December 30, 2006

Ditko in 2006

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Nine print publications of interest this past year, as well as a CD-ROM of some previous print books. Highlight of the year is PI's THE THING AND OTHER STORIES, with some great very early Ditko work from the 1954. The pair of "Atlas Era" MARVEL MASTERWORKS books also had a good selection of late 1950s Ditko, with about 20 stories between them, half of them previously unreprinted, and a good amount of Kirby (inked by Ditko on a few stories) and the other Marvel artists of the time.

Charlton Spotlight #5 [Argo Press]

Coyote Collection #3 [Image]

Essential Defenders #2 [Marvel] (one Doctor Strange story)
Marvel Masterworks - Ant-Man/Giant-Man #1 [Marvel] (inks on one story only)
Marvel Masterworks - Atlas Era Tales Of Suspense #1 [Marvel]
Marvel Masterworks - Atlas Era Tales To Astonish #1 [Marvel]
Marvel Masterworks - The Human Torch #1 [Marvel] (one story and some cover inks)
Marvel Milestones - Dragon Lord, Speedball & The Man In The Sky [Marvel]

Steve Ditko Reader CD-ROM Volume 1 [Pure Imagination]
Steve Ditko's The Thing and Other Stories [Pure Imagination]

December 12, 2006

Upcoming Ditko - Sandman reprints

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Sandman is the villain in the next Spider-Man movie (and very much using the Ditko design, from what I've seen), so we'll see this collection including three Ditko issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with the character.



SPIDER-MAN: SAGA OF THE SANDMAN TPB

Written by STAN LEE, ROY THOMAS, TOM DEFALCO & KURT BUSIEK
Penciled by STEVE DITKO, JACK KIRBY, HERB TRIMPE, ROSS ANDRU, RON WILSON & PAT OLLIFFE
Cover by MARK BROOKS
It was no day at the beach when criminal Flint Marko was mutated into one of Marveldom’s most versatile villains and began a career of kicking sand in our favorite heroes’ faces! Some of the best battles between Sandman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk are collected here in commemoration of his gritty film debut! Collecting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 and #18-19, FANTASTIC FOUR #61, INCREDIBLE HULK #138, MARVEL TEAM-UP #1, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #86, and UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN #3.
176 PGS. $19.99
ISBN: 0-7851-2497-7

December 11, 2006

Upcoming Ditko - Action Heroes v2

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A big volume of hard-to-find Charlton Ditko coming next year from DC. I believe that this, with the Captain Atom stuff in v1, makes up everything from Charlton by Ditko that DC has the rights to.


THE ACTION HEROES ARCHIVES VOL. 2

Written by David Kaler, Roger Stern, Michael Uslan and various; Art by Steve Ditko, Alex Toth and various; Cover by Ditko

Collecting classic stories by master artist Steve Ditko from the pages of CAPTAIN ATOM #83-89, BLUE BEETLE #1-5, MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE #1 and CHARLTON BULLSEYE #1, 2 and 5, plus the title story intended for BLUE BEETLE #6 (published in CHARLTON PORTFOLIO #9-10) as well as an 8-page Question story by Alex Toth and a foreword by Charlton's then-editor Dick Giordano.

384pg. Colour Hardcover $75.00
On Sale May 23, 2007

Marvel Tales #163 [1984]

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For a year in, this weblog has been surprisingly light on the Spider-Man...

Ditko's run on Spider-Man, complete with the original covers, was reprinted from 1982 to 1985 in MARVEL TALES #137 to #177, for several of the stories the first time they were ever reprinted. This issue has the 20-page "Captured by J. Jonah Jameson" from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25 [1965], of minor note as the first issue where Ditko got a credit for the plot as well as the art, although it's unlikely it was actually produced in a substantially different way from the previous issues.

The villain this issue is good old J. Jonah Jameson, who never seems to learn, as he's roped into yet another plan to capture Spider-Man, this time with Peter's coaxing, as Peter is understandably sceptical about the goofy looking robot that Doctor Smythe brings in. And that's even before JJJ's face is projected on the robot's screen. Anyway, Jonah tries the robot, which ends up tracking Peter down at his school, where Flash Thompson was waiting to fight Peter for spending time with Liz, which leads to a pretty silly chase as Peter tries to get away to change to Spider-Man. After he changes and fights the robot, Liz, Flash and the gang wind up at Peter's house, where Betty Brant has also come to get Peter to help call off the robot, and that's when Liz and Betty see Mary Jane Watson for the first time, although thanks to a well placed flower the reader does not. Spidey is eventually trapped by the robot, but fortunately while Jonah and Smythe grab a cab down to the scene for the finish is able to escape, leaving his costume posed as him in the robot's clutches to taunt Jonah. When he returns home he finds that Aunt May has found his spare costume, and he has to do some fancy explaining (without, he tells himself, actually lying to May) leaving him without a costume.

