On Friday I received my copy of DITKOMANIA #77, the long-running zine dedicated to comic creator STEVE DITKO (Spider-Man, The Question, The Creeper, Mr. A).
Cover art by Dave Sim, creator of CEREBUS, the legendary self-published comic book.
I contributed several pieces to the new issue (my second time as a contributor). Besides providing an illustration of THE MOCKER (from Ditko's 1980s graphic novel) for my friend Michael Aushenker's DITKOTOMY column, I also wrote my own article titled "BLACK & WHITE & READ ALL OVER". Basically it's an appreciation of Steve Ditko's latest comic books (published over a year's time) and what I see as the value inherent in those works. While they're not everyone's cup of tea, there's much in his newest works that I enjoy, particularly the way he'll create brand new characters and introduce them in 5-8 pg short stories, often several in one 32 comic! I created an illustration for my own article:
From the top, counter-clockwise, that's The Cape (yep, it's just a cape flying around fighting crime!!), Miss Eerie (my favorite new Ditko character) and The !? (Nope, that's not a typo! His name is... "!?").
Rob Imes, the publisher of DITKOMANIA, had mentioned to me that the inside front cover was available if I wanted to create a piece for it. I was more than happy to, and in fact did two pieces. The first one I did I decided not to use, choosing to go with a more dynamic composition. But as an exclusive here on the Javzilla blog, I'll share it:
The Hero is from Ditko's 2008 comic "DITKO, ETC". I ended up drawing a piece with The Hero fighting his nemesis, Villain .(I love how Ditko went for the clear-cut obvious name for his protagonist and antagonist!)
I got two things out of contributing the zine. One was just being an active member of Ditko fandom. I never had a problem with wearing my interests/influences/obsessions on my sleeve. Contributing to a talk about one of my favorite artists always sparks more talk and discussion and debate, which is always stimulating for me.
The other thing I got out of actually drawing some of these Ditko characters was a realization of how much influence his art has had on mine. And before I get a flood of comments about "Hey, you ain't no Ditko, ya goldbrick!", let me say that I agree! What I'm saying is, for example, when I drew these characters, I was trying to not copy one of Ditko's images, but I was trying to construct the figures the way he does, as I wanted my drawings of, say, the Mocker or Miss Eerie, to look Ditkoesque.
As I'm drawing these characters, I'm remembering how Ditko bends the fingers on their hands, or how he establishes the placement and angle of the mouth and eyes on the faces, or the 3/4 view of a cheekbone. And as I'm doing this, I'm realizing it comes almost instinctively to me to draw that way, obviously from 35 years of reading his comics and really tuning in to how he draws people and landscapes and objects. When I'm drawing my own comics, I think I try to somewhat inhibit those insticts because I don't want my own work to necessarily look Ditkoesque. It's got to be my own work. But underlying that is the plain fact that I've taken certain cues from the way Steve Ditko draws, and some of that influence will find it's way into my own comics. But yeah, I'm nowhere near being a Steve Ditko!
The other night I took from my bookshelf my SPIDER-MAN Omnibus (a 1000 plus page book reprinting Ditko and Stan Lee's entire 38 issue run of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and my DR. STRANGE Masterworks (reprinting the Lee-Ditko run) and leafed through the pages. Didn't read much, but I just soaked in the artwork. The phenomenal storytelling in the panel-to-panel, page-to-page pacing. The quite scenes between Peter Parker and girlfriend Betty Brant, the sometimes intricate, sometimes erratic fights choreographed between Spider-man and his enemies, the inside-out atmospheric surrealistic landscapes from Dr. Strange....
I sometimes feel myself climbing into those brightly colored pages and feel like I've reached Nirvana. Some people would just say that they're 'just comics'. If only they knew...
Here's some sketches I made of Spidey's amazing foes, in all their inspired, Ditkoesque glory:
If you'd like to see all the artwork I did for DITKOMANIA, as well as read my article and the contributions by others, consider supporting the zine by buying a copy, or get a subscription and get Ditkomania delivered as new issues are produced. Tell Rob Imes that you heard about it on Javzilla! Link for the info is here: DITKOMANIA
And if you want to get some periodic online Ditko news, here's a great blog that posts old comics and news on upcoming publications on Ditko, The Ditko Comics blog.
Also, don't just read about Ditko, read Ditko! The Ditko Comics blog has a page featuring all the current Ditko books in print from publisher Robin Snyder. I myself am waiting word on the imminent release of the new comic, A DITKO ACT TWO!
I will, of course, also be contributing to more issues of DITKOMANIA.