Alter Ego Collectors’ Item Classics (book review).

I did wonder when I started ‘Alter Ego Collectors’ Item Classics’, if I’d read any of the three ‘Alter Ego’ issues before. I have actually read them, and for the record, they are from #160 for Ditko, #161 for Stan Lee, and #170 for Jack Kirby because I reviewed all but the first one.

The paper versions are sold out, and it has been a while since I read them. I have less memory of the Ditko issue, so I ended up re-reading it. I should also point out that there are three previously unpublished interviews with all three, plus an extra article on Kirby, so I will be reading them in context. It never hurts to be reminded of things. The opening history of Steve Ditko shows how he developed his skill set.

If you want the original links:-

Alter Ego # 160:

Alter Ego # 161:

Alter Ego # 170:

In many respects, Ditko had always worked for a variety of comic book companies and contributed elements to all of them. Obviously, Spider-Man and his villain set and supporting characters are visually all of his designs. The same goes for Doctor Strange and his villains. He also redesigned Iron Man into his lean red and gold costume. With DC Comics, he created ‘Hawk And Dove,’ as well as the Creeper and The Question. I also found it interesting he was creating characters for other smaller companies as well. He was very productive in his ninety years.

An early interview Ditko gave to a fanzine back in 1968 showed him to be a considered, deep thinker. His comments on poll preferences and why I don’t really give them much credence is because they change depending on who is voting for them. In my comic book fandom days, I proved the point that the winner of the fanzine award would always be the one conducting the poll. Ditko was less concerned about any celebrity status and more with letting his work speak for itself.

The Stan Lee issue of ‘Alter Ego’ is still fresh in my mind, so I jumped into the new extra, a 1968 interview with Stan Lee at Rutgers University. It was interesting to note how Stan mentioned how few writers he had at the time and how they and the artists spread themselves around to fill gaps when people left or weren’t suitable to fill the monthly/bimonthly quota.

The same also applies to the Kirby issue, so I’ll focus on the extras. The first is a letter interview with English student and Brit Peter Smith back in 1976, whose focus is more on Kirby’s background and influences, plus a dose of the King’s storyboards for the ‘Fantastic Four’ animated series. This is followed by a new piece by writer Shane Foley having a look at Kirby’s work in the 1960s.

If you missed these three or any of the ‘Alter Ego’ magazines the first time around, this is probably a good way to get them, literally under one cover. Plenty of art to dwell over, as well as insight into all three creators.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 255 page illustrated softcover. Price: $35.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-116-5. Direct from them, you can get it for $35.95 (US))

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