There's no question that Ditko's at the top of his game with this run of stories. In particular I like how the Peter Parker segments take up most of the story, and how well developed the supporting cast becomes. The stories also have a lot of visual humour. Looking at the page below, the body language of Peter and Jonah tells quite a story even before you read the dialogue. There's a nice bit later where Betty tries to mess with the controller for the robot to save Spider-Man which has some nice slapstick bits.

As I mentioned above, this run of reprints also included the original covers, although often modified somewhat, as in this case where it's flipped left-to-right.




House of Mystery #277 [1980]

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As far as I know this is the only example of a DC comic with only a cover among the Ditko contents, no interior art. The story that this cover illustrates does have a similar scene to this, drawn by Howard Chaykin and Al Milgrom, but interestingly what the caption describes isn't what's actually going on.

It's a nice cover though, feeling a lot like some of the generic ones that Ditko did for Charlton in the 1970s, with a lot of classic Ditko elements, the large floating heads, the sneering laugh, those creepy slightly crazed eyes. In fact, the whole layout is so Ditko and so Charlton that I wouldn't be surprised if it was intended for Charlton (which had stopped running new Ditko material about a year earlier) and inspired the panel in the story.


December 8, 2006

The Safest Place In The World [1993]

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THE SAFEST PLACE IN THE WORLD was a one-shot comic book published by Dark Horse in 1993, featuring a 29-page story and cover by Steve Ditko, who's also co-credited with the colouring (with Rachelle Menashe). The story is labelled as being in the "B(i/e)tter Person Series", similar to how some earlier Ditko work is labelled as being in the "Hero Series" or "Justice Series".

In this story, a spy in a repressive (presumably but not explicitly stated Eastern European) country makes a copy of some military plans that the free world needs to be warned about. She's pursued by security forces, including Captain Kgrul and Lieutenant Orpus, but is able to pass the film on to Sten Agon before being captured and killed by Kgrul's pet wolf, Warrior. The scene switches to the school where Sten's kindly former teachers, husband and wife Kona and Mina Wisdr, work. Sten is tracked there and killed by security forces, and a weaselly teacher named Kasnig who resents the Wisdrs fingers them as former teachers of Sten who might know where he hid the film. Kona is killed and Mina is taken prisoner where she is tortured to reveal the location of the film. She finally decides that she can use the truth to her advantage and uses the fact that Kasnig was also once briefly part of a group that contained some people who were later traitors to divert the suspicion to him. This gets her freed, and she's given papers to go to the West (Kgrul hoping that her departure will help avoid questions about his inept handling of the situation), taking with her the film that she finds thanks to an earlier comment by Kona. Meanwhile, Kasnig, Kgrul and Orpus all end up dead as a result of their own brutality, cowardice and paranoia.

While there are some glaring flaws, I think overall this is one of Ditko's most effective longer personal works, and is well worth checking out. Often his longer pieces tend to collapse into preaching, but in this case he keeps a pretty steady eye on the narrative and uses it to make his point. In particular I thought he did a good job with showing the inner monologues of a lot of the characters, using them to demonstrate how living under an oppressive regime leads to paranoia and double-crossing if you let your cowardice get the better of you, and the particular twist of Mina finding a way to use the truth as a weapon of her own against those who reject truth was well in keeping with Ditko's point. He also nicely uses some visual metaphors, including the wolf representing the oppressive cruelty and birds representing freedom and the better side of humanity.

The cover and story were reprinted, black and white and with some modified artwork (mostly added shading), in the 2002 AVENGING WORLD collection.



Strange Adventures #188 [1966]

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One odd little corner of Ditko's career is the very brief first work he did at DC, a pair of stories in STRANGE ADVENTURES #188 and #189, right around the time he left Marvel. Both are uncredited (pretty standard under most DC editors at the time) and inked by Sal Trapani, who also inked some of Ditko's work at Dell and ACG around that time, so it's likely they were assignments given to Trapani who got Ditko, who had some sudden time on his hands, to pencil for him. Ditko would of course return to DC on his own and with his own new characters two years later.

