Spider-Man Co-Creator Steve Ditko (1927- 2018)

A short time ago, a comic book giant passed away. Not one of the MCU characters that got Thanos’s Death Snapture; this giant was a comic book artist. Not just any comic book artist. He was Steve Ditko.

Known to many as Spider-Man’s co-creator, Steve Ditko was also part of the first decade of the creation of Marvel Comics. His main character contributions and sequential issue work are Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, but during Marvel’s initial years, he also drew plenty of issues featuring Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Iron Man, along with issues of The Avengers, and all sorts of double feature issues.

Comic book creations and pop culture relevance is by now well ingrained in the minds of moviegoers and audiences worldwide. people now understand that many superheroes began as characters seen in published comic books. Newsprint paper, four-color separation and halftone color patterns were props behind the stage. Distributors and retail stores were their curtains and the hands and eyes of those who bought these issues were the audiences. Comic book fame spun off into animated and live-action TV shows, video games, movies and merchandise. The most profitable characters were the superheroes.

Among this web of inter-related media was the thread of the creator. Someone had to come up with the story Someone had to come up with the character design – the color and shape of the costume and character faces. Someone had to come up with their signature moves.

There has been much discussion in the past as to what degree of involvement Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had in creating Spider-Man. How much of Spidey was adapted from Jack Kirby’s initial design? How much of Spidey was in Lee’s brief written synopsis? What was Ditko’s actual contribution in regard to the amount of content – character designs, costumes designs, characterizations, signature moves, etc. ? It’s a discussion that may never be resolved.

For a character who is arguably the world’s favorite Marvel Comic character, his origin is still unclear even though he was introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15. Back in 1961, Marvel Comics Publishing Group was such a loose and flowing House of Ideas, that any iteration which lead to the creation of the Spider-Man look we all know and was only loosely documented. Some of it was Kirby. Most of it was Ditko and approved by Lee. But there’s no doubt, the look that Ditko presented is a handmade costume, big eyes, a webbing motif on the red portions of the costume, and mechanical web shooters. Ditko had a penchant for quirky action poses and Spider-Man’s signature poses no doubt came from Ditko. None of Kirby’s characters moved like that. All of Ditko’s characters moved kind of quirky and not quite natural. His landscapes ranged from urbanely gritty to fantastical. The distinctive realms he drew for the Dr. Strange stories have been compared to Salvador Dali paintings. The characters’ look for both hero and villain were all Ditko. Even the “surfer dude hand sign” which is used by both Spidey and Dr. Strange is a signature Ditko design.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Marvel Mythbuster

stan lee

Amidst all the celebration of Marvel Comics’ 75th anniversary is the notion that famed writer Stan lee singlehandedly created the entire lineup of the Marvel Universe. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

His biggest collaborator in the early days was Marvel Comic’s co-creator Jack Kirby. Kirby was not only the dynamic, genius penciler with fantastic layouts and renditions, he was more than a co-plotter on stories “written” by Stan Lee.

Stan allowed his artists to plan out the full issue after just speaking with them for a few minutes or having a one kirbysentence plot. It was up to Jack to find the action, the comedy, the tragedy, the pacing and the tone as he was also creating the art. So, by saying that Jack was a co-plotter is not giving Jack enough credit. Together Stan and Jack created the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and all the supporting characters and villains that appeared in those books during Marvel’s origin years- the early 1960s. Stan also had other collaborators too, such as Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, and he had a similar working relationship with Ditko.

As the Marvel universe began to take shape during the ’60s, which was known as the Silver Age of comic books, other artistic collaborators followed– Gene Colan, John Buscema, Bill Everett, Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, all embellished upon the house of characters that Jack, Stan, and Steve built. So for accuracy’s sake remember as we celebrate Marvel Comics’ 75th anniversary, although he was a critical part in the formation of the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee did not create the Marvel Universe all by himself.

 Steven L. Walterson

The Avengers Assemble to Celebrate Fifty Years Of Teaming Up

 

perez avengers

“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were bornto fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, thenfor now, the Avengers Assemble!”– Monthly prologue inserted in every issue of The Avengers

Most fans know the story behind Marvel Comics’ famous group of superheroes, the Avengers. In the early ’60s Marvel’s rival DC Comics had a huge hit with their own superhero team the Justice League of America (JLA). In a desire to compete with JLA’s strong sales, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman directed editor Stan Lee to put out their own brand of superhero comics like The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men. Thus, the creation of what general readers know as The Marvel Comic Book Universe was in progress. The popular storylines readers love about Marvel hadn’t been written yet, but the Marvel characters were just created and began their journey of adventures while inhabiting a shared Marvel universe. As successful as these comic books were, the company didn’t have an equivalent to the JLA. In other words, a comic book that featured their most popular heroes teaming up against a huge threat.

avengers issue 1To remedy this, Stan worked with his long-time collaborator, co-plotter and penciller Jack Kirby to create the Avengers. When Marvel published the first issue of The Avengers Marvel found its equivalent to JLA. Right before the Avengers were created, Marvel had popular heroes like the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man and so it was feasible to do a team-up book since these core members would make a good fit as a team. The comic book was a huge hit with readers because of a formula it followed. The main characters, like the Fantastic Four, didn’t see eye-to-eye with each other. In fact, they fought each other, starting with the very first issue when the Hulk was attacked by the other founding members (it was all part of a ruse engineered by Thor’s wicked step brother Loki). But in the end, the heroes would put aside their differences to battle a force that each of them couldn’t handle alone. What’s more is that these heroes had character flaws, as all heroes from the original Silver Age roster of the Marvel Universe. This contrasted dramatically from the members of the JLA- who were viewed by readers as perfect personalities with no character flaws. Plus, it didn’t hurt that fans loved the famous battle cry “Avengers Assemble!” made by the team.

