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STEVE DITKO

Steve Ditko photoSteve Ditko has long enjoyed the reputation as comics' J.D. Salinger, said Chris Arrant at robot6.comicbookresources.com, “ — rarely releasing new work and eschewing the modern notion that creators engage with fans and press. Stan Lee, he's not,” Arrant concludes with what I imagine must be a satirical sneer: Ditko, who had more to do with creating the Spider-Man character than Lee, quit Marvel ostensibly because he could no longer get along with Lee, who, Ditko realized, was claiming all the creative credit for the Marvel Universe. Since then, Ditko has maintained a stoic silence on his life and his career at Marvel.

But recently, Arrant reports, “Ditko has written several essays about Spider-Man in various independent publications. ... Earlier this year, Ditko published an essay called ‘The Knowers & The Barkers’ in his comic book #17: Seventeen, and a second just popped up in the comic fanzine The Comics Vol. 23 No.7, published by Robin Snyder, Ditko's former editor at Charlton and Archie. This second essay, ‘The Silent Sel-Deceivers,’ reportedly runs a page and a half and features Ditko addressing the creation of Spider-Man.

“In this essay,” Arrant continues, “Ditko discusses the original take on Spider-Man by Jack Kirby before Ditko was asked to come up with his own interpretation of Lee's idea for a spider-based hero. These pages, which Ditko says number five in total, have never been published or seen on the original art market. Lee, in a 2000 interview for Greg Theakston's The Steve Ditko Reader, said he rejected Kirby's work as ‘too heroic.’ On several occasions, Kirby later claimed he contributed many ideas that ended up in the character's formal debut in 1962's Amazing Fantasy no.15. Ditko talks about that in this essay, as well as Lee's own contributions to the Spider-Man concept.”

Ditko’s fugitive essays, which promise much, are often disappointing. I’ve read a smattering of these over the years in Snyder’s newsletter, and Ditko employs a high-fallutin’ vocabulary of abstract expressions and arcane buzz words that he often fails to fasten securely to the actualities he seems to be discussing — like what, exactly, was his contribution to the invention of Spider-Man. He garbles on about “art” and “creativity,” championing both and sometimes asserting, through a generous deployment of these terms, that he was the creative artist on Spider-Man. I don’t question that, but I always hope he’ll say as much in unequivocal, ordinary language, minus Ayn Randian locutions.

Details on ordering the books containing these essays, and seeing Ditko's modern cartooning work, can be found at the Ditko Comics Blog.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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