"The Valley Where Time Stood Still" is an 8-page story (possibly written by Otto Binder, according to the GCD) about two explorers who use some chemicals to clear out the mist in a mysterious valley so they can land their helicopter and explore. Upon landing they encounter a group of Roman soldiers who entered the valley on the run from Caesar, and reason that the volcanic mists put people into suspended animation (and also gave everyone telepathic powers so there's no language barrier. Because that's good science). Escaping from the Romans they next encounter some armoured knights who entered the valley on the run from King Arthur, as it turns out the valley has been a tempting hideout for criminals for thousands of years. To distract the various groups and get back to their helicopter, they turn them against one another, only to find that, hey, there was a dinosaur there too, and they need everyone to defeat it. The dinosaur falls into a volcanic fissure, causing the volcano to erupt and wipe out the valley just as our heroes get away in their helicopter, having destroyed a potential treasure trove of scientific finds.

Man, does this story just have too many concepts to fit in 8 pages or what? The artwork is pretty good, Trapani's inks always soften up Ditko's work to something of a more generic "house-style", but quite a few of Ditko's touches still come through, especially with a lot of the hands and faces, and the weird plot gives them quite a few fanciful things to draw, though it's not up to the level of the Warren or better Charlton stuff of the era.

December 6, 2006

--Link-- Sim on Ditko

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Cerebus creator Dave Sim has been posting a lot about Ditko on his blog recently, like in this post about the 160 PAGE PACKAGE published in 1999. Several other posts feature an in-depth look at the work in progress of a commission piece of his Roach character dressed as Doctor Strange, including Sim's thoughts going through the Ditko run for reference.

You can also read the posts on the Cerebus Yahoo Group.

Marvel Comics Presents #83 [1991]

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"The Matchstick And The Moth" is an 8-page Human Torch story with plot and pencils by Ditko and inks and script by Erik Larsen. The story features a one-shot villain, the Moth, a woman who has some sort of vaguely defined power that makes her able to temporarily snuff out the Torch's flame powers. She works with two criminal types, posing as a crime victim to lure the Torch in and capture him. She thinks that there's a big-boss promising a million-dollar payday for capturing the Torch, but while she's out of the room the Torch overhears that in fact they're planning to double-cross and kill her. The Torch is able to escape their trap, and tries to warn the Moth, but she douses his powers again before the criminals (rather stupidly) reveal the double-cross. She gets shot, but manages to rescue the Torch who musters up just enough power for one last attack, and then she dies with some metaphor about Moth's getting too close to a flame.

A decent enough story, nothing too memorable, but I do like the way that Ditko draws the Torch, both in and out of flames. Plus you get a lot of great sneering faces on the criminals. Larsen's inks worked a lot better than I'd have expected, although I think they'd have worked better with some slightly less slick flatter colouring.



November 30, 2006

Marvel Age Annual #4 [1988]

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This issue previewed Marvel's upcoming comics for 1988, including a few short original stories of new books, among them 5-page Speedball story "The Mystery of Crooked Face", plotted and pencilled by Ditko, scripted by Roger Stern and inked by Jackson Guice.

This story presents some of the background of Speedball, teenager Robby Baldwin who got super-powers in an accident that enable him to absorb and release kinetic energy. His father is a district attorney and his mother is a former actress. In this story, Robby's father loses a trial in which the defendant, who was accused of crimes committed wearing a goofy mask, was identified by a witness who removed his mask but also had an airtight alibi. "Crooked Face" tries to get even with the Baldwin family, leading to some confrontations with Speedball, until it's eventually revealed that the original defendant was the twin brother of "Crooked Face", and they planned the crimes together.

I'm pretty fond of Speedball, who's a well designed character with some nice visual gimmicks that Ditko uses to good effect. I think Guice's inks are a bit too slick at points, but they work nicely at some points, bringing a bit of a then-modern look to Ditko's style. The actual story in this one is a bit too quick, but then it is only 5-pages, even with the dense layouts Ditko used for this series (with a lot of pages with 10 or more panels). I do think that the Crooked Man villain is a nicely silly bit of Ditko design.


