October 25, 2015

Four-Page Series essays

S. Ditko, "Why I Quit S-M, Marvel", 2015

Steve Ditko recently wrapped up THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES with the ninth issue, co-published with Robin Snyder, collecting various essays between 2012 and 2015. In total there are 45 essays, ten un-numbered from the first two issues and 35 in the other issues, numbered 9, 10, 12-15, 17-38 and 40-46. Yes, that means there's one missing. Just for reference I've arbitrarily labelled the un-numbered ones as 1-8, 11 and 16 in the order they were published, leaving a mysterious #39 that we may see in the future. Or may not.

The full list of Ditko essays is always available here. Contact information for Robin Snyder to find our which are currently available and to order is over here.

#1*:  The Knowers & the Barkers [FPS#1]
#2*:  The Silent Self-Deceivers [FPS#1]
#3*:  A Newspaper Article, A Reporter's Report [FPS#1]
#4*:  A Deadly Fantasy [FPS#1]
#5*:  Why Out Of Their Way? [FPS#1]
#6*: Circle The Mind [FPS#2]
#7*: The Fixated Negative [FPS#2]
#8*: For/Against One's Best Interest? [FPS#2]
#9: An Eternal Truth, Lesson Rejected [FPS#3]
#10: The Fantasy Lifters [FPS#3]
#11*: LINT [FPS#2]
#12: For Good Or Ill [FPS#3]
#13: Tsk! — The Still Unreachable — Tsk! [FPS#3]
#14: Labels And Labelers [FPS#4]
#15: Wants/Needs Shortchanged [FPS#9]
#16*: Honoring Or Dishonoring [FPS#2]
#17: …To The Last Drop [FPS#3]
#18: Anti-Ditko 'Fans' [FPS#3]
#19: Action/Reaction And The Self-Claimed, Self-Creators [FPS#4]
#20: Out Of Their Way [FPS#9]
#21: How Dare He! [FPS#4]
#22: He Should Have X@*#! Done... [FPS#8]
#23: The Intolerable Other [FPS#6]
#24: The Eternally Fixated [FPS#5]
#25: Choice: Either/Or [FPS#5]
#26: 4 tHe knot 2 BritE, rite [FPS#5]
#27: The Movers And The Freezers [FPS#4]
#28: Red Flag [FPS#6]
#29: Too Late [FPS#4]
#30: Repeater, Spreader, Reinforcer [FPS#6]
#31: Copycat Mind [FPS#8]
#32: With Everyone, A Free-Will Choice [FPS#5]
#33: X's 'Idea' [FPS#6]
#34: Memory [FPS#5]
#35: FP: Comic Book Fan Packs [FPS#6]
#36: CC: The Caller and the Called [FPS#6]
#37: Start & Finish [FPS#6]
#38: Correct, Corrector, Corrections [FPS#8]
#40: The Chosen Grey Mind [FPS#7]
#41: A Cure Or The Actual Disease? [FPS#7]
#42 [FPS#8]
#43: The 1st New York City Comic Book Convention [FPS#7]
#44: Foolish Fans [FPS#9]
#45: Why I Quit S-M, Marvel [FPS#9]
#46: Either/Or [FPS#9]

October 23, 2015

The Incredible Hulk #235 [1979]

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #235 [1979] is one of the first published pieces for this stint at Marvel, following a cover for an Avengers reprint the previous month. It's one of the rare cases of Ditko inking another artist, working over the pencils of Al Milgrom. It's also a good bridge between his 1960s stint at Marvel and the one just beginning, as he did some major work developing the Hulk in the 1960s and Machine Man would be his regular assignment starting a few months later. He'd also do a few more Hulk stories in the future.

It's a pretty good cover of a dynamic meeting between the two Jack Kirby creations. The Hulk figure is especially good. Pretty unlikely it'll ever happen, but I'd be fascinated to see the original pencils to this to see how closely Ditko followed it.

October 19, 2015

Eerie #135 [1982]

Until recently, EERIE #135 [1982] was the best quick source for Ditko's 1966/1967 work at Warren, reprinting ten of the sixteen stories that Ditko drew for the publisher's two magazines. All of the ten were written by Archie Goodwin.

CREEPY #9 [1966]  - "The Spirit Of The Thing"
CREEPY #10 [1966]  - "Collector's Edition"
CREEPY #11 [1966]  - "Beast Man"
CREEPY #12 [1966]  - "Blood Of The Werewolf"
CREEPY #13 [1967]  - "Second Chance"
CREEPY #14 [1967]  - "Where Sorcery Lives"
CREEPY #15 [1967]  - "City Of Doom"
EERIE #4 [1966]  - "Shrieking Man"
EERIE #7 [1967]  - "Fly"
EERIE #8 [1967]  - "Demon Sword"

There are a lot of minor alterations in the stories, such as changing the host from Uncle Creepy to Cousin Eerie as needed, and altering the title lettering and story introductions (sometimes omitted entirely). The reproduction also isn't great, with the grey wash tones sometimes coming out a bit darker than they should. And the cover by Sanjulian is a bit incongruous for an all-Ditko issue in style, though it fits in subject matter.

