Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Steve Ditko's recent comic book covers

One of my favorite places to visit on Facebook is the DITKOMANIA Group. It's run by Rob Imes, the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DITKOMANIA, the zine dedicated to the work of comics great Steve Ditko.

The DM Facebook Group is fairly active, with members posting some of their favorite Ditko images as well as engaging in numerous discussions on the work of cartoonist Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, The Question, Mr. A). Ditko's comic career started in 1953, which makes him a 60 year veteran of the industry. He is, in fact, still producing new work today, usually averaging a new 32 page comic book every 4 or 5 months.

I'll often post or comment there myself, and in fact was going to share these images there. But I decided to post them here since I wanted to add some commentary. 

Ditko's recent output over the last 6 years consists of 32 page comics, printed entirely in b&w. Each book is in effect an anthology, with Ditko providing several stories in each issue. When looking back at the 18 issues, there are instances when some covers feature similar designs. Sometimes the books are printed consecutively, in one case there is a several year gap between when each issue was printed. I could speculate that some might be intentional choices on Ditko's part, since he doesn't really comment on his work in public. At any rate, here are the examples:

'Act 6', which is actually the 11th issue in the series, shares a similar design with #18: The cascading masks on the lower left corner and the character headshot in the center of the page, surrounded by images of the other stories in the book. These two issues were printed about 2 years apart, so I'd be curious if Ditko just fell back on this design choice or specifically recalled the original image when drawing the newer one. Also note the use of question marks in both images, a motif that Ditko had been using for decades.

Here we actually have two issues published consecutively, 
#13 and #14. These actually bookend one another nicely, with the design flipped from one book to another. Another Ditko trademark shows up on issue #13, the wide-open eyes surrounded by sweat and tears. The intensity with which Ditko portrays these type of eyes is haunting, and always works. 

As you can tell by the above examples, Ditko seems to take great joy in his titles and numbering for these comics. The ingenuity and playfulness of the design, such as the motifs he uses (I love the black cat & 'lucky 13' wording), really endear these comics to me.

Plus he really makes ample use of lettering, adding text and blurbs throughout the cover. Again, it seems very playful, as well as enticing the viewer to come aboard for an entertaining ride. He also seems to be fond of the word 'surprise'!  

Here's a last example of a similar design on two consecutive issues:

It's interesting that the top row of characters are almost the same on both books: The Cape, The Outline and Hero (except on issue #17 Hero is substituted for The Distorter).
The bottom characters change from The Madman to Miss Eerie. Note that both these characters are speaking, as well. Right before they pulverize some hapless criminal, no doubt!

Miss Eerie, by the way, is one heck of a character. My favorite of Ditko's current era. She's a Private Investigator named May Ero, who dons a grotesque mask and solves crimes as the the two-fisted Miss Eerie! Everytime I see her on the cover of a new book, I look forward to her latest escapes.

Even today, at age 85, Steve Ditko continues telling his stories, and bringing his signature creative design skills to the table. These comics, and many more, are available from Robin Snyder, Ditko's partner in publishing. I usually order direct from Snyder, as the books don't have wide distribution through comic shops (although there are stores that carry them). You can visit Bob Heer's site, DITKO COMICS WEBLOG, where he maintains a list of all current comics available from Snyder/Ditko, as well as ordering info and prices. So, if you're a fan of Ditko and want to support his efforts, visit that link and buy some of these comics!

1 comment:

Hildegarde said...

This is gorgeous!