November 29, 2006

Who's Who - The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #19 [1986]

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Ditko drew the profile images for four of his creations for DC's first WHO'S WHO character directory series, including one of the characters published by Charlton and then-recently bought by DC, the Question.

Apparently there was some preliminary talk at the time of Ditko heading a revival of the character at DC, but not too surprisingly it didn't seem to go too far. It could have been interesting, certainly this page shows that he could still do some great artwork on the character. Well, at least we got this one great image that sums up some of the visual appeal of the character.

Vic Sage remains one of the definitive Ditko characters and an interesting middle-ground of his career, with a strong philosophical basis but with a stronger storytelling, characterization and dramatic sense than some of his independent work.


November 23, 2006

Daredevil #264 [1989]

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"Baby Boom" is the 22-page Ditko pencilled Daredevil story from this issue, inked by Mike Manley and Al Williamson. I kind of had higher hopes for it before I got it, given the inkers, but for the most part it was a let-down, mostly thanks to a pretty awful story. Old-time DD foe the Owl hires a goofy group called the Bombers in some plot involving switching the shopping bags that a New York gang use to smuggle cocaine with bags containing bombs, or something. This all gets confused with a homeless man who has a baby he found, who accidentally places the baby in one of those bags. Yeah, I know, not a lot to work with there.

Actually, the more I look at it the art itself isn't that bad. The inking is a bit heavy at times, but for most of it the Ditko shows through, and has some goofy energy that comes as close to selling the story as anything can.

October 31, 2006

Strange Tales #136 [1965]

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"What Lurks Beneath the Mask?" is in the middle of Ditko's long final storyline for Doctor Strange, with Doc on the quest for the secret of Eternity to save the Ancient One while pursued by Baron Mordo, who is being backed by Dormammu. Doc spends the first half of the story going to various mystics around the world for a clue, while agents of Mordo search for him. A lot of great stuff in that sequence, giving a feeling of great breadth to the wider mystic world that Doc inhabits.

Doc finally finds a clue in the possession of a crazy old mystic whose memory the Ancient One had once erased, bringing him to one of those surreal realms, this one filled with odd masks and a demon who traps Doc by switching bodies through eye contact and then covering his face with a mask. Fortunately Doc retains control of his cloak of levitation, which leads to a funny scene of the cloak tossing around the demon wearing it and freeing Doc of the mask. Free to use his powers, Doc then frees all the previous captives of the demon and destroys the realm, then returns to the orient to try to get the secret of Eternity straight from the Ancient One's mind.

This year of Doctor Strange stories is among Ditko's finest work, with a lot of strong short stories full of great imagery building up the suspense for the main story.

Ditko plots and draws the 10-page story.



October 30, 2006

Charlton Spotlight #5 [2006]

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As mentioned a few posts back, the recently released CHARLTON SPOTLIGHT #5 [Argo Press] contains a number of items of interest to the Ditko fan, among them a complete reprint of the 5-page "The Great Martian Drought" from SPACE ADVENTURES #25 [1958]. Ditko's style is a little more sparse at this time than some of his earlier work, though the establishing shots of the Martian city are well designed, and the body language is really effective, plus I love the detail on this one close-up of an eye. He definitely knew when to bring in the detail to enhance a story. In this story Mars is suffering from a long drought, and they consider writing a message to Earth until a scientist finds a way to take what's left of their population to Earth, scheduled to arrive in 1964. Guess they didn't make it...

Two 1957 Ditko covers are also reprinted full size, TALES OF THE MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER #4 in black and white and MYSTERIES OF UNEXPLORED WORLDS #4 in colour. The second is especially good, with some great moody furnishings in the "Forbidden Room". The issue has an interview with Joe Gill which has some background on Captain Atom, Steve Skeates talking about Doctor Graves and Ron Frantz talking about some of the Charlton alumni who worked at his ACE Comics in the 1980s, plus articles about the Blue Beetle, the Question and Captain Atom. Lots of great art to go with the articles, including a number that appeared in fanzines like a great 1965 illustration of Captain Atom that appeared in THE COMIC READER #36.



"The Great Martian Drought" 3948

October 27, 2006

New Ditko - Marvel Masterworks

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Ditko's in a pair of recent MARVEL MASTERWORKS volumes. HUMAN TORCH v1 includes the Torch/Spider-Man story Ditko inked from STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #2 and ATLAS ERA TALES OF SUSPENSE v1 has at least one Ditko short from each of the first ten issues of the series, plus one solo cover and one cover inked over Kirby.