All of the stories are pretty good, some are spectacular. Of special note is "City Of Doom", since as far as I know it was the only one of the stories which hadn't been reprinted by Warren prior to this. It features a barely dressed barbarian warrior named Thane. I'm not sure if Thane appeared before this, but there is at least one more story with the character (by Goodwin and artist Jeff Jones) in the following issue of its original publication. I'm also not up on the history of barbarian warriors in comics, but I do know this is well before Marvel licensed Conan for their comics.

Anyway, Thane opens the story betrayed and left to be eaten by some great looking vultures at the beginning of the story, but manages to escape and make short work of the vultures. He then encounters Livia, the also barely dressed high priestess of the ancient city of Kadith in the middle of the desert, and follows her there in hopes of both revenge on his betrayers and some treasure. As you'd expect, what follows is a mix of monsters, betrayal and death amidst the mazelike interior of the Kadith.

Overall not one of the best of the Ditko/Goodwin collaborations at Warren, but pretty decent, and a few great visual moments from Ditko.

October 18, 2015

Many Ghosts Of Doctor Graves #43 [1973]

Joe Gill writes and Steve Ditko draws the 7-page story "Don't Lose Your Head" in MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES #43 [1973]. Starting during the French Revolution, where the conniving servant of an innocent doctor uses the chaos to have his master beheaded, so he can make off with his master's wealth. Unfortunately for him, he gets a curse placed on his family to suffer the same fate as his master, and we follow the generations of his family losing their heads in various ways up to the then-recent year of 1972.

Fairly straightforward story, with a bit of an abrupt ending, the various settings in time and variety of deaths play well to Ditko's strengths, and there are a lot of great faces.


October 14, 2015

Amazing World Of DC Comics #13 [1976]

Steve Ditko drew one story published in DC's humour anthology PLOP, but there was another story intended for it, done with the same writer (Steve Skeates) and inker (Wallace Wood). "The Gnark Is Coming! The Gnark Is Coming!" instead appeared in AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS #13 [1976]. It's one of the few Ditko stories for DC never to be reprinted.

The 4-page story is set in medieval times and features a would-be squire named Bruce who gets conned by a bunch of frightened knights into dealing with the mysterious "Gnark" that, as the title says, is coming. Cute little story, the artwork shows some pretty heavy inkwork typical of Wood in this period, but still pretty clearly Ditko underneath.

October 13, 2015

Monsters Attack #5 [1990]

From MONSTERS ATTACK #5 [1990]  is Ditko's "The Creator", a 6-page story, the final issue of the series which had a Ditko written and drawn story in every issue.

This is Ditko’s take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story, with a scientist (in the classic mountain-top castle overlooking a small village location) managing to create life in his lab, only needing the a sample of brain blood to finish the job and infuse the creation with a personality.  He heads into town to find the right donor, encountering a variety of personalities among the townspeople, and also revealing a few secrets about his own past.

An interesting story with a somewhat enigmatic ending, this is the story in this set most similar to the work that Ditko has done since, right up to his latest on-going self-published stories.  There are several very strong bits of imagery playing on the story’s themes of creation and personality.

This story is reprinted in the recent  TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #16 from Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko in its original form and in colour in STEVE DITKO'S WEIRD COMICS #1 from Charlton Neo.

October 12, 2015

Monsters Attack #4 [1990]

MONSTERS ATTACK #4 [1990] features the 5-page Ditko written, drawn and lettered story "Illusion".

Some wild transformations in this story about Count Kcraz, a greedy man who uses powers of illusion to force people to sell him their land. The illusions are very well rendered, especially the fingers turning into snakes. Eventually Kcraz’s land-grab takes him to the home of the witch Zona, who scares off his underlings with ease. But Zona wisely realizes that she’ll need something more subtle to stop Kcraz, who won’t scare very easily.

An enjoyable little story with an unexpected ending and some very strong storytelling, always a pleasure to see Ditko’s renderings of magics and Eastern European locations.

This story is newly rendered in colour as the cover feature in the recent STEVE DITKO'S WEIRD COMICS #1.

October 8, 2015


Now available from Mort Todd's "Charlton Neo" imprint is STEVE DITKO'S WEIRD COMICS #1, a colour collection of the five short stories that Steve Ditko created for the Todd-edited MONSTERS ATTACK (see here for posts on some of those stories in their original black and white incarnation). A total of 27 pages of Ditko written and drawn stories (one inked by Mort Todd), reprinted and coloured with Ditko's permission. It's available as a print-on-demand comic from Amazon or a digital edition for the Kindle.

Note that if you prefer the stories in black and white the story "The Creator" is available in the recent TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #16 from Snyder/Ditko and Todd has announced plans for a more comprehensive collection of MONSTERS ATTACK stories (including work by John Severin, Gene Colan, Alex Toth, Pat Boyette and others) sometime in the future which will have the stories in their original form.