June 3, 2009

It Stalks the Public Domain - Cover Gallery

And no look at Ditko's 1953-1955 career would be complete without a look at the following 20 covers, all published by Charlton. While he was still fairly new in the business, Ditko clearly earned his place as a cover artist in 1954, delivering a number of classic images (including seven books that he didn't even have an interior story in, and even of the rest the cover was more often than not unrelated to Ditko's interior work).

But first the usual links:
Buy Ditko's creator-owned work
Subscribe to DITKOMANIA
Check out new and upcoming Ditko publications
Download public domain comics, likely including those that these covers are from

Listed in roughly the order of publication. My comments below, and click, as always, to embiggen:

The Thing #12 - Possibly Ditko's first cover (usual caveats about the trouble matching cover dates to release dates), illustrating a key moment from the story "Cinderella" in this issue in more detail and with added horror. He also signs it, "S. J. Ditko", I believe the first time his name appeared in a comic. Also one of the rare times he used that middle initial.

This Magazine Is Haunted #16 - No Ditko interior. And really, none needed. Oh sure, I'd like to read a Ditko illustrated story about underwater revenge seeking zombies as much as the next guy (and wouldn't that be the best issue of TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER ever), but what are the chances that it would live up to the brilliance of this cover?

Space Adventures #10 - Unrelated to Ditko interiors. Ditko goes from horror on the first two to some classic sci-fi of robots on the rampage. Not bad, but a bit weaker than the horror covers.

The Thing #13 - Illustrating "Library of Horror", one of three Ditko stories from this issue. Some key Ditko work in the future would involve mystic books of forbidden knowledge, and that starts right here, with some great demons.

Racket Squad in Action #11 - Illustrating "Botticelli of the Bangtails", a cute little crime story from this issue, with a nice mix of the art, horse-racing and crime themes from the story.

Space Adventures #11 -Unrelated to any of three three interior Ditko stories. This is a much better sci-fi cover than the previous issue, seeming to show off some influence from the EC artists of the time, like Wood and Williamson. In addition to the obvious monster squid, note the smaller but still deadly fish in the middle, and the weird alien plants in the foreground. Space is a weird and dangerous place.

Strange Suspense Stories #18 -Unrelated to either of the interior Ditko stories. One of the less effective ones. Some nice elements, but the sweat looks like an afterthought, and while you can see the attempt, doesn't really deliver the feeling of wind like Ditko would soon be more than capable of.

This Magazine Is Haunted #17 - Unrelated to the three interior Ditko stories. Another weaker effort, with a not-too-scary monster, and not too much of interest. I do like that door frame in the background, though.

The Thing #14 - Ah, back to covers related to the interior, with this one presenting a scene from "Inheritance" of monsters on the loose in ancient Egypt. I think it says something about Ditko's covers for THE THING that this is the weakest of the five, and is still magnificent.

Strange Suspense Stories #19 - Unrelated to the Ditko story inside, and another case where that's just as well, since this is a classic bit of artwork that stands nicely on its own.

The Thing #15 - A cover to go with the story "The Worm Turns" appearing inside. Much as I love those stories of Konga and Gorgo, I think this is the definitive Ditko "monster on a rampage in a city" image.

This Magazine Is Haunted #18 - Unrelated to the interior Ditko story, this is a scene from a non-Ditko story. And again, a weaker than average cover among this set. The Thing really did seem to get first choice of covers before Dr. Death. Must be because the Doc came over from Fawcett.

Space Adventures #12 - No Ditko interior, and a great goofy sci-fi cover with an EC feel.

Racket Squad in Action #12 - No Ditko interior, a generic crime cover which is nice, but a bit overdone.

Strange Suspense Stories #20 - Unrelated to either of the Ditko interior stories, though the jungle theme does match one of them. Not a great one, but I do like the recurring skull motif on the villain, and in general it seems that Ditko is getting close to the archetypes which would serve him well in the 1960s (does that girl look familiar?).

This Magazine Is Haunted #19 - No Ditko interior. Not a bad illustration, but I always have trouble reading that the figure is bursting out of the page. Ditko does have the fog effect down after a few early missteps.

Strange Suspense Stories #22 - No Ditko interior. It's not a bad generic horror cover, but the more I look at it and compare it with the other covers of the era, the lower I rank it. Maybe it's just those weird squared-off thumbs...

The Thing #17 - No Ditko interior, and in this case that's kind of a shame, because there's clearly a story to be told here. Well, specifically, I want it to be a story where this guy battles Doctor Strange, but this is almost a decade early for that. Still, great cover

This Magazine Is Haunted #21 - No Ditko interior, and a step up from the last few issues of this title, though not quite up to deep-sea zombies. Some nice detailed linework there.

From Here To Insanity #10 - Unrelated to the Ditko interior story, and Ditko's only cover from 1955. Like the story inside, a rare glimpse into the wackier side of Ditko, and pretty decent. The angle of that arm holding the net looks a little painful, though.

So what's your favourite? Tough choice for me, but I'll go with THE THING #15, at least today.


  1. I would vote for The Thing #13, followed by The Thing #17. Both are beautiful examples of Ditko's work and illustrate some of his best themes. Most of the covers shown here are outstanding though, and it is difficult to pick a favorite.

  2. At the moment, Strange Suspense Stories #19 is a favorite.

  3. I like the covers of Strange Suspense Stories #19 (execution cover) and This Magazine is Haunted #19 the most. The latter cover is pretty simple but very much in Ditko's balanced style, where we see the main character up and center, manipulating the page by punching thru it, with the old house on one side and the lamp on the other. It has the look of a layout that Ditko came up with himself, rather than being instructed on what scene to draw. Is the invisible man "The Thing" host of the title? I thought the Thing was an unseen off-panel voice.

  4. SPACE ADVENTURES #12 has my vote, just for the look on the alien's face. The sexy Ditko gal don't hurt none, either.

  5. I agree with Anonymous on the Thing # 13 and 15, although for a guy just starting out, there are very little duds here. Ditko certainly hit the ground running and learned very quickly. His use of close up faces brought mood any emotion to the scenes.

    Nick C.

  6. I'd seen all of these before, but it's something to see them all in one place, and with some nicer scans than I'd seen before.

    If I had to choose a best, I think SPACE ADVENTURES #11 would be the first one I'd spend a dime on if I saw them all on a spinner rack in 1955.

  7. Have to go with The Thing #15 as my favorite (with the sexy girl & monster cover of Space Adventures as 2nd). They are all great- would love to own 'em all, of course,

    Have to disagree re:Racket Squad #12. I love it- I can just almost feel the explosion!



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