New Ditko - Charlton Spotlight #5

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Just picked up CHARLTON SPOTLIGHT #5, which is full of some great Ditko stuff, with a long interview with Joe Gill and articles on the major Charlton super-heroes that Ditko worked on, plus a long article by Steve Skeates where he talks about his time at Charlton, with a special emphasis on the Doctor Graves story that ended up looking much more like Doctor Strange than he expected. Also included is a complete 5-page reprint of Ditko's "The Great Martian Drought" from 1958, two full page Ditko covers (one in colour) and several rare bits of art that appeared in 1960s fanzines.

September 23, 2006

Questar #1 [1978]

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QUESTAR was a science-fiction and fantasy magazine launched in 1978 by William G. Wilson Jr., who had previously published the fanzine THE COLLECTOR which had a few Ditko stories. Ditko writes and draws stories in the first five issues of QUESTAR, starting with "Cosage the Cosmic Agent" in #1, a six-page science fiction story.

The story isn't too much, just a generic cosmic space hero, who pursues an evil conqueror who attacked a planet and kidnapped the daughter of the president. Typical bold hero and cruel villain. The art works a lot better than the story, with a lot of detail (and really sharp reproduction which a lot of Ditko's colour work of the era didn't get), several really good silent sequences and some imaginative settings. It's also a really dense story, with over a dozen panels a page and a lot going on in them, it kind of feels at time what a comic strip drawn by Ditko would be like.

The story was reprinted in colour in CHARLTON ACTION FEATURING STATIC #12 in 1985.



September 15, 2006

The Outsiders #13 [1986]

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Ditko did the pencils for 7-page backup in this issue featuring team member Black Lightning, written by Mike Barr and inked by Jerry Ordway.

"...Ten Minutes" is the story about how Jefferson Pierce ends up confronting three fairly inept but well armed young robbers at an all-night convenience store, and you can guess from the title how long it took him to handle them.

Fairly straightforward story, I think building on a few character points that were being made in the main story, based on the scattering of other OUTSIDERS issues I read from that era. Ordway's inks are pretty good, not quite as overpowering as he often is on some pencilers. Parts of it seem a bit stiff, which might be Ditko's layout style conflicting with Ordway's slicker finishing look.


September 9, 2006

Upcoming Ditko - Coyote v4

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Steve Englehart continues the reprints of his 1980s Epic series through Image later this year, with the fourth book containing the last two chapters of the Djinn backup series that Ditko pencilled. Shame the four chapters are split among two books, but worth getting if you don't have the original issues.



COYOTE, VOL. 4 TP
story STEVE ENGLEHART
art CHAZ TRUOG, STEVE DITKO, TODD McFARLANE, FRANK SPRINGER, ART NICHOLS & RICHARD HOWELL
cover TODD McFARLANE
128 PAGES FULL COLOR NOVEMBER 22
$14.99

Women have always been a delight for Coyote (even if they tried to kill him) but he's never met anyone like Slash, who can kill with a look. Still, look who's drawing her origin: TODD McFARLANE, in his first-ever published work. Todd's also on board for the start of a new SCORPIO ROSE series, right beside STEVE DITKO with the whirlwind finale of THE DJINN and CHAZ TROUG with the ongoing adventures of everybody's favorite varmint. Well, everybody except Tally, who's become a Coyote herself - and Cassie, with a Shadow Cabinet target on her back - and the hooker who traded Jesus for a totem - and the Venusian who eats brains. Women! Collects COYOTE #9-12

September 8, 2006

Phantom 2040 #1 [1995]

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Ditko pencilled all four issues of this 1995 mini-series, based on an animated cartoon of the era that took Lee Falk's comic strip character into a near-future science fiction world. Which, yeah, is kind of an odd direction to take a traditionally jungle based character, but that's animation for you.

"Generation Unto Generation" is a 20-page story presenting the first part of the origin of the new Phantom (not sure if it's directly based on an episode of the cartoon). Young Kit Walker of Metropia is approached by Guran, a friend of his father, who vanished 16 years earlier and, as he finds out, was the previous Phantom, with a brief rundown of the classic Phantom history. Kit takes on the identity of the Phantom just as an old enemy of his father plans an attack on the city involving robots, hypnosis and other things. Good enough story, and Ditko does a good job with the action bits. The brief bit of him drawing the Phantom history makes me wish he was doing a historical Phantom series.

