Jul 8, 2018

In Pace Requiescat: Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko (November 2, 1927-June 29, 2018) has passed away. Known mostly as the co-creator of Spider-Man, he had a storied career that encompassed multiple companies and properties, including his own, until the day he died. In light of this, the Cube got together and said something about one of the greatest artists of all time.

In Pace Requiescat: Steve Ditko
Comics Cube Roundtable

Ben: I remember getting the Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks as a kid, and even without realizing yet that comics were made by specific people, I was absorbing that the early Spider-Man comics had a specific look and style.

I’m grateful to him for all the characters and stories, I wish I had a chance to thank him. But most of all, without him, Spider-Man would have been your standard Kirby bruiser with powers that came from a magic ring. He had an impact on the entire world through artwork and storytelling.

JD: I think Amazing Fantasy 15 is the Mona Lisa of comics.



Matt: Yeah, I’m torn. The guy could create amazing art in the medium, but his personal beliefs were abhorrent. A duality in himself he denied in his later creations. I do respect his absolute desire to not engage with the fandom.

Duy: There is a part of me — the part of me that is governed by my personal taste in comics — that wants to put Ditko at the top of the rankings for the greatest comics creators of all time, over Jack Kirby. By saying that , I know I've derailed my own premise, because I can't talk about Ditko and his legacy at length without talking about Jack. Even the thing he's best known for, Spider-Man, debuted with a Jack Kirby cover that he inked. 

But I love his work, and I love his peaks even more than I do Kirby's. He was the perfect complement in Silver Age Marvel. Where Kirby brought the power, the impact, and the heroism, Ditko brought the motion, the movement, the neuroses. I think it's harder to emulate Ditko than Jack; you have to be keyed in to a certain frequency.

Ditko's personal beliefs made me uncomfortable; his comics espousing those beliefs — from Hawk and Dove to the more personal comics he'd make in his later life — made me cringe. And it's hard for me to reconcile such a conservative, presumably atheistic man drawing so many things that look like he'd been influenced by hallucinogens, and bringing to life metaphysical concepts such as Eternity, the embodiment of the universe. But create them he did. He created Dr. Strange, which seemed to me, to be more about exercising the limits of your imaginations than actually developing a character. He created the Creeper, who seemed to come out of some hysterical daydream. He created Captain Atom, the Blue Beetle, and the Question, and from the Question came Mr. A, all of whom led into the creation of Watchmen, a comic that changed comics in 1986, the same way Steve Ditko changed comics in 1962. He created offbeat characters such as Speedball and Squirrel Girl, and even did a couple issues of WWF Battlemania, which was a huge plus for a wrestling nerd like me.

But most of all, he created my favorite superhero of all time, and his rendition remains my favorite. It's amazing how much of Spider-Man changed once Steve Ditko left. The edge was gone for sure. But his Peter Parker remains my favorite version for the stuff that he brought and originated. Even my favorite Spider-Man artists since Ditko left are the ones who would tap into some of that neuroses and that weirdness, whereas most artists would tap more into the commercialized John Romita version. We're talking Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Steve Skroce, and Marcos Martin; for me, those are the true descendants of Ditko.

If you want the perfect Spider-Man story, read Amazing Spider-Man #1-33. You don't need to go beyond that. That's enough.



Miguel: Without Steve Ditko, I wouldn't be the same person as I am now. He and Stan Lee taught us that with great power must also come great responsibility.

Travis: A genius of comics, who spent his life making them the way he wanted. The more he cut loose, the more I loved his work, his compassionate, experimental, fearful, brave, unyielding comics.

Peter: Rest in peace. The man may be gone but his impact lives on. I know my life is definitely much more interesting because of his work.

LaMar: My first experience with Ditko's work came from his lesser known properties-I was a Creeper and Question fan as a child and I got a lot of those comics from flea markets and thrift stores-but it's weird because his Spider-Man was the one I liked the most, but the third or 4th I encountered (Romita, 70s show and Electric Company). His Dr. Strange was the one I had the fondest appreciation of though, and to this minute it's my favorite iteration of the character. Very rarely do you cone across, in any media or medium, the sort of unreckless recklessness and sense of far reaching scoped integrity that can be found in those books.

But even more than the characters he created, I admired the way he, as an artist and as a man, chose to exist on his own terms. That level of self-definition always made me feel like it was up to the world to fit around me, more than it was about me fitting into it, and it's a place that fewer of us seem to have the audacity to even reach for. I may not have agreed with most of the personal convictions he held, but that one we could definitely meet in the middle on. 

He gave the best of himself, assuredly, in his art. And when I say that I don't mean he put forth his best effort, he literally offered up the greatest aspects of himself, seemingly without fear, right on the page if nowhere else. If he did nothing else, if you took away everything else as far as his accomplishments and his place as a master of the medium, that one thing is enough.

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