Enter Captain America

Still, as successful as the book was, Lee and Goodman knew something was missing. There wasn’t anyone who had the ability of keeping the team together; there was no strong leader. They needed someone who had a long-established history to be part of the team. Enter Captain America; co-created in the 1940’s by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby. Cap’s greatest run at that point, was in the 40’s, when he was popular as a patriotic superhero. But after WWII, sales dwindled for his comic books and he only appeared in comic books occasionally during the 1950s. His return to the Marvel Universe in issue 4 of The Avengers is not just a pivotal moment in Avengers history but in comic book history as well. This was because he is a pop icon who symbolized what was best about America and his heroics dated back to World War II.

His induction into the team changed the tone of The Avengers, too. The stories had more depth and introduced a fish-out-of-water element. What also became apparent is that Captain America was a natural leader and he helped usher in the next important change to the title.

Changing Lineup

Somewhat of a hallmark today for The Avengers is the title’s ever-changing lineup. Lee realized that it was difficult to have so many popular characters in The Avengers while they had their own adventures in their own titles. It was hard to keep up with the continuity and in the end might dilute their popularity. So it was decided to remove the popular characters except for Captain America. The question was who would replace the superstars? In The Avengers #16, photo3Captain America needed to bring in new recruits after the core members left the team. They ended up being Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. These choices were out of the ordinary because at that time, they were more known for being villains. Adding to that dilemma was that Hawkeye’s abrasive attitude served as a perfect foil to true-blue, all-American Captain America. Previously, he would give out orders and no one would question him, but now Hawkeye would do so, which added conflict. This element was a big hit with readers and made the book even more successful and reinforced the winning formula: likeable heroes who bicker, but in the end use teamwork to defeat a common foe. Continue reading

Top 10 Stan Lee Cameos In Marvel Movies

One of the highlights for any Marvel film are comic book creator Stan Lee’s often humorous cameos. Some are better and more memorable than others. These are his best appearances to date in Marvel superhero films.

10. Security Guard With His Partner, Hulk: One of the very few highlights in this film was seeing Stan Lee and Lou Ferigno together as security guards who pass by Bruce Banner. And he actually has lines to speak unlike earlier cameos (and screaming “Look out!” as debris falls in Spider-Man doesn’t cut it).

9. The Pickup Truck Driver, Thor: During a segment where New Mexico locals try to move Thor’s hammer, Stan tries using his pickup truck to loosen the mystic weapon out of the ground without any luck.

8. Man In The Park, The Avengers: In the film’s final moments there is a media montage with reporters interviewing New York citizens about the Avengers. Stan is park visitor who scoffs at the idea of the Avengers. In his too-short appearance he remarks, “superheroes in New York? Give me a break!”

7. Army Officer, Captain America: The First Avenger: Stan Lee plays an army officer at an awards ceremony for Steve Rogers. After Rogers is called to accept the award,  a diminutive official informs an announcer that Rogers won’t be attending. Stan mistakes this guy for being Rogers and comments, “I thought he’d be taller.”

6. Man Drinks Hulk Juice, The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood accidentally spills into a juice bottle in a bottling plant that is later drunk by Stan. He reacts immediately to the drink and mutters “wow.” According to reports in the film, the juice had quite a punch!

5. Stan Lee As Hef, Iron Man: Now is Stan supposed to be playing famous Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner or is he only mistaken for Hef because of his wardrobe and gorgeous entourage? The debate goes on with this funny scene where Tony Stark addresses him as Hef when Stark arrives at a function.

4. Willie Lumpkin, Fantastic Four: Stan Lee actually plays one of the characters that he helped create in the Fantastic Four. Only fans of the comic book will recognize Stan as the Fantastic Four’s lovable mailman Willie Lumpkin; in the cameo he delivers overdue bills to Reed Richards in the Baxter Building.

3. The Librarian, The Amazing Spider-Man: His most recent appearance is a very funny one. A heated battle between Spider-Man and the Lizard spills over into Peter Parker’s high school library. Stan Lee plays an oblivious librarian to the chaos behind him because he is listening to classical music on his headphones.

2. Stan Lee Tries To Crash A Wedding, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer: Reed Richards and Sue Storm are holding a posh, invitation-only wedding in Manhattan. Stan Lee is prevented from attending by an usher because he’s not on the guest list. It was his funniest appearance and a recreation from Fantastic Four Annual # 3 where he and Jack Kirby aren’t allowed into the characters’ wedding.

1. Stan Lee Meets Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3: Peter Parker in the middle of swooning over himself early in the film encounters Stan as they both admire a news blotter on New York’s buildings about Spider-Man. He looks at Peter and tells him “I guess one person can make a difference. ‘Nuff said.” This is Stan’s best line spoken in these films and sums up a poignant philosophy that is at the core of his stories. Also, unlike other cameos it’s prominent and memorable.

On that note, one thing keeps glaring out with these cameos. Co-creators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko aren’t featured anywhere in these films. Of course, Kirby is no longer with us but they could at least feature a landmark named after him. Wouldn’t it have been cool if the Thing passed by the corner of Yancy Street and Kirby Avenue? Or if Peter Parker attended the Ditko Art Exhibit? Something the filmmakers can think about for future films.

Check out this video that features Stan Lee’s cameos:

José Soto