August 3, 2008

It Stalks the Public Domain - Stretching Things

I was tempted to call this feature Ditko Public Domain Package, modified logo and all but that felt wrong somehow...

And apologies to Batton Lash, from whom I just realized I stole the name I did use.

Anyway, since a few dozen publishers are getting in on the act, I figured this site might as well feature some lapsed copyright classics.

"Stretching Things" was written by Bruce Hamilton and drawn by Steve Ditko and first appeared in FANTASTIC FEARS #5 [1954], published by Four Star Publications (comic book company names being fluid back then, this was one of the names to appear in the indicia of publisher Robert Farrell's comics, which are commonly referred to as Ajax-Farrell). Bruce Hamilton later explained that he had sold the script to a company called Stanmor in 1953, which was in the habit of reselling the better stories in their inventory. As far as can be determined, this is the first story Ditko drew bought by a publisher, although a few others were published prior to it (comic book cover dates in the era being as fluid as publisher names, even that can't be determined with any certainty).

It's a wonderful little story by Hamilton, with some nice twists in its quick five pages, and Ditko does an excellent job bringing it to life. Page three in particular shows a lot of the storytelling that became Ditko staples in the fantasy stories for Charlton and Marvel in the years ahead, with the contrast with the shadows and the way the litter in the wind adds a sense of movement and depth. The printing is pretty horrid, proving Charlton was hardly the bottom-of-the-barrel in those days, but the work transcends those mundane limits.

Scans adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, go over here for ordering info on his creator-owned works and over here for info on recent and upcoming releases from all publishers.

Let me know if you like this and would like to see more of these. I've got access to at least a dozen such stories, so one every few weeks should be good if there's interest.

As the prophets said, click to embiggen.


  1. Was this guy good from the beginning or what? Look at that splash page. Aside from the montage what strikes me is the little details that add personality such as the crooked lampshade. Ditko is truly a master storyteller.

    Nick C.

  2. I remember reading this story several times in my gave me the creepy-crawlies then, and it still does to this day. This would have made a good episode of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE or a similar show.



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