March 29, 2009

Battlemania #5 [1992]

This is the final issue of Valiant's licensed WWF wrestling comic, Ditko having drawn one of the two stories for every issue. In this case, "Justice For All" is a 20-page story featuring Sid Justice, a good-natured farm-boy type, going up against the vile Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Laura Hitchcock writes and Charles Barnett III inks.

The story opens with Justice settling down for some milk and catching up on the Arkansas Farm Journal. His apartment is pretty funny in the opening page, with a butter churn, some gardening equipment, a basket of vegetables, a bookcase with a gaslamp, what appears to be a lot of moonshine, various models of farm equipment and animals, some family photos and for some reason a TARDIS model (okay, a police box, but I don't think they actually make models of those that aren't tied-in to Doctor Who, and I don't think they have them in rural Arkansas). Anyway, his housekeeper opens a package, which turns out to be a cobra, which Justice makes short work of. Since his housekeeper broke her glasses in the commotion, and refuses to accept a handout from Justice to pay for them, Justice goes to get the money from the man logically responsible, Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

The resulting quest for remuneration takes Justice to battles with The Snake at the gym, a rooftop (with, hey, a water-tower!), the streets and finally the snakehouse at the zoo before justice finally prevails.

This is surprisingly good, maybe the best of Ditko's BATTLEMANIA stories. The faces lack a certain Ditko-ness, presumably to keep them on-model to the actual wrestlers, but the body language is all there, the story structure follows the classic Marvel formula that Ditko had a hand in defining, "The Snake" is very much shown as a Ditko villain in the style of Kraven, and the fights in the various locales are very well done, especially the rooftop and the zoo. Not a masterpiece by any means, but you could do far worse in looking to sample Ditko's late-period for-hire work.

March 27, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Botticelli of the Bangtails

The award-winning* series of early Ditko stories continues. See for the full list.

(*not really)

From Charlton's RACKET SQUAD IN ACTION #11 [May-June 1954] comes "Botticelli of the Bangtails", an 8-page police/crime story by Ditko. The detectives in this story are J. J. O'Malley and Steve Pryor, who were on-going characters in the book, though this would be the only time Ditko drew them (his only other contribution to the title would be the cover to the following issue. The focus on this story is on the outlaws, though, and the horses, as Manny Sherman, after losing big on the horses, comes across an artist painting portraits of horses and comes up with a ridiculously elaborate scheme to counterfeit race-horses and clean up on the bets, first disguising an everyday nag to look like the favourite, then the favourite as an unknown underdog. It all blows up in the end, though, and O'Malley is there to pick up the pieces.

Some nice work by Ditko on this one, with good distinctive designs for the various villains of the piece, great square-jawed heroic police detectives and some good work on the horses. The flying art supplies in the last page are a nice touch to bring back the art theme of the story.

Ditko also draws the cover to this issue, which in a rare occurrence for his early covers, actually goes with the story he drew for the issue.

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 material (including his latest comic, OH, NO! NOT AGAIN, DITKO!) and over here for info on recent and upcoming publications from all publishers, and check out Rob Imes' revival of DITKOMANIA, the Ditko fanzine, now accepting PayPal.

Click images to enbiggen.

March 26, 2009

New Ditko - The Ever Unwilling essay

THE COMICS Vol. 20, No. 3 [March 2009], the latest issue of Robin Snyder's newsletter, features a 2-page essay by Steve Ditko, "The Ever Unwilling", which is his clearest statement yet on the issue of the identity of the Green Goblin and its (non)-relationship with his departure from Spider-Man.

Ordering info, plus a list of available prior issues of THE COMICS with Ditko content (including his 16-part 2001-2003 "Mini-History of Spider-Man"), over here as always, along with Ditko's in-print and upcoming co-publications with Snyder.

