As I was working on setting up this Blog site (a celebration of all things weird and wonderful in the grand artform of horror comics), I learned of the sad passing of absolute comics legend Steve Ditko. A brilliant comics artist who has remained prolific for decades, he began his career in the 50s producing incredible work on such titles as Journey into Mystery, Amazing fantasy and his showcase Amazing Adult Fantasy. He also, of course, co-created a little character called Spider-man.
Ditko’s work stands out like a beacon in those anthology titles, a strong fully realized style, a marriage of elegant line and clear simplicity of layout with an eye for noirish lighting and composition that was instantly identifiable. His stories grab from the first image to the last. He fully understood the key elements of mystery and suspense and even in his earliest work, there was an intensity to the imagery, a commitment to the dark worlds he was depicting that set him apart. Ditko had a great understanding of the medium: staging, pacing, character acting, all his storytelling gifts were top notch. We were drawn into the terrible plights of his characters, and what characters they were! Far from the “Central Casting” protagonists of other creators, Ditko’s people just weren’t that pretty, they seemed observed from people in the world around him and yet still a touched removed, filtered through his own unmistakable lens. They all belonged in the universe that Ditko had built, that mysterious, wondrous, paranoid and brilliant world we were so privileged to visit.
Here then is the first entry in this series that seeks to delve a little deeper into the art form we love so much, starting with an excellent entry from Journey into Mystery 94 called “The Gentle Old Man.” The first entry gives you a great view of the unvarnished original art, just as the artist intended, and included is the colored version as it appeared in its final form for comparison. Written by the estimable Stan Lee and drawn beautifully by the undisputed master, the late great Steve Ditko. RIP.