The inking is by Bill Reinhold, who does a really good job. As I recall, he mentioned back in an issue of DITKOMANIA that he made an effort to add elements of the style of some of Ditko's classic work to the looser style Ditko used when pencilling work for others. It's one of my favourite of the later examples of someone else inking Ditko, and overall this series is probably my favourite of Ditko's mainstream work in the 1990s.

The issue also features a two-page centerspread poster of the character, pencilled by Ditko and inked by John Romita, I think the only time that combination has ever been seen. As with most things inked by Romita it ends up looking more like Romita with a light flavour of the penciller, but still nice to see.



August 11, 2006

Marvel Team-Up #101 [1981]

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A minor bit of Ditko in this issue, a 5-page backup story called "Don't Let the Sun Come Up On Me", written by Mike Barr and featuring Nighthawk, also the star of the Spider-Man team-up story by other creators that leads the issue (Marvel had just bumped up the cover price and page count of their comics a few months earlier, so this short follow-up story was probably commissioned at the last minute to fill in the extra pages).

I don't know much about the character, other than he was a member of the Defenders, but Ditko does a good job with the design. The story features Nighthawk having a crisis of confidence, which leads to him rather clumsily almost dropping a wall on a young girl. Of course he saves her in the end, and learns a thing or two himself. Not sure if it was intentional on Barr's part, but the sequence does evoke a rather famous scene in a later Ditko Spider-Man. Not quite up to that level, but Ditko does have an affinity for those kinds of scenes, where he gets to show various levels of struggle and desperation in the body language and faces.



July 28, 2006

Upcoming Ditko - Tales of Suspense Masterworks

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Will return to regular posting on this weblog soon, but for now, the first "Upcoming Ditko" to announce in a while, coming in October, a companion piece to the recent reprint of the first 10 issues of TALES TO ASTONISH. Ditko in every issue, mostly 5-page stories, a few of them never reprinted, plus a bit of inking Kirby.




MARVEL MASTERWORKS: ATLAS ERA TALES OF SUSPENSE VOL. 1
Written by STAN LEE, LARRY LIEBER & VARIOUS
Penciled by JACK KIRBY, STEVE DITKO, DON HECK, JOE SINNOTT, AL WILLIAMSON, BILL EVERETT, JOHN BUSCEMA, RUSS HEATH & MORE
Cover by JACK KIRBY

What’s Halloween without a little scare? Well, how about a big scare?! A big scare in the form of monsters galore, and another awesome Atlas Era addition to the Marvel Masterworks!

In 1958 Atlas Comics Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee was joined by two titanic talents: Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Together this trio of storytellers launched Tales of Suspense and its sister title, Tales to Astonish, and along with them the beginnings of a creative revival that would change comics forever. With startling twist-enders featuring Martians, killer robots, and massive monsters like Diablo, Cyclops and Monstro they, hand in hand with a growing group of artists including Don Heck, Joe Sinnott and John Buscema, began to burn up the racks with a style and creativity that comics hadn’t seen in years.

With artwork by an absolute who’s who of comic-book talents, this volume is an absolute must-have for fans with a desire to dig into the foundation would be built into the Marvel Age of Comics! So strap on your tin-foil hat, grab your ray gun, and get ready to dive into one of the most amazing eras of comics history!

Featuring an introduction by noted Atlas Era historian, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo.

Collecting TALES OF SUSPENSE #1-10.
272 PGS $49.99

June 12, 2006

Where Monsters Dwell #7 [1971]

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This issue reprints "The Terrible Trap" from TALES TO ASTONISH #19 [1961], a 4-page story. The star this time is Bart Magor, a great hunter, which we see from his effortless capture of a mouse. Not surprisingly, he runs afoul of a trap while on his hunting trip, and is taken by aliens who place him in a maze. The irony is almost palpable.

Pretty simple story, but a lot of nice touches. I like that mouse in the opening (although I’m surprised the story doesn't do anything with the fact that Magor takes it along on the safari). The aliens are also a nice design, looking very curious and thoughtful rather than menacing.

I’m kind of surprised that this issue isn't promoted as a prototype issue for Kraven the Hunter. Hey, it’s a great hunter. That’s more of a prototype than most of the characters thus billed these days.




