July 29, 2008

--Link-- Interesting STRANGE AND STRANGER comments

Mike DeLisa has some fascinating comments on the recent STRANGE AND STRANGER. I agree with most, not quite all, of it, and recommend it to anyone who has or is about to read the book. And bonus points for I think being the first person reviewing the book to use the phrase "Lazlo's Hammer"...

July 28, 2008

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #6 [1986]

Hey, a character who actually debuted in a comic book that Ditko drew, and that Ditko presumably might have had a hand in designing. Go figure. Anyway, the character first appeared in Ditko's final issue of MACHINE MAN some years before this, and subsequently became a Spider-Man villain. Pretty cool design, overall. I always did wonder, though, given the similarities in design, if there was some intention to use the Green Goblin in that story, changed for understandable reasons. The comparison isn't helped by the character subsequently becoming an even more blatant Green Goblin derivative, the Hobgoblin (a fact which made his first appearance harder to find at a reasonable price back around the time I was first getting Ditko MACHINE MAN back issues).

As usual for this series, Joe Rubinstein provides the inks.

Ditko on... Criminal rationale

Something a bit more light-hearted this time...

July 27, 2008

Speaking of Creepy...

The following illustration appeared in a previous collection of reprints from the mag, 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?

Update, Robin Snyder informs me that he was preparing a CREEPY revamp for Harris, including creators like Richard Corben, Henry Boltinoff, Rudy Nebres, Pat Boyette and Robert Kanigher, and the Ditko header was done for the first issue of that.

Upcoming Ditko - DH's Creepy and PI's Edge of Genius

Dark Horse's reprints of the 1960s Warren horror mags gets to some Ditko in CREEPY v2 late this year, namely "The Spirit Of The Thing" and "Collector's Edition" from #9 and #10 respectively, the latter sometimes cited as Ditko's best of his 16 stories for Warren, or even best ever. Presumably a volume of EERIE will follow shortly, with several more tales. I keep hoping they'll do some artist-specific books, since spreading Ditko's 117 pages across five $50 hardcovers isn't ideal.

As previously mentioned, Pure Imagination has a volume of early Ditko work, along with some work by his studio-mate Eric Stanton.

Archie Goodwin (W), Larry Ivie (W), Gray Morrow (P/Cover), Reed Crandall (P), Alex Toth (P), Al Williamson (P), and others

On sale Dec 10
b&w, 288 pages $49.95
HC, 8 3/8" x 10 7/8"

This vein-chilling second volume showcases work by some of the best artists to ever work in the comics medium, including Alex Toth, Gray Morrow, Reed Crandall, John Severin, and others. Each archive volume of Creepy is packed with stories (usually up to eight short stories were featured in every issue!) running the gamut of gruesome subject matter, from reimagined horror classics such as The Cask of Amontillado, to spectacularly mind-twisting shorts such as The Thing in the Pit, or the macabre maritime yarn Drink Deep. This volume collects Creepy #6-10.

by Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko fans will be enthralled by this collection of 160 pages of his earliest work! Super-rare stories from 1954 and 1955 run the gamut from crime and humor to horror and science fiction. Also included is a previously unknown 30-page serial with Eric Stanton.

SC, 8x11, 160pgs, B&W $25.00

July 25, 2008

Substance #1 [1990]

SUBSTANCE was a concept created by Jack C. Harris and Steve Ditko, published for two issues in 1990 by Ray Zone's 3-D Zone. Zone also does the 3-D rendering, of course. The series stars Justin Smith, a district attorney who for reasons unexplained in the first issue has an "illumination netting" which allows him to turn invisible by bending light around him, with the limitation that he can't remain motionless for more than 15 seconds without turning visible. He uses this power to gather evidence against criminals who would otherwise get off unpunished for their crimes.

This first issue has a cover by Ditko, which is also printed as the 2-page centerspread, rendered in 3-D, and a 10-page Substance story, "The Spirit of Justice", where Smith has a case go sour, first from a recanting witness, then some evidence rejected by a judge since it was found in a car not covered by the search warrant. So Smith goes invisible as Substance to get some more evidence, including some which implicates the judge.

Also in here is a 1-page feature with the main characters and concept of the series (apparently evidence obtained "illegally" can be used as long as the police don't know it was acquired illegally. Yeah, I know, that might not actually be the case in most places in the real world), the black and white pin-up I chose as the page to illustrate this post, since I don't think the 3-D would translate to a scan, but just in case, put on your glasses now (glasses not included with post):

And the backcover is an enlarged panel from the main story illustrating the general concept.

Harris also provides an introduction, explaining his background with Ditko, first as a fan, then as a writer or editor on various projects at DC (Shade, Creeper, short sci-fi and mystery stories), then Star Guider in REVOLVER, pitching various proposals to publishers after that didn't get picked up until this one. Man, to see those proposals....

