September 17, 2008

It Stalks the Public Domain - A Hole in His Head

Another dose of early Ditko.

BLACK MAGIC was a horror anthology published by Prize and begun in 1950 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, still the editors at the time BLACK MAGIC #27 [v4n3] was published, dated November-December 1953. It's the first of three consecutive issues with a story by Steve Ditko early in his career, probably drawn after the three previous entries in this series, though this one was probably (with the usual caveats about cover dates) published before some of them. In addition to his solo stories, Ditko also assisted Mort Meskin on inking the background of the Jack Kirby pencils for CAPTAIN 3-D #1 around this time, and likely some other unpublished 3-D comics.

The 6-page "A Hole in His Head" is a good example of early Ditko, already getting to a distinctive style, but a bit rough around the edges.  Compare the not-very-convincing rain effect on several pages, something Ditko would excel at soon enough. And is that a real gun there on the last panel of page 3? Still a lot worth looking at, the neanderthal man is really good (but possibly retouched/redrawn, maybe by Jack Kirby, in a few panels), and some of the faces are very evocative.

The last page of the story has a rather unsightly ad where there could have been another panel of story. Since it's long out of date, I've replaced it below with an ad which might be of more interest.

Most scans in this series 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 available creator-owned works to see the opposite end of his career and over here for info on recent and upcoming publications that cover everything in between.

Comments welcome, and if you have a site of your own I wouldn't mind a link to these posts if you think your readers will enjoy them. I'm more likely to continue them if there's some evidence that people are reading them.

Don't squint trying to read these thumbnails, click and enjoy the embiggened versions.


  1. Looove that gun. Draw without references, I bet. :)

    Also, take a closer look at the nostril area of the skull. Also incorrect.

  2. Umm . . . how did he shoot him right between the eyes . . . from behind!

    The gun was cool & inventive. The story and layouts a bit problematic.

    And what is up with that last panel?? So odd. Did the story end there or was there another panel they decided to delete?

  3. Was that gun a 4-shooter or a pellet gun? ;-)
    And why did they assume the woman killed the two men, especially if they couldn't find the bodies? Ah, well...

  4. There are other stories in Prize books of the era with similar last panel ads, so I think it was drawn like that. I guess there could be a missing panel (probably the second last one, with the final one shifted over) but it doesn't feel like there is.

    The caption does say the creature "wheeled in its tracks", so presumably he got off several shots from his fancy four-barrel gun (seriously, what is that thing?), one of which was right between the eyes, but yeah, the staging could have been a lot better.

  5. You are right -- apparently those comics were devised wit that empty last panel for a small as.

    I wonder of Joe Simon had a piece of the pimple biz!

  6. Regarding that last panel, there's a different version of that last page in Strange Suspense that has a caption about Martha being institutionalized, but how that doesn't explain a newspaper article that appeared recently, and then a big blank space for whatever said article was supposed to be.

  7. I've just watched a 1951 episode of "Lights Out" called "And Adam Beget" (on a DVD from Netflix). I would say that this story (with great Ditko art) was certainly based on the Lights Out episode.

    "That skull had a hole in it--a little, round, smooth hole--a bullet hole."

    Michael from

  8. P.S. Here is a youtube posting of the episode:

    It was taken from an earlier 1939 radio play by Arch Oboler.



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