"The Terrible Trap" V-137

May 25, 2006

Where Creatures Roam #4 [1971]

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This issue has another of the many 5-pagers, this one "Beware Of The Ghastly Glass" from TALES TO ASTONISH #17 [1961]. I love the symbolic full page splash pages on a lot of these stories, this one with a man trapped by a giant crystal, with a great smoke effect.

A very tightly told story about an old man who, with his strongman servant, goes around the world, from curio shop to curio shop, searching for a mysterious crystal which he knows will grant him four wishes. Like most people in these stories, he's well aware of the traps involved in wishes, but thinks he's got it figured out and has his wishes worded perfectly. He finally finds the crystal and asks for youth, long life, freedom from "arrest, jail, prisons and institutions" and finally the to be the richest man in the world. Of course that last one is the trap, and when all the special effects clear the man is young and healthy, but on another world.

I hope at some point we get a massive collection of these 5-page stories (there are over 200 of them, so they could easily fill two big "Essential" format collections, or three "Visionaries" books).




"Beware Of The Ghastly Glass" V-54

May 18, 2006

Journey Into Mystery #7 [1973]

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This issue reprints "Take A Chair" from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #82 [1962], one of the most interesting of the many 5-pagers Ditko did from that era. The art is the usual fine stuff, but what I find most fascinating is how similar the structure and theme of the first half of the story is to a lot of Ditko's own work of later years, setting up the contrast of the nobility of hard work against the lazy man stealing the work of others. Even a lot of the names (Gorgi Gruff, Mr. Vort) sound like the kind of things you get in Ditko's writing.

Unfortunately, after the interesting set-up the story kind of veers off into a less interesting sci-fi twist ending, where it turns out the creative chair-builder is in fact an alien in disguise investigating humanity, and his chairs are spy robots. Cute, I guess, but doesn't quite live up to the set-up of the first few pages.


May 6, 2006

New Ditko - Ditko Reader CD-ROM

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Via NeilAlien, apparently the DITKO READER CD-ROM from Pure Imagination was listed to ship to comic shops this past week. Can anyone verify? Reviews?

April 22, 2006

Fantasy Illustrated #1 [1982]

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In honour of the recent reprint, here's something from the first Djinn story. The character actually predates Coyote, first appearing in a 15-page story in what would turn out to be the only issue of FANTASY ILLUSTRATED, a high quality black and white magazine published by New Media Publishing. Steve Englehart writes, Steve Ditko pencils and Steve Leialoha inks, hence the "All-Steve Squad".

The story opens with Anthony Coyne bringing Ali Pasha to Cairo. We later find out Pasha is returning to Cairo to kill the Djinn, leader of a Cult of Hashishin, and allows himself to be captured. Coyne ends up embroiled in all this intrigue as well, and he and Pasha wind up in an elaborate death trap which they manage to escape by working together and then plan to work together against the Djinn and his secret society.

Kind of an odd story, Englehart takes some getting used to, especially his scripting (he seems positively giddy at being allowed to including swearing in a comic script...), but it's some imaginative stuff. Ditko does a great job on a lot of the settings and action scenes, and Leialoha is probably one of the three or four best inkers Ditko ever had not named Ditko, so it really is nice to look at.

The magazine also has an ad for another book by the publisher, ADVENTURE ILLUSTRATED, which shows Ditko's Mocker character. That story would end up being published by Pacific the next year.

April 18, 2006

New Ditko - Coyote v3

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Coming out this week, Coyote TPB #3 from Image, reprinting issues of the Steve Englehart series from the 1980s, including the Djinn back-up with art by Ditko. I'm not getting it, so could someone who does confirm how many of the four chapters and one pin-up the book includes.

April 12, 2006

Ghost Manor #65 [1982]

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Charlton was almost all reprint by this point, this issue having a reprint of the 6-page "Class Reunion" from Ghostly Haunts #48 [1976], written by "Tom Tuna" (probably frequent Ditko collaborator Joe Gill, can anyone confirm?). The host this time is Winnie the Witch, the freaky stylish blue witch, but she just appears in the first and last panels this time.

The story has a man who has been a failure all his life, and decides to go to Europe to find a Satanic cult he's researched and get magic powers. Oddly his plan actually works, but then the cult leader looks kind of silly anyway. He uses his new powers, manifesting in Doctor Strange hands, to get ironic revenge on two of three people he was most jealous of, only to be foiled by the last who turns out to be an ordained priest who is immune to the satanic powers.

