room in a hotel, despite the desk clerks warnings that no one is ever happy there. Turns out to be a haunted mirror, which give progressively more terrifying visions. The story isn't one of Goodwin's better ones, but Ditko does a pretty good job with his imaginative renderings of the visions in the mirror. This one is drawn closer to the more common Ditko style, although more detailed than most of his colour comics.

The 6-page "Deep Ruby" is from EERIE #6 [1966], although the host framing sequences have Uncle Creepy instead of Cousin Eerie, so it seems to be taken from the prior reprint in CREEPY #25 [1969]. It's a quick little story about a jeweler approached by a decrepit homeless man, and being surprised by the red ruby the man shows him. His desire for the stone leads him into a horrific nightmare dimension, and of course Ditko's detailed renderings of that dimension are the heart of the story. He'd drawn some comics that evoked that kind of imagery before, but it's in some of these Warren stories that those concepts appear fully-formed. The combination of the lack of Comics Code restrictions and the freedom that comes with drawing for black and white, so the art that leaves the drawing board is the art that people see, really seems to have brought something out. This story uses the inkwash style that the majority of Ditko's Warren work was done in, and even in this lackluster reprint the attention to detail is impressive.


March 24, 2013

Heroes, Inc. #1 [1969]

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HEROES, INC. #1 [1969] features the debut of Wallace Wood's Cannon as the lead story, with a 12-page adventure drawn by Steve Ditko and inked by Wood. There's a lot of history behind the title, for which I'll refer you to this Wikipedia article. The short version is that it was a comic intended to be sold to US armed services members, and with ads targeted at that audience (mostly jewelry, plus land in New Mexico). For some reason the first issue was printed but got little or no distribution. Large quantities of uncirculated copies have turned up over the years, including a lot of about 70,000 copies (not a typo) auctioned off in 2005. That probably makes it one of the most common silver age comics.

Wood continued publishing Cannon stories in other venues, although I don't know if those use the same set-up as this story. They definitely seem to be more risque, with the last major printing of them being published under the adult Eros imprint by Fantagraphics. Another issue of HEROES, INC. was eventually published in 1976, with a second Ditko/Wood Cannon story. The other Cannon stories have been reprinted a few times, but I don't think the two Ditko stories were ever reprinted. Just searching now I see Fantagraphics has another edition coming out in 2014. It's 288 pages instead of the 144 pages of their previous "Compleat" edition, but looks like it's in a landscape format, so I'm guessing it's the same contents reformatted, so odds are no Ditko.

(and reading the description of the upcoming book, I see it is the same set-up on the later stories, only with a lot of nudity added)

In this story, Chinese communists attack a secret lab and kidnap Jean Voss, who has the secret to an anti-missile defense system. The President immediately sends in Cannon on a mission to find and kill her before she can talk. We get a very quick bit of background on Cannon, just that he was a top spy who was captured, brain-washed and returned to assassinate top US scientists. Fortunately re-captured by the US before he could follow through on that mission, they found they couldn't reverse the brainwashing, so they decided to brainwash him even more, leaving him devoid of emotions. Thus his response to the orders to kill Voss rather than even try to rescue her: a deadpan "Right."

The invasion force gets Cannon onto the island base of the communists  and he plays one man army, planting bombs, fighting guards and eventually finding Voss. Apparently he decides that since she already talked under truth serum, he will save her. I'm not sure I get the logic of that. He sticks around on the island while she takes his escape rocket, determined to destroy everything the whole base to keep the secret safe. He manages to do that, even adding a stolen secret enemy plane to his tally. Plus there's a pretty funny ending which I won't spoil.  Hey, it's easy enough to find a copy of this, with 70,000+ uncirculated copies out there...

Fun story, if a little goofy, I kind of like how it plays with and subverts the James Bond model of men's adventure stories. It's obviously Wood's show, so a lot of the surface elements of Ditko's pencils get buried in the inks, but you can still see it in the storytelling and body language, and especially in the hands.


March 22, 2013

Creepy The Classic Years [1991]

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After Warren stopped publishing around 1983 their titles were next seen after a gap of a few years from publisher Harris Comics. While Harris published about a million new and reprint Vampirella comics (approximate number, may be higher) they made far less use of the CREEPY and EERIE brands, with only a few new CREEPY comics and one reprint book of 1960s material for each title.