Specifically, since someone asked me to clarify (and since I want to have it somewhere for easy reference), the "Mini-History" can be found in these issues:

The Comics v12 #5 [May 2001] - A Mini-History - Some Background
The Comics v12 #7 [July 2001] - A Mini-History Part 1 - The Green Goblin
The Comics v12 #10 [October 2001] - A Mini-History Part 2 - Amazing Fantasy #15
The Comics v12 #11 [November 2001] - A Mini-History Part 3 - The Amazing Spider-man #1
The Comics v13 #1 [January 2002] - A Mini-History Part 4 - The Amazing Spider-man #2
The Comics v13 #4 [April 2002] - A Mini-History Part 5 - The Amazing Spider-man #3
The Comics v13 #5 [May 2002] - A Mini-History Part 6 - Spider-woman/Spider-girl
The Comics v13 #8 [August 2002] - A Mini-History Part 7 - The Amazing Spider-man #4
The Comics v14 #2 [February 2003] - A Mini-History Part 8 - Others, Outsiders (OOs): Complainers and Complaints Against Betty Brant
The Comics v14 #4 [April 2003] - A Mini-History Part 9 - The OOs and Aunt May
The Comics v14 #5 [May 2003] - A Mini-History Part 10 - The OOs and JJJ
The Comics v14 #6 [June 2003] - A Mini-History Part 11 - Further Complaints and Influences of the OOs
The Comics v14 #7 [July 2003] - A Mini-History Part 12 - Guest Stars: Heroes and Villains
The Comics v14 #8 [August 2003] - A Mini-History Part 13 - Speculation
The Comics v14 #9 [September 2003] - A Mini-History Part 14 - The Mistrial
The Comics v14 #11 [November 2003] - A Mini-History - Wind-up

March 24, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - A Nice Quiet Place

List of all of these posts over here :

From Charlton's STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #19 [1954] comes this 6-page crime-suspense thriller, "A Nice Quiet Place", featuring two bank robbers who head to a remote cabin to lay low until the heat is off, but of course meet their fate due to the all round lack of trust.

Not a great story, but Ditko does very well with what he's given, though he's still a bit rough around the edges. I think the middle tier of page three works really well, showing off Ditko's early style of handling clothing and shadows, and a lot of the panels of the mountain lion look really good, very primal and vicious.

[Full story now available in the Snyder/Ditko publication MURDER #22, so only first page included below]

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 some Ditko comics go over here for ordering info on his available creator owned material co-published with Robin Snyder (including several new books from the last year and some upcoming stuff) and head over here for info on all recent and upcoming books with Ditko from all publishers.  And be sure to check out the revived DITKOMANIA from Rob Imes, currently running bi-monthly and with some great art and articles.

Clickening images enables embiggening.

March 20, 2009

Secrets of Haunted House #45 [1982]

Steve Ditko draws the 8-page story "Star-Trakker", written by Stan Timmons, in this issue of what was DC's then-quickly dwindling line of genre anthology titles. The fact that this is a science fiction story in one of the ghost/mystery titles suggests that they were using up the various inventory they had from cancelled titles like MYSTERY IN SPACE.

This is a really nice little story, opening with some mysterious scenes of a creature lurking the in Louisiana swamps, and a government agent named Stone sent down to take care of the situation, as we gradually get clues to what's really going on. Some tight writing and a very nice unexpected twist at the end.

Since a lot of the story is told in captions, Ditko's are really gets a chance to shine, with some nice panels to set the mood, especially in the swamp scenes, and some really good work on the action sequences.


March 19, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Moment of Decision

List of these early Ditko stories, and links to them if they're posted, over here.

This is a rather unusual story among the work of Ditko's first few years in comics.  Appearing in Charlton's SPACE ADVENTURES #11 [1954], along with two other Ditko stories and under a Ditko cover, "Moment of Decision" is the only one page story Ditko did in the era. It's pretty good for all its lack of space, with a good space-ship design and alien landscape in the first panel, some creepy aliens in the second panel and then some tense action with a wrap-up where the art supports the story point. An excellent job all around.

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. For comics on paper first head over here for ordering info on his available creator owned material co-published with Robin Snyder (including his new book, OH NO! NOT AGAIN, DITKO and the upcoming DITKO ONCE MORE) and head over here for info on recent and upcoming books with Ditko from all publishers, including the recently revived DITKOMANIA, #71 now available, and now accepting PayPal for subscriptions.

Click image to embiggen.

