Today marks the birthday of legendary comic book artist Steve Ditko. Born in 1927, Ditko studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson at the Cartoon and Illustrators School in New York, and went on to give birth to some of comics’ most profound and lasting creations.
Ditko’s accomplishments in the comic book field are endless but he is perhaps best known for co-creating the characters of Dr. Strange and Spider-Man. The former debuted in Strange Tales #110, instantly becoming a icon for college students and the counter-culture movement of the 60’s due to its surreal mystical landscapes and psychedelic visuals, which resembled the hallucinogenic quality of drug use. Ditko denies such artistic aids, and Dr. Strange remains a watermark of artistic achievement in layout and panel structure.
The latter creation, Spider-Man grew to become Marvel’s multi-billion dollar earning flagship character. Ditko (sharing co-creaor credit with Stan Lee) infused Spidey’s early adventures with its crucial teen appeal, depicting a unique hero that was infinitely relatable and human, while imbuing his alter-ego with a physicality both contorted and unnerving. Both aspects of the character were arguably lost when John Romita Sr. began work on the title (after Ditko left for unexplained reasons), and many fans and creators – Alan Moore included – felt that the character never regained both its relatable and alien edge.
Ditko also created a catalogue of other characters, including Hawk & Dove, The Blue Beetle, The Creeper, The Question, Captain Atom and Shade The Changing Man among them. Famously reclusive in the later years of his life, Ditko still resides in New York City, but refuses to be interviewed, stating that his work and not his personality is his gift to his readers.
As a chief architect of the modern Marvel universe, his influence today is huge. Collections of his timeless work can be found in every good comic shop. Pick one up to see just what a talent Ditko is, and remember his impact on the industry.
Happy Birthday, Steve Ditko, from the whole Comic Booked team!