Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Amazing Steve Ditko

I just went to see the new Spider-man movie last night. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to all. It is a bit different than the Toby McGuire films. Andrew Garfield plays a slightly edgier quirkier Peter Parker. It is almost as if for old fans of the comics(not the films) the earlier three were based on the John Romita Spider-man. Romita took over art work when the original artist, Steve Ditko, left the title after I believe 38 issues. The current film has Spider-man and Peter Parker much more like the Ditko version. I read in Wikipedia that for Ditko Spider-man was autobiographical to some extent. So I included a picture of the artist from his high school year book. It is amazing how similar he looks to the teen age Peter Parker of his Spider-man comics.  I was 15 or so when I started to read comics again. On entering high school I had stopped reading DC. But I soon began to notice a quirkier brand of Superhero comic titles out. And I realized they were from the same company:Marvel. And for me as a teen ager, the title that immediately spoke to me was Spider-man. He was a teenager with problems, problems, problems.....And he had to deal with high school. I credit Marvel with getting me pretty much through high school...They allowed me to live in my own world. Which I still largely do.

Seeing these characters now in major blockbuster motion pictures with incredible cgi special effects, one cannot imagine in the early sixties getting perhaps even more from comic book pages written by Stan Lee and drawn by Ditko. I would stop by the local pharmacy on the way home from high school. It was usually under a graying sky with night approaching. Initially I would just read them at the news stand, and soon after began to buy them. Pictured above is Spider-man number 6, which introduced Dr. Curtis Connors/the Lizard. It was the first Spider-man I bought. I started reading them from about issue 3 which, I believe, was Dr. Octopus.......Issue number 4 was the Sandman. And issue 5 was a guest shot from Dr. Doom, who was by and large the heavyweight of the Marvel universe. And these comics would take me to another world which at the time was even more real than the world I was in. Thank you Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It is interesting that Jack Kirby, who was by far the main artist at Marvel then, absolutely could not draw Spider-man. Kirby's art was fantastic, broad lines, futuristic concepts, mythological with Thor. Ditko's art with Spider-man and Dr. Strange(another real favorite of mine) was very surreal by comparison, with finer edgier lines. I wondered if he would oftentimes go crazy having to put all those webs in every Spidey panel.

At the time these comics were definitely counter-culture. Spider-man was featured as one of the most influential people on college campuses. When I made a field trip to UC Berkeley the bookstore featured Marvel posters and had several of the characters on the cover of a campus magazine. In 1966 I actually got a letter published in Newsweek about Spider-man.

The new movie has Spider-man moving and fighting much more like he did in the early Ditko comics. So check it out. You can also go to comic book stores and get collections that have the original work by Ditko on Dr. Strange and Spider-man. They are worth the coin. And I haven't decided what I should do tonite. Go out to watch fireworks? Or see Spider-man again. This time in 3D or even Imax........


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