CREEPY THE CLASSIC YEARS [1991] came first.  Editor Richard Howell provides the introduction, which includes a few notes on each artist, including Ditko, and also the page header seen here which I'm still looking for information on. In the book are two Ditko reprints, both written by Archie Goodwin.

The 6-page "Second Chance" from CREEPY #13 [1967] has a spectacular splash page, and it's no surprise that Dark Horse is using a cropped and colourized version of that page for their upcoming reprint of Ditko's Warren stories. Trust me, the full page in the original black and white is even better. Featuring Edward Norton's descent into Hell, where he confronts Beelzebub and demands their bargain to give Nugent a second shot at life after his death. Ditko really lets his imagination run wild in the land of the damned, using similar concepts to his famous fantasy landscapes in Doctor Strange, but rendered in ways the Comics Code probably would have objected to. There's also an earthbound component to the story, set in a graveyard, which allows for a few more macabre backgrounds and looks of sheer terror that Ditko excelled in. The plot itself is pretty routine, but Goodwin keeps it moving along and lets the artwork do the heavy lifting on this one.


The book concludes with the 8-page "Collector's Edition" from CREEPY #10 [1966], which is, for those of you familiar with it, an appropriate story to finish a book. Howell's introduction mentions that some consider it "the single finest story Ditko ever turned out", and it's definitely a contender. The story features Colin Danforth, a collector of obscure and forbidden occult books, an obsession which forces him to do business with the unsavory Murch, who dangles the possibility of the rarest of artifacts, the Marquis LeMode's "Dark Visions". One of Goodwin's best, and Ditko was the perfect artistic partner for the story, rendering it in a detailed style, with some key parts using some very unusual technique that I can't quite figure out. I think it's some sort of mechanical tone, but used very delicate way, creating almost a wood-cut effect. And to top it all off, his detailed rendering never gets in the way of the storytelling.

March 21, 2013

Return Of The Skyman #1 [1987]

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The Skyman is a long-running Golden Age comic book hero, published by Columbia and first appearing in BIG SHOT COMICS #1 [1940] by creators Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney. He appeared in that title until 1949, as well as four issues of his own title.  See here for more on Columbia's comics.

As ACE Comics publisher Ron Frantz discusses in the latest DITKOMANIA, he acquired the rights to Columbia's The Face and The Skyman from publisher Vincent Sullivan, and first published three issues of WHAT IS... THE FACE with art by Ditko. Then in 1987 he published RETURN OF THE SKYMAN #1, with an 18-page story penciled by Steve Ditko, inked by Rick Altergott and written by Mort Todd. It begins in 1949, with Allen Turner, the Skyman, a decade into his career and considering retirement with his recent marriage and a baby on the way, gets a call that prompts him to check in on his mentor and uncle, scientist Peter Turner. He finds his uncle being interrogated by a Nazi war criminal looking for the secret to time travel, which ends up bringing the Skyman into 1987 and the immediate aftermath of a nuclear disaster.

This is only the first chapter of a longer story that never did continue, but it's an intriguing start, and The Skyman is a pretty interesting and well-designed character. Ditko does a solid job, with a lot of nice visual bits like the time machine (especially the fate of the Nazi criminal) and the post-disaster future world. Altergott's inks are very much in the slick Wallace Wood inspired vein, which works well.

This issue also features an Ogden Whitney cover from SKYMAN #1, the 3-page Fox/Whitney recap of the origin from that issue, a 1965 fanzine article about the feature and a long article by Frantz about both Whitney's life and Frantz's search for information about Whitney.  That includes some panels from a 1965  Herbie the Fat Fury story (Whitney's most famous creation) which features a Skyman cameo.


Upcoming Ditko - FOUR-PAGE SERIES #2

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From Robin Snyder:


The first FOUR-PAGE SERIES was a collection of the following five Ditko essays published as part of THE COMICS V23 #9:

“The Knowers & the Barkers” [reprinted from #17]
“The Silent Self-Deceivers” [reprinted from THE COMICS V23 #7]
“A Newspaper Article, A Reporter's Report”
“A Deadly Fantasy”
“Why Out Of Their Way?”

Will THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES #2 be more of the same? Something different? With Ditko, you never really know until you have it in your hands.

