Alter Ego #160 September 2019 (magazine review).

September 1, 2019 | By | Reply More

As promised by editor Roy Thomas a few months back, the latest issue of ‘Back Issue’ is dedicated to comicbook artist/creator Steve Ditko (1927-2018). We all know Ditko’s reputation as being elusive but even from Thomas’ editorial, he came over as being sensitive and responded to early American fanzines by supplying material from time to time, as long as you respected his privacy.

The lack of communication between himself and Stan Lee meant the most crucial stories like The Master Planner/‘If This Be My Destiny…!’ in Amazing Spider-Man # 31-33 and the Dormammu sequence in ‘Doctor Strange’ in Strange Tales # 131-146 was never discussed and use still revered today. Now that is unique, even if Ditko finally left over the lack of communication. Reading here, I get the feeling Stan Lee didn’t want to offend Ditko and the impasse just developed out of control. Never under-estimate that Steve Ditko was as important to the development of the Marvel Universe as Jack Kirby on crucial characters.

Going into Nick Caputo’s history of Ditko’s career, a lot more depth is given and the number of publishers he worked for with lots of samples of his artwork. Assessing his early work, there is a simplicity of line, yet when you discovered he also inked the likes of Kirby, it becomes understandable that he varied to the needs of the job. Looking at the range of characters he worked on, especially in the early Marvel period goes beyond the two noted above, more so as he created ‘Doctor Strange’.

He also designed the second Iron Man costume which ultimately became the template for all that followed. For Charlton, he recreated the Blue Beetle but The Question was totally his own, and both were a major influence on ‘Watchmen’. At DC Comics, ‘The Hawk And The Dove’ comic and, of course, the Creeper and Shade The Changing Man were all his. There’s certainly some diversity there. If you’ve got an extensive 1960s-80s comicbook collection, there you will certainly have a fair share of Ditko material in it.

Ditko’s contribution to fandom is shown when he did a written interview with Mike & Rich Howell and Mark Canterberry for ‘Marvel Main’ fanzine back in 1968. Later in life and turned pro, Richard Howell notes that Ditko could be argumentative. Reading between the lines of this interview, it becomes obvious that Ditko was more concerned with art than anything else and wasn’t necessarily judgemental on people.

There are three pieces from people who stayed in contact with Ditko over the years that should give you some insight into him. Ditko liked his privacy but was equally knowledgeable and opinionated. Whether he would have liked to have been talked about after his death does raise a few questions but I don’t think he would have realised he was so well liked. Then again, I think he would have just retreated into his studio and get some more drawing time in.

Just in case you think this issue is all about Ditko, we have another section of comicbook writer John Broome’s memoirs and the second part of Bart Bush’s interview about the first Oklahoma comicbook conventions. An interesting fact is that they were the first to get Buster Crabbe as a guest and started his appearances elsewhere, much to the delight of his fans. We also have memorials to Fred Patton (1940-208) who contributed to keeping account of comicbook history, Hames Ware (1943-2018) with ‘Classics Illustrated’ and comicbook artist Vince Argondezzi (1960-2018).

I do think P.C. Hamerlinck was pushing it a bit far imagining what would have happened had Ditko worked for Fawcett. Apart from wishful thinking as Ditko didn’t, this did tend to come over as filler and might well have made sense for him to keep to his own subject as a contrast to the rest of the issue.

Undoubtedly, you are going to come away with knowing a lot more about Steve Ditko than you did when starting this issue. Maybe not as much as you would like to know, but you have to respect anyone whose most successful characters are known world-wide who manages to keep out of the public eye himself.

GF Willmetts

August 2019

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.46 (US))

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Category: Magazines, Superheroes

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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