The world of comics and comic art lost a legend with the June 29 death of Steve Ditko, who has the unusual distinction of being one of the most beloved and revered comic artists of all time … and unquestionably underappreciated.
Just about anyone who recognizes Ditko’s name knows him as the co-creator of The Amazing Spider-Man, one of the most popular and internationally recognizable comic characters ever created. The first original artist in the Marvel Comics series, through the first 38 issues of the Spider-Man title, Ditko teamed with Stan Lee in 1962 to create the web-wielding wall walker who undeniably has a place on everyone’s Mount Rushmore of superheroes.
But to suggest that Ditko’s impact on comics lies solely on the popularity of Spider-Man would be doing the artist a considerable disservice.
Ditko, who was 90 when he died, teamed with Lee to create countless supporting characters, from Daily Bugle publisher/editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson to Peter Parker’s love interests, like Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy, and a slew of villains, including Dr. Otto Octavius (a.k.a. “Doc Ock”), Green Goblin and Kraven the Hunter.
Enshrined in both the comics industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (in 1990) and in the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame (in 1994), Ditko produced artwork that extended well beyond the webs his most famous character fired from his wrists. He and Lee also co-created Marvel’s Doctor Strange, another superhero who first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in 1963. Doctor Strange serves as the Sorcerer Supreme, the primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats, and was created during the Silver Age of Comics to bring a different kind of character to Marvel.
Ditko also worked for DC Comics, where he created such characters as the Creeper and the team of Hawk and Dove, a pair of superhero teenage brothers with opposite attributes and personalities who reflected Ditko’s interest in politics. He also did work for Charlton, where he helped create Captain Atom and the Question before he resumed working with what had become the Marvel Comics Group.
Not satisfied with merely telling fantastic superhero tales, Ditko pressed the boundaries of traditional comic artwork, delving into mystic art, complex spacescapes and alternative planes of existence.
But for all of his other characters and projects, Spider-Man always will remain the character for which Steve Ditko is known best. His partnership with Kirby and Lee on the Spider-Man title forever changed Marvel Comics, and superhero comics in general.
Visit our comic department to view upcoming auctions and to browse our auction archives.
Written by: Steve Lansdale