To order it direct from Snyder you can get his contact info on this page. I should have more on this soon.

And a reminder, two weeks to get in on the PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE 2nd Edition Kickstarter. Spread the word if you know any Ditko readers who might be interested but might not have heard of it yet.

March 20, 2013

Creepy #16 [1967]

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"The Sands That Change" from CREEPY #16 [1967] is the final Ditko story published by Warren, and the only one of the sixteen Warren stories not written by Archie Goodwin, with Clark Dimond and Terry Bisson scripting.

This time around we have comic book artist Tom Newman and his new wife honeymooning in the Mojave Desert, ignoring some warnings from the local Indians about thee dangers of the territory and "drawing the desert only as it really is". Turns out that whatever he draws comes to life, unfortunately they only figure that out after he designs a new monster for an upcoming comic.

Nice story with a clever visual hook for Ditko to play with, and a pretty decent twist at the end.

One of the interesting things about Ditko's work at Warren is the variety of art styles he used. The inkwash ones are the most famous, and the tight rendering on "Collector's Edition" make that a favourite of many, but this one has a pretty interesting technique that I don't think I've seen Ditko use elsewhere. I'm not sure, it looks like he might be using some sort of charcoal or crayon for the shading, or maybe drawing on a different kind of paper with some texture, definitely not the pen or brush of his typical work.


March 18, 2013

New Ditko - DITKOMANIA #90 available

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DITKOMANIA #90 is now available, an extra-length issue featuring a detailed essay on the brief life of ACE Comics from publisher Ron Frantz. He didn't publish much, but there was a lot of Ditko among his books, and some more planned unrealized Ditko projects discussed in his essay, including a project with Jerry Siegel with some concept art.

I'll post more on the published ACE Ditko comics soon, here are some previous posts about them:

What Is... The Face #1 [1986]
Ace Comics Presents #1 [1987]
Return Of The Skyman #1 [1987]

Single issue and subscription information are over here, and the Ditkomania mailing list is down this way.

Eerie #10 [1967]

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Archie Goodwin and Steve Ditko bring us the 8-page "Warrior Of Death" from Warren's EERIE #10 [1967], where the barbarian warrior Zahran finds himself mortally wounded after a lifetime of bloody combat and convinces Death to let him live and continue battling in the service of Death.  You know that's not going to end well for anyone but Death.

This is the last published of the fifteen Ditko/Goodwin stories for Warren in 1966/67 (with one more Ditko story written by others). It's obvious why these stories are remembered so fondly, with a lot of vivid imagery by Ditko (the face of Death is great) and some nice detail in the grey inkwash shading that you hardly ever see in the colour comics of that era. Goodwin does a nice pulp story without overwriting and letting the art speak for itself.


March 17, 2013

More on Ditko at Warren

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With the recently announced reprint of Ditko's Warren work, some more about that stuff.

The stories are:


Room With A View - Eerie #3 [1966]
The Spirit Of The Thing - Creepy #9 [1966]
Shrieking Man - Eerie #4 [1966]
Collector's Edition - Creepy #10 [1966]
Black Magic - Eerie #5 [1966]
Beast Man - Creepy #11 [1966]
Deep Ruby - Eerie #6 [1966]
Blood Of The Werewolf - Creepy #12 [1966]
Fly - Eerie #7 [1967]
Second Chance - Creepy #13 [1967]
Demon Sword - Eerie #8 [1967]
Where Sorcery Lives - Creepy #14 [1967]
Isle Of The Beast - Eerie #9 [1967]
City Of Doom - Creepy #15 [1967]
Warrior Of Death - Eerie #10 [1967]
The Sands That Change - Creepy #16 [1967]

All but the last are written by Archie Goodwin.  The last one is written by Clark Dimond and Terry Bisson.

I posted about a couple of them here:

Creepy #16 [1967]Eerie #5 [1966]
Eerie #9 [1967]
Eerie #10 [1967]
Creepy The Classic Years [1991]

Look for a few more soon.

I've asked this before, but still don't have an answer. The following illustration appeared in a previous collection of reprints when Harris had the rights to the old Warren stuff, CREEPY THE CLASSIC YEARS [1991]:


Looks like it could have been intended as a letter column header or some similar purpose.  Does anyone know if it actually ever appeared in the magazine, or anywhere else prior to the 1991 book?

