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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spotlight on the Legendary Steve Ditko Part 2

When Steve Ditko left Marvel due whatever differences he may have had or with whom, he continued to work for several comic publishers. He returned to horror magazines and drew more than a dozen stories for Warren Publishing's Creepy and Eerie comics.

His 1st artwork on the title of Creepy was issue #9, and that issue also shares Wally Wood's 1st work on the Creepy title also. Overstreet notes that horror comic issue as having "low distribution". Steve's first artwork on the Warren Publishing Eerie magazine might be in issue #3 of the 1966 series.

Ditko also returned to the character of Captain Atom that he helped co-create over at Charlton Comics and created two more characters under the publishing company. In 1967, Ditko revamped the Golden Age character of the Blue Beetle. This Silver Age version Ditko created was Ted Kord, a former student of Blue Beetle Dan Garrett. 

Instead of drawing super-human powers from Vitamin 2X and later a mystical scarab, Ted Kord had no powers but was a genius level inventor. In his origin story, Garrett did pass the mystical scarab to Kord but Kord could not figure out how to make it work.

I suppose even super geniuses can't figure everything out. In later comics, the scarab ended up being alien technology anyhow.

Not surprisingly, Ted Kord as this new version of the Blue Beetle made his debut in Captain Atom #83 and would start off as a back up feature before gaining his own titled series.

Like many Charlton characters, Dikto's Blue Beetle would later be bought by DC Comics, and Ted Kord would become one of the premiere minds in the DC Universe. He first debuted under the DC banner in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1. Later, as a member of the Justice League, Kord would form a fan-favorite friendship and partnership with Booster Gold. They would be affectionately referred to as the Blue 'N Gold. 

Ted Kord would later be a friend and mentor to Jaime Reyes, the newest incarnation of the Blue Beetle. No, Ditko did not have a hand in Jaime Reyes creation, but to say that Kord's version of the character did not influence Reyes to some extent would be darn right brash.

Shortly after, Ditko introduced another comic character by the name of The Question under Charlton Comics also. This character also had no super-human powers as well and debuted in Blue Beetle #1.

Ditko has stated that The Question is a "comics code" or more acceptable version of his earlier creation Mr. A who was published prior in Wally Wood's indie comic title witzend. Mr. A debuted in witzend #3.

Both Mr. A and The Question were controversial and had more hard lined approaches on how they dealt with criminals. Dikto also incorporated his Objectivist ideas or philosophy into both characters as well.

Alan Moore was both inspired by Mr. A and The Question. Reportedly, the Watchmen character Rorschach was based on both, but more specifically The Question.

Moore has told a story about an acquaintance who asked Steve Ditko if he knew the character of Rorschach and Ditko supposedly replied that he was "like Mr. A except insane". Mr. A stories and character remain the property of Steve Ditko, but rights to the characters of The Question and Blue Beetle were both later bought by DC Comics.

In 1968, Ditko had a short stint at DC Comics where he made a few contributions to DC's roster of characters. Before the mid 70s, Ditko created the Creeper and Hawk and Dove.

The Creeper debuted in Showcase #73 and Hawk and Dove debuted two issues later in Showcase #75. During the early 70s, Steve Ditko almost exclusively worked for Charlton Comics and a few other small press publishers.

In 1975, Ditko made another brief return to DC Comics and contributed yet another creation and comic book character by the name of Shade the Changing Man. Shade debuted in Shade the Changing Man #1, but his very 1st self-titled comic series was pretty short-lived and only lasted until issue #8.

Shade did not start off on the right foot, and his series was published during the time of the DC Implosion, in which several titles were abruptly cancelled. The DC Implosion?

Back in the day, DC Comics saw Marvel overtake much of the comic market. Some of the reason (not all or even near it) had to do with the large amount of titles that Marvel put out for both original and reprint material.

Attempting to beat Marvel at their own game, they did what is known as the DC Explosion. Yes, they upped the amount of titles and pretty soon experienced the exact opposite of what they intended - continued poor sales. 

So, in order to rectify the explosion, the implosion part began to take effect. In summer of 1978, DC Comics announced there would staff layoffs and the cancellation of approximately 40% of its line.

Their long-time flagship title Detective Comics was even suppose to be cancelled with issue #480. Of course, the decision was later overturned.

So, the story in issue #9 of Shade, the Changing Man ended up being in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2, basically a photocopied comic by those DC creatives who all had titled series, stories, or planned and upcoming series that got the axe during the implosion. Apparently those Cancelled Comic Cavalcades are pretty rare and only those creatives involved got copies of the comics.

Shade would not return to comics until 1986, long after Steve Ditko still had a finger on the character. Shade returned to DC mainstream continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 and then was picked up by John Ostrander for his take on the Suicide Squad comic series.

The character of Shade would be revamped or revived and published under the more mature or adult imprint of DC's Vertigo in which Steve had no hand in. Peter Milligan was the writer responsible for the creative redirection for the character of Shade, and the Vertigo series was Milligan's most successful American comic.

With Paul Levitz, he helped created the Prince Gavyn version of Starman over at DC as well. Gavyn as Starman debuted in Adventure Comics #467.

During the later 70s, he also moonlighted back at Marvel and made contributed a few more characters to the Marvel stable. Getting a little bit in touch with his Spidey roots, Ditko created another smart-mouthed hero that would debut in the titled series.

Enter Speedball, and this quirky hero with the strange power that made him like a bouncing ball debuted in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22. Ditko would go onto write and pencil for the Speedball comic series that lasted 'till issue #10. Under a different writer, the character of Robbie Baldwin as Speedball would then become a long standing member of the New Warriors.

Ditko also co-created Squirrel Girl with writer Will Murray or helped to flesh out the design of the character.

Squirrel Girl debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #8 vol 2 or also known as Marvel Super-Heroes Winter Special. The character has gained quite a bit of popularity recently since her debut, and according to Murray, Ditko really brought his character to life.

"Ditko did a great job in bringing my baby to life. "Murray recalled. "He invented that knuckle spike. It wasn’t in the script. I based Squirrel Girl ironically enough on a long–ago girlfriend who read comics and was into "critters"—wild animals of all types. Coincidentally, she was big Ditko fan." 

Speedball and Squirrel Girl are two of the last mainstream comic superheroes that are somewhat well-known. After 1998, Steve Ditko retired from mainstream comics. 

His last mainstream comic character he created was Longarm, an Iron Man foe that appeared in Shadows and Light #1. So far the character has remained pretty obscure. Okay, highly obscure.

Regardless, Steve Ditko has made huge contributions to the world of comics and not just for Marvel. He is legend for reason, and I don't really have to go anymore further into why, though I'm positive an entire book could be written about his work and the influence he had on comic writers and artists then, now, and even in the future.

Thanks for all the great memories, Steve!


  1. Funny! Have been thinking about buyin' that Shade the Changing Man 1! Didn' t know it was a Ditko creation. Not sure yet if to get it but Ditko definitely is a plus.


    1. Sure is Ace...both a Ditko creation and a plus also.

  2. Hey Comiclovers,

    this just came in: a New Warriors TV Comic Series has been anounced, featuring: SQUIRREL GIRL!!! Didn' t know she was a New Warrior but that' s cool by me. I knew she would make a splash sometime. Other members have yet to be confirmed.

    Max Rebo

    1. They cast anyone yet, or did they just find a deal with Freeform?