The world of comic book fandom is mourning the loss of one of its greatest founding fathers, Steve Ditko. When it comes to his contributions, there’s so much more to the man than the fact that he helped create Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, as most articles are stating is the most important aspect of his career. Although these characters are extremely crucial to the world of comics and blockbuster films, his life should be explored further.
While growing up in Pennsylvania, Ditko’s fascination with comic strips was sparked by his father. His first love was Batman, as well as Will Eisner’s The Spirit. This passion carried into his military service in Post-War Germany, where he drew in a newspaper geared toward American soldiers. After he was discharged, he was under the mentorship of Batman artist Jerry Robinson, and by 1953 he was working in the field professionally.
During this time he began writing romance and science fiction stories to make money and gain recognition and received an opportunity to work with two other legends in the field, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He then began working in many different genres of storytelling, including mystery and horror, but took a hiatus when he contracted tuberculosis and returned home to recuperate.
After four years of praised and amazing work, he left the glory of Marvel apparently due to a falling out with Stan Lee. Stories have detailed that the argument was based on a disagreement revolving around the Green Goblin, but Lee’s said in the past that the two never had an actual friendship out of the workplace.
When Ditko returned to drawing for Charlton Comics, he had a bit more artistic freedom and began appointing his Objectivist views into his work, which stemmed from his appreciation of the words of Ayn Rand. These beliefs prompted him to create Mr. A while crafting tales for Blue Beetle, The Question and Captain Atom.
Two years later, he made the move to DC Comics and brought life to characters The Creeper and also Hawk and Dove. When he once again returned to Charlton, he also worked for smaller independent companies but bounced from DC and Marvel, a time in his later career where he gave readers Shade, The Changing Man and would breathe new life into already established stories and characters.
From the eighties on, Ditko began to provide work for Eclipse, Dark Horse and a final return to Marvel, which helped re-establish properties like Namor and give fans oddball but highly popular creations like Squirrel Girl. When he disappeared from the thankless spotlight of illustration and storytelling, Ditko was a recluse by choice who believed that his work spoke for him. He rarely gave interviews and turned down many film premieres and public events.
Ditko was never a millionaire for his care and time, but his contributions echo through many years of the page, animation, merchandise, film and now the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He helped shape so many of our imaginations and is one of the main reasons we’ve loved escaping to these stories since we were children. His tales have become modern mythology, and the man himself will sit eternally upon the Mount Olympus of creation.
From all of who were inspired to create, or simply those who had their minds sparked when it comes to the characters that you helped craft, RIP Steve Ditko, and thank you.