Thursday, November 02, 2006
Happy Birthday Steve Ditko
Legendary comic book creator Steve Ditko turns 79 today! Co-creator of Spider-Man, this amazing artist is one of comic's great storytellers. Born in 1927, Ditko's unique stlye literally set the standard for Spider-Man. One of my all-time favorite comic artists, Ditko captured my imagination when my brother gave me his collection of comics when I was about 8 years old. Among the comics where several reprints of Ditko Spideys. For the next 32 years (or thereabouts) I've been in love with his singular vision and individaulistic approach to comics art. By the late 1960s, after having helped revolutionize comics with Marvel's Silver Age renaissance (such as co-creating Dr. Strange with Stan Lee), Ditko abruptly left Marvel for DC Comics. Over the next 20 years or so, he would rotate between the two companies while working on established titles or creating new characters.
He also self-published some personal works in the 1970s, establishing himself as one of the first 'indie' artists! In the 1990s onwards, he's concentrated mostly on comics of a personal nature, often creating experimental storytelling devices. Ditko has such a strong independent streak, considering he's co-created one of the most commercially succesful pop characters of all time! When I found out after a few years of creating El Muerto that he shares the same birthdate as the character, I realized that karma does indeed exist! A few years ago, several of my friends asked me why I hadn't written him. I was always in such awe of the man that it wasn't something I thought I could do. But, I realized if I didn't write him, I might regret it later. So, I obtained his address from a friend of mine and wrote Steve Ditko a short letter. Basically I shared with him how much his work has meant to me over the years, and that as a neophyte indie comics creator myself I admired the steadfast individualism he's shown in his career.
When I opened my P.O. box one day a few weeks later, my heart literally skipped several beats when I saw his letter. I was actually going through minor hyperventilation as I walked to my car! His letter was hand-written in pencil (!), with a slight slope as his hand moved to the right side of the paper. He thanked me for my words and also for the copy of El Muerto that I had sent him. Basically he mentioned that all art, regardless of mainstream or self-published, must meet certain objective standards. If you know Ditko, then 'objective standards' is par for course! To this day, that letter remains a treasure. I'm sure he's written thousands of letter, but there's only one he's written to me!