November 18, 2015

Marvel Comics Presents #14 [1989]

Out of 26 stories featuring The Masked Marvel with the Speedball effect by Ditko that Marvel published from 1988 to 1991, this 8-page story "The Feathered Felon" from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #14 [1989], midway through the 10-issue series run of SPEEDBALL, was the only one that Ditko inked himself, in addition to his usual plotting and penciling work (Jo Duffy provides the script). Comparing it to the other stories, that's a shame, since it's probably my favourite of the Masked Marvel stories. Most of the other inking on the character was acceptable, some of it was really not suited to Ditko's style, none of it was quite Ditko.

This is also a pretty fun story. The felon of the title is a mysterious bird creature which swoops down at random and steals various objects, including the briefcase of Robbie Baldwin's father, which has some documents essential for a case he's prosecuting. Robbie tries to use his powers to follow the felon, but a combination of his general lack of control and the sheer randomness of the felon make it difficult. There's a nice combination of super-heroics and Robbie's civilian life in this story, and a good look at a few of the major themes that pop up in many of the stories.

November 17, 2015

The Unexpected #221 [1982]

"Em The Energy Monster", a 9-page story from THE UNEXPECTED #221 [1982], is an unusual story in Ditko's work at DC.  Of the three dozen non-series stories he drew in the various anthology books, this is the only one Ditko wrote as well, and is in fact one of the few stories he did for the DC/Marvel where he was the sole credited writer.

This story features an alien who crashes on Earth and has the ability to animate any type of matter, and causes great destruction while trying to find a suitable body. Meanwhile, Dr. Bazom is in charge of efforts to stop the creature he's dubbed EM.

The concept of this story provides for some interesting visual ideas. You actually see a hint of the concept in a cover from over two decades earlier and would see it again in a story Ditko wrote almost a decade later.

The story is well-inked by Gary Martin, although the opening splash page (which looks like it was designed to be a cover, with a large space for the title logo) looks like Ditko might have inked it himself. Overall it's one of the most wholly satisfying of the short stories Ditko did for DC. Unfortunately this would be the last Ditko drawn story published by DC for several years (and going by story codes might actually have been drawn several years earlier) and the last Ditko written story ever at DC.

This was reprinted in THE STEVE DITKO OMNIBUS #1 [2011].

November 2, 2015

Doc Stearn...Mr Monster #6 [1986]

DOC STEARN...MR MONSTER #6 [1986], published by Eclipse, features a reprint of the 5-page story "Stretching Things" from FANTASTIC FEARS #5 [1954]. This Bruce Hamilton written story is one of the first Ditko stories to be drawn and published, and had been reprinted a few times before this (such as the 1970 fanzine FMZ #1, where editor Michael T. Gilbert's introduction mentions as the first place he saw it), but not in colour as far as I know. The colouring is some then-state-of-the-art work by Steve Oliff, and might be a bit over-rendered to my tastes, but doesn't look too bad compared to the original.

As I've said before, this is a great little story in both writing and art. You can see a lot of the little storytelling bits that would appear in more polished form in later Marvel and Charlton shorts.

Gilbert's introduction also includes a few bits of art that Ditko had drawn for the fanzine ALTER EGO in the 1960s.

Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 [1974]

While he wasn't doing any new work for Marvel in the early 1970s, you could count on a regular supply of Ditko from the company in the form of reprints, especially of his short fantasy and science fiction stories. Case in point, GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #1 [1974] has a reprint of "The Ice-Monster Cometh" from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #11 [1962], an entertaining 5-page story about Hugo Bogg, a jewel thief who hides his loot for years, and plans to use the local myth of an "Ice-Monster" to recover it.

Lots to like about this story. As usual, Ditko does well with the rustic European setting, and Bogg is a suitably weaselly looking ne'er-do-well.


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