Anyway, this provides a good little taste of the concept, and Ditko's art looks pretty sharp, a bit more sparse than his normal for this kind of thing, but that might be for the 3-D. I can't really see 3-D effects all that well myself, but from what I can see they look nice. I was a bit disappointed because when I heard the concept of an invisible man in a 3-D comic, I thought the effect would be to only draw him to be seen by one eye when he's using his powers, and that isn't done here except for one panel on the feature page.

Several 1950s Ditko reprints from Charlton fill out the issue, all given the 3-D treatment. First a panel from Ditko's story "Botticelli of the Bangtails" in RACKET SQUAD IN ACTION #11 [1954], and the cover to that issue. Also the covers to RACKET SQUAD IN ACTION #12 [1954] and STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #19 [1954] and the 7-page story "Killer On The Loose" from CRIME AND JUSTICE #18 [1954], featuring police officers Tex and Barry of the Radio Patrol (anyone know if that was an ongoing feature, and these were recurring characters. This would have been Ditko's only story with them, I think).  It's a good little story, with the detail rendering typical of that early Ditko, but I can't help but think it was only chosen because it opens and closes with Tex and Barry talking about a 3-D movie.

July 24, 2008

Beyond The Grave #4 [1976]

Couple of unusual things for Ditko among the nearly 2000 pages he drew for Charlton from 1968 to 1978. First off there are three "Ditko" illustrations for the text story "Dead Slumber". From the information I have there are about six such stories where Charlton reused Ditko drawings for text stories (in this case from "A Grave Mistake" in BEYOND THE GRAVE #2 [1975]), sometimes straight, sometimes heavily retouched. Nothing too spectacular visually in this particular one, though the writing is a bit better than you usually find in this text stories, of the few I've actually been able to bring myself to read.

A few pages later we have Ditko drawing a single page story, also something you only see about a half-dozen times in this era, and again around 1976. "Potion Of Youth", written by Joe Molloy is about a pirate who decides he wants to stop ageing, and what happens. A pretty cool condensed version of the same kind of story you see in the longer pieces in these anthologies, and Ditko does a good job establishing the setting and characters quickly. A lot of these other 1-pagers aren't really stories, more anecdotes or vignettes.

July 23, 2008

Cracked #221 [1986]

Most of the Ditko's contributions to the long-running humour title CRACKED in the mid-1980s were short untitled stories in the "Robot War" series, like this 1-page job from #221, written by Mort Todd. I'm not sure if "Robot War" was something that other artists did as well for the series or it was unique to Ditko. Anyone?

I've only read this one chapter, but it seems the feature is MAD's "Spy vs. Spy", only with robots. In this case, a large robot chases a smaller one, who has dropped a book on transforming, in the sense that those toys from the 1980s that just won't go away did. Seeing the book, the large robot knows to be suspicious of anything the other robot could be disguised as, and finding a gun acts accordingly. But wasn't quite suspicious enough.

Very cute gag, and Ditko's work sells it nicely. The artwork is on what I think is called duotone paper (of maybe craftint), a look seemingly favoured by CRACKED (especially their main artist John Severin), and Ditko works nicely with the tones, using them for some neat visuals with the sound effects and backgrounds.

July 21, 2008

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #4 [1986]

This issue Ditko is given The Fixer to draw for Marvel's character profile series. Like Arnim Zola, the Fixer had appeared in a then recent AVENGERS ANNUAL that Ditko had drawn, so he had that going for him. Not much to say about it otherwise, except boy, I wish I could draw feet like that.

Joe Rubinstein inks, as usual.

--Link-- Ditko Fever

If you've got some Ditko burning up your brain, head on over to Brian Franczak's website, Ditko Fever, for the cure. "The Illustrated Steve Ditko Compendium", it says, and so it is, with listings and usually the cover (and sometimes relevant interior image) of just about everything Ditko you can think of. An invaluable reference. And also the on-line home for info on the recently revived DITKOMANIA fanzine.

July 20, 2008

Mr. A. - The Shirt

This ad that appeared in DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE [1991], and I believe some issues of CBG around that time, always cracks me up.

Why? well take a closer look:

You know you're hardcore when your stance on compromise extends to fabric blends!

I'm kind of sorry now that I didn't order the t-shirt. Anyone get one? Or the sticker? Mort, are you out there? Any chance there's a case of shirts sitting somewhere? XL preferably, but hey, I need a good incentive to trim down, so L will do.

And I still hope we someday see that origin of Mr. A. (I think one of the few images from the series to make it out into the wild is the one linked to here).

July 17, 2008

July 16, 2008

Marvel Triple Action #47 [1979]

MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION #47 [1979] is kind of an oddity. It's his first original work published by Marvel since 1966. During this particular stint at the company, where Ditko drew Machine Man, Captain Universe, Micronauts and a bunch of single issue things, he also shows up drawing the cover for this reprint of a late-1960s Avengers comic, featuring several b-list Avengers going up against some c-list villains. Nothing too spectacular, but a nice piece.  Looking at the original cover looks like they decided to reverse the angle, have the heroes facing out rather than the villains, and make the Black Knight more prominent.