And, big longshot here, but someone once sent me a quote from a later Warren editor (maybe Bill Dubay?) about what Ditko replied when the editor tried to commission some more work from Ditko for Warren years after the sixteen published stories. I can't find the e-mail now, and I don't want to quote it from memory without a citation. Anyone else ever see that quote?

March 13, 2013

Upcoming Ditko - Wait for it...

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Making a lasting mark on comics as the co-creator of Spider-Man, Steve Ditko veered away from the mainstream and into darker territories at the end of the sixties, especially with his work in Creepy and Eerie! Warring wizards, paranoid goons, persistent heroes, and otherworldly domains dominate the diverse tales in this handsome hardcover collection—with fifteen of the sixteen stories written by fellow comics icon Archie Goodwin.

* New introduction by Mark Evanier!

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Steve Ditko
Cover Artist: Steve Ditko
Genre: Classic, Horror
Publication Date: August 07, 2013
Format: b&w, 128 pages; HC, 8 3/8" x 10 7/8"
Price: $19.99
ISBN-10: 1-61655-216-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-61655-216-9


PUBLIC SERVICE Kickstarter hits goal

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Well, ten days and 143 backers later, and the Kickstarter for the new edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE stands at:



Hey, that's higher than the goal, so as they say at G. Ness Publishing:



Still 22 days to go, so we'll see how high it goes. Sounds like the makings for a contest. What do you think it'll finish at, dollar total and number of backers? You can check here for some analysis on the trends so far. Post a guess in the comments. No prize, except bragging rights.  Or if the winner wants, I'll send out some Ditko doubles I have, mostly 1970s Charltons.

PUBLIC SERVICE nears goal

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As I write this, the Kickstarter for the new edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE is about six average backers from reaching its goal, with three weeks to spare. So if you want the satisfaction of being able to say you helped put it over the top, instead of being labelled a johnny-come-lately bandwagon jumper (not a distinction Kickstarter makes, I think), now is the time to act. Join the ranks of, looking quickly down the backer list, Stephen Bissette, Neil Gaiman, Elaine Lee and Roger Langridge.  That's some good company to keep.



March 12, 2013

--Link-- Your PUBLIC SERVICE reminder...

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Another panel from soon-to-be reprinted THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE, order now on Kickstarter. And a reminder, if you don't want to wait for it, there's some 1600+ pages of other Ditko available from Robin Snyder right now, including some classic MR. A, long complex narratives in STATIC and THE MOCKER and much more..

March 9, 2013

March 7, 2013

Upcoming Ditko - Public Service Package 2nd Edition

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Okay, I guess it's redundant at this point, but I like to be complete in these "Upcoming Ditko" posts.  Kickstarter site for the 2nd Edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE over here.  Looking to make its funding goal in a few more days, but spread around the link so people know about it. For people who don't do Kickstarter, whenever I have details on alternative buying options they'll be over here.

It's a very strange book, by the way.  In all the best ways. I'll have more about it over the next month.  If you have the first edition, feel free to talk about it in the comments.

March 6, 2013

--Link-- PUBLIC SERVICE Kickstarter and Kicktraq page

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The Kickstarter campaign for the new edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE continues, doing quite well as it approaches half the goal in only two days, and as yet no notice from the mainstream on-line comic book "press".  They have important dead sidekick news to cover and press releases to re-format, you know. Can't say I'm really surprised, given the (lack of) coverage of Keiji Nakazawa's passing a few months back, but I guess I'm naive enough to continue to be disappointed. And it's also kind of funny, given some of the subject matter of PUBLIC SERVICE, which looks like it's going to do fine without them.

Anyway, check out the campaign if you want to order a copy of the book, and if you want to keep an eye on the progress see below, courtesy of this page on Kicktraq. Image above from the first page of the book.

The Ditko Public Service Package -- Kicktraq Mini

March 4, 2013

--Link-- Ditko Kickstarter - PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE

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Robin Snyder has just announced a Kickstarter project for a reprint of the long unavailable 1991 DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE. Check it out at the link.  I'll post more about the contents of the book over the next few weeks.

Here's the Ditko Fever entry for the original book, as a teaser...

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