March 18, 2009

Ghostly Tales #117 [1975]

Ditko draws "Gremlin in the Cockpit", an 8-page story by Joe Molloy. An American plane is shot at during WWII, with most of the crew bailing out as the pilot takes it down in the mountains. The crew go to find the plane, which has landed perfectly, but inside find the pilot dead at the controls with a broken neck. One of the crew spouts some nonsense about Gremlins, but the others don't believe it, fix the plane and take off. As they fly into a storm, the Gremlin suddenly appears and attacks the crew, only to be killed by the ghost of the captain, brought back by his love for his crew.

Not one of the more inspired stories of the mid-1970s, and the first half doesn't have much of visual interest either, but the story makes up for it in the last few pages when the Gremlin appears, looking suitably demonic, and then the fight with the heroic fighter pilot ghost. That stuff is golden.

March 16, 2009

Where Creatures Roam #5 [1971]

This issue contains a reprint of the 5-page "He Waits in the Dark" from TALES TO ASTONISH #24 [1961].  In a run-down tenement building in Europe, a janitor laments the sorry state of repairs, and quits when the landlord, who lives in luxury, refuses to spend any money fixing the place. A mysterious new man takes over the job, and makes some repairs on his own, then gives the landlord a chance to change his ways.  That doesn't happen, of course, so the new janitor sends the tenants away and waits in the cold and dark until the landlord, in his quest for his rent, enters the building and is condemned to stay with it forever as both blink out of existence.

Kind of a vague morality play, but a lot of things worth noting in the art. Ditko really sells the poverty of the tenants contrasted with the luxury of the landlord, and the cold and dark really comes through.  That sequence at the bottom of the page below really works well, the deep shadows with just enough detail to create a sense of impending doom that you know is coming.

March 11, 2009

Adventure Comics #467 [1980]

This issue features the debut of Starman, the last regular feature Ditko would draw for DC. Created and written by Paul Levitz and designed and penciled by Ditko and inked by Romeo Tanghal, the creative team for all 12 chapters of the story.

"First Encounter" sets up the premise of this space opera deftly in its 9 pages, serving as a teaser for the whole series, making sure to at least briefly show all six of the characters who would be regulars and hint at their backgrounds and relationships while still telling a self-contained story (in fact, back when this first came out I started reading the series with the next issue, and it was some years before I finally got this first chapter, and while it's enjoyable the series isn't written so that this chapter is essential). In this story Starman, flying through space unaided by a ship or suit, rescues a distressed spaceship. Boarding it, he's greeted by Lord Oswin, and we see that Oswin has a prisoner, Jediah Rikane, who had been on a mission for the new Empress when he discovered that Oswin was plotting against her. After Oswin tries to keep Starman on the ship by force to discover the secrets of his powers, Starman rescues Jediah and they escape from the ship and go to Starman's home base where they meet his mysterious comrade, the alien Mn'torr.

The story is obviously partly inspired by the then-recent success of STAR WARS, but has enough new or drawn from other common influences. Ditko's design for the main character is very good, obviously similar to his original Captain Atom design, and the other characters are distinctive. Tanghal is solid on the inks, not quite as good as Ditko's own inks on books from the same era, but not losing much of the Ditko flavour.

Ditko also pencils half of the cover, with the other half featuring the other featured star of the issue, Plastic Man, as penciled by Dave Cockrum, with Dick Giordano inking both. It's the only time Ditko's art was on the cover in this run, and unless I'm mistaken the only time Giordano ever inked Ditko.

March 1, 2009

Questar #2 [1978]

 Ditko writes and draws a 6-page story for this issue of William G. Wilson Jr.'s SF/fantasy magazine, this time debuting "The Destruction Agent". It's a frantic and dense little story about the attempt of Spago, an agent of the dictator Zenek, trying to get the security codes to the planet Atn, using his traitors he has on the inside. Young Captain Brash is fired from the security unit for voicing suspicion that there's a traitor and gets some experimental devices from Dr. Veg that enable him to follow Spago to his base and then defeat Zenek's armada.

This is a good example of Ditko's science fiction work of the era (and with some obvious similarities to SHADE, which he was likely still working on or had just wrapped up when he did this). Not a lot of time available for characterization or explanations, some interesting twists and some great artwork (which is reproduced much better here than in his colour work at this time).  Check out some of the detail in those panels, the ships in the space armada, the feeling of depth in the last two panels. Really prime Ditko stuff.

Ditko's work appeared in the first five issues of QUESTAR, including the "Cosage" story in #1.


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