Friday, November 02, 2012

Steve Ditko turns 85

Steve Ditko turned 85 years old today. With a career spanning nearly 60 years, the legendary comic book artist continues producing new work even today.


The original artist and co-creator (along with writer Stan Lee) of SPIDER-MAN, as well as DR. STRANGE (for Marvel Comics), Ditko when on to create plenty more comics and more characters throughout his decades long career.

I first became a fan of his work when my older brother Albert handed me a collection of Marvel Comics he had collected in the late 60s/early 70s. Ditko's artwork stood out from the bunch, a peculiarity to the way he drew caught my eye. It was good old fashioned super-hero art, but it had a uniqueness to the way it was crafted. Of course, as a kid I didn't word it that way, but I was aware of his particular style fairly quickly.



Flash forward to the early 2000s... By now I had a few years under my belt as a self-published cartoonist. And my love for Steve Ditko's work hadn't waned at all. If anything, as an artist and publisher, I admired him on other levels as well. I'd tell friends of mine that I got so much inspiration from Ditko as an artist and as a creator who often would rather publish his own work through a trusted individual like Robin Snyder as opposed to the editorial-heavy publishers he had worked with in the past.

So my friends one day told me "Well, why don't you just write him and tell him how you feel?" It was that simple! Why the heck don't I just write him!?

So, I composed a brief letter, telling Steve Ditko how much I admired his comics as a kid, and as I got older I eventually published my own work. And I cited his inspiration in doing things exactly how he chooses to do them and the heck with second-guessing what the 'public' might want. I even sent him a copy of my comic book EL MUERTO. I certainly didn't expect him to read the book or review it, but I definitely wanted to give the man a gift to thank him for all the decades of pure enjoyment his work has given me.

A few weeks later, I open my P.O. Box on my weekly visit and see an envelope. And I pull the envelope out I see my name scrawled across the front, with Steve Ditko's stamped return address in the corner....


I clearly remember breathing quicker and my hand trembling as I brought the letter closer to my eyes. He wrote back! I was quite aware at that time (2003) that Ditko was a very private person, not doing any interviews or personal appearances since the late 1960s. But he was known to write people back. Not an 'anti-social recluse' as many people have commented, just a person who prefers his privacy and wants only his work to speak for himself.

Upon opening the letter, I slowly read, and reread Steve Ditko's letter to me.

  
That he thanked me for the 'copy of El Muerto' was just the icing on the cake! Note the letter is signed. Ditko never signs comics or gives out autographs to fans, but in the context of writing a letter, he includes the traditional signature. What a total old-school, class act. Professional through and through.

On this blog, I've often written about Ditko, and will continue to do so, no question. But for now, I'd like to end this post by sharing with you a one page comic I created a few months ago on Steve Ditko. A brief auto-biographic comic. You can go to my Deviant Art page for a larger image. Just open the link here, and once you see the image click on it once and it'll enlarge for a readable version.


 One last piece of art I'd like to share (which I actually finally finished this morning after leaving it aside for months!). An homage to that great Spider-Man Vs Mysterio image at the top of this post (from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Annual #1, 1964). This features two of my comic book characters, EL MUERTO and THE COMA:


 I've always loved the original image, as not only is Mysterio (and Spider-Man) one of the most uniquely designed characters Ditko has ever created, but the way he bends the character's bodies to fit the composition above all else is so great. The way both characters are invading one anothers space is very climatic and bold. It's a true superhero comic drawing: Everything is made to make the image look dynamic, regardless of how much he has to distort the figures and skewer the composition to fit what the artist has in mind.

So I basically substituted my characters for the originals, and added the Coma's interdimensional environment as background. But I really wanted to mimic the original composition as a creative exercise. I do these type of homages because I want to free myself from the way I usually work, to temporarily try a study of another artist's dynamics. Hopefully I then learn something in the way of creative composition & figure drawing, which helps me stretch my own skills. Plus it turned out to be a pretty neat image!

Thanks Mr. Steve Ditko, for the almost 40 years I've been enjoying your considerable body of work. Happy Birthday!

No comments: