Today the world was shocked to hear about the death of Steve Ditko, at 90 years old. Ditko passed away on the 29th of June, but his death wasn’t confirmed until today. Together with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he was one of the three pillars of Marvel. For a long time, Ditko did not get as much recognition as the other two. Here is an ode to Steve Ditko.
Who was Steve Ditko?
Ditko was born on November 2, 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Ditko’s father had a strong love for comic books, which fuelled Ditko’s own love for comics. Especially after the introduction of Batman in 1940, Ditko become increasingly interested. In 1945, he joined the U.S. Army and did military service in postwar Germany. This is where he drew comics for the Army newspaper, which were his first step into the comic book world.
Ditko learned that his idol, Jerry Robinson, the creator of Batman, taught and the Cartoonist and Illustrators School. Ditko enrolled and caught the attention of Robinson, who was impressed with his work. Robinson invited guest speakers to his class. One of those speakers was Stan Lee, who saw Ditko’s work for the first time.
After working as an inker on backgrounds for various companies, he joined Marvel (then Atlas Comics) in 1955. Lee and Ditko worked together a lot, and their stories were very popular. A while later, Lee received permission to create a superhero that was basically an ordinary teenager. He first approached Kirby to develop the character, but after a while, Lee found that he did not like the direction Kirby was taking the character. Lee turned to Ditko and the character of Spider-Man debuted in August 1962. After the initial success of Spider-Man’s appearance, he was given his own series, called The Amazing Spider-Man.
Ditko went on to create the character of Doctor Strange for Marvel, before he left after four years. Nobody really knows why Ditko left Marvel, but it is said that him and Stan Lee hadn’t been on speaking terms for a while before his departure.
He worked at DC comics for a short while, as well as other studios. He did return to Marvel, but retired from mainstream comics in 1998.
Life in the shadows
From the seventies onwards Steve Ditko declined to do interviews or public appearances. He preferred his work to do the talking for him, which differs greatly from Stan Lee’s approach as the charismatic face of Marvel. As time went on, he became very reclusive. In the end, only a few people were allowed to see and meet him. He kept working in his Manhattan studio and it is unknown how much work he has left behind.
In 2007 Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman made an hour-long documentary called In Search of Steve Ditko where some of the industry’s greatest artists like Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Jerry Robinson and even Stan Lee talked about him. If you are interested in the documentary, you can find it here.
Steve Ditko may not have been as well-known as his peers, but he has undoubtedly contributed to the joy of many with his great work and characters. He will be missed greatly, but his legacy will live on. Thank you Steve for all that you’ve done. We will always remember you.