--Link-- Me on STRANGER

My initial overview and reaction to STRANGE AND STRANGER is available here.

July 14, 2008

Splash - I Opened the Door to Nowhere

Some great detail on the door frame and the webbing, and of course some of the biggest Ditko hands you'll ever see.

originally from Journey Into Mystery #61 [1960]

July 13, 2008

July 12, 2008

--Link-- Buy Ditko's books

Long overdue, I've put together a list of the available volumes of Ditko's creator owned material published by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko over the last few years. The page is permanently linked over on the sidebar whenever you need it.

Currently nine publications are available, you probably missed at least one, so order early and often.  The page will be updated if the out-of-print volumes are reprinted and when new books are announced. Subscription info to Snyder's newsletter, THE COMICS, which sees frequent content by and about Ditko, is also on the page. A post with longer descriptions of the contents of each book, as well as the out-of-print books, should be up in a little while.

By the way, I usually don't care that much about links to here one way or another, but I'd appreciate it if you consider putting a link to that page if discussing Ditko anywhere, especially his creator-owned work or his published opinions on various topics, to give people an option to go to the source.

Dark Dominion query


I picked up a handful of early Defiant comics cheaply, and I noticed that the ad for the Dark Dominion #0 card set (first image above) has two cards that definitely appear, given the small size, to be drawn by the announced art team of Ditko/Leialoha, and which don't appear in the actual card set (the 150 card standard set, at least, I don't know about the insert cards), as well as the demon image which also seems to be Ditko/Leialoha and appeared in a promo for the series (second image above) that still said it would be Ditko/Leialoha mere weeks before it came out. I'm not sure about the third image, another early ad for the series, which has hints of both Ditko and Leialoha, but doesn't quite seem right, but that may be it being blown up larger than intended.

So, my question to those who paid more attention to the line than I did, is there any other Ditko artwork for the series that only saw print in promotional and advertising material?

Also, regarding the published card set, the 117-card / 26-page story definitely seems to be Ditko inked by someone other than Leialoha (apparently credited to Keith Wilson and Grey in a later issue). I'm not so sure about all of the 33 "character cards" that round out the set. Most of the fronts are definitely Ditko, others seem not to be, or heavily inked. The backs don't seem to have as much Ditko, but there are some images that definitely seem to be Ditko or someone trying really hard to make it look like it is, but the images are pretty small.The ad mentions other insert cards. 9 foil stamped cards with a hidden image viewable with a special lens, 4 cards with DD characters with other Defiant characters, drawn by both Ditko and the artists of the other books and, most surprisingly, 10 cards with original Ditko art. Given that contents of the set changed at the last minute, can anyone confirm if those extras exist as described? And given the success of the set, have any of those Ditko originals, if they exist, ever been seen, or are they probably buried in an unopened case in a warehouse or landfill somewhere?

Have I mentioned how stupid I think releasing a comic in this format is?

A cover gallery


Books published by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko (except THE LONELY ONE and OUT OF THIS WORLD, published by Robin Snyder), September 1988 to April 2008.  Most of them still available.

July 10, 2008

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #2 [1986]

Ditko pencils and Joe Rubinstein inks on another entry for Marvel's Handbook, this time a character he was quite familiar with, Captain Universe, the cosmic force which possesses and transforms various people in times of need to give them great power. Though the character/concept originated in an issue of MICRONAUTS not drawn by Ditko, the design is well suited to Ditko (he did design Eternity, after all), so he did well with the Captain's three solo stories in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (he would also draw the feature again a few years later for some short backups).

July 4, 2008

July 2, 2008

New Ditko - Strange and Stranger

The new Fantagraphics book STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO should be arriving in most comic book stores this week, and presumably shipping through other sources soon enough. That caps off a pretty busy half-year for Ditko related publications, with several hardcovers from Marvel with partial Ditko content, reprinting various aspects of his 1960s work, a "new" story in a DC book, a surprising re-emergence of Valiant with some of his 1990s work, the even more surprising return of the fanzine DITKOMANIA, and most surprising and important of all, THE AVENGING MIND.

The rest of the year looks quieter, other than Pure Imagination's book of pre-code Ditko (and those books can sometimes come out a few months later than scheduled), probably a few more DITKOMANIA issues and whatever might pop up from Snyder and Ditko with minimal advance notice.

July 1, 2008

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #1 [1985]

Ditko did seven entries in seven different issues for the second ("Deluxe") edition of Marvel's character index series, drawing the main character pose for a variety of characters that he usually had some recent history with. Joe Rubinstein inked all the entries for the series.

For the first issue, Ditko is called upon to draw one of Jack Kirby's most wonderfully bizarre characters of the 1970s, Captain America foe Arnim Zola, the Bio-Fanatic, a character who had graced a then-recent Avengers story that Ditko illustrated.


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