I was hoping for a better ending, and as I said the leader of the cult looks ridiculous, but a few of the other visuals are cool, including of course the hands and the sometimes weird angles.




"Class Reunion" D-7227

April 4, 2006

New Ditko - THE THING from PI

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Shipping to comic stores through Diamond this week, the latest Pure Imagination book from Greg Theakston, reprinting some of Ditko's earliest work originally published by Charlton and St. John.

[Note I just got my copy and there are two additional stories not listed in the original post, "The Shadow" and "Oggo the Thinker". The backcover also has four Ditko covers in colour]

STEVE DITKO'S THE THING! VOLUME 1 TP
by Steve Ditko
The Thing! is one of the most sought-after series by Ditko and pre-Code fans alike. Packed with wild ideas and wilder images, The Thing! #12-15 feature some of Steve Ditko's earliest work in the field of comics. It's almost 100 pages of the kind of comics your parents didn't want you to see. Also included in this volume are some of Ditko's best work for the Charlton horror books. Save yourself hundreds of dollars and years of search for some of Ditko's most sensational work!
SC, 8x11, 160pgs, B&W $25.00
NOV053071 Pure Imagination

Table of Contents

“Cinderella” from THE THING! #12 (Feb. 1954)
“Library of Horror” from THE THING! #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Die Laughing” from THE THING! #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Avery and the Goblins” from THE THING #13 (Apr. 1954)
“Rumplestiltskin” from THE THING! #14 (June 1954)
“The Evil Eye” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“Doom in the Air” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“Inheritance” from THE THING #14 (June 1954)
“The Worm Turns” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Day of Reconing” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Come Back” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“If Looks Could Kill” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Family Mix-Up” from THE THING #15 (July 1954)
“Live for Reunion” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Stranger in the House” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Stowaway” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“A Dreamer’s World” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #5 (Oct. 1957)
“Nightmare” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Sonambulist” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Strange Silence” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“You Can Make Me Fly” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Man Who Crashed” from DO YOU BELIEVE IN NIGHTMARES? #1 (Nov. 1957)
“The Elixar” from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 1958)
“The Shadow” from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 1958)
“Failure” from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 (Mar. 1958)
“Oggo the Thinker” from MYSTERIES OF UNKNOWN WORLDS #11 (Jan. 1959)
“Confederate Girl” from UNUSUAL TALES #25 (Dec. 1960)

April 2, 2006

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #33 [1986]

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Yeah, I'm not sure why either, but Marvel had Ditko draw eight issues of INDIANA JONES in the mid-1980s. Hey, at least it was Harrison Ford he was drawing, better that than Chuck No... What was that? Really? Okay, never mind...

#33 is Ditko's second last issue, beginning a two-parter that takes Indy to Scotland in pursuit of a stolen amulet. "Magic, Murder And The Weather" is 23-pages, inked by Danny Bulanadi, who did most of Ditko's Indy stories. I find Bulanadi's inks over Ditko kind of flat sometimes, but this is one of his better ones. A few bits even looked like Leialoha's inks over Ditko. Other parts seem a bit heavy, but that might just be satisfying the Lucusfilm people. The opening scene, with Indy being harassed by two Scotland Yard types and doing one of those Ditko double-takes in six straight panels is kind of funny. I don't really get a heavy feel of the 1930s setting like I'd hope for, but that might just be because Ditko's characters always look a few decades in the past.

[see the comments for more on the inking, which might be an uncredited Art Nichols on the last seven pages, and John Romita on the Indy faces]

The story is pretty much serviceable pulp adventure from Linda Grant, with Indy pursuing Amanda Knight, who's stolen an amulet for a mysterious employer. After various fights and attempted poisonings, he find her held prisoner, and confronts the cloaked figure who turns out to be a sorcerer, and also the brother of a villain from an earlier issue.



April 1, 2006

ROM #68 [1985]

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Surprisingly, ROM is probably the second longest run (in page count) that Ditko ever had on a character, drawing the last 17 issues of the series, as well as an annual, from 1984 to 1986 (I'm pretty sure 419 pages beats his Captain Atom total). The run is also interesting because it was very much an "inker of the month" thing, with a dozen inkers over the course of 18 stories (P. Craig Russell did five scattered issues, no one else did more than two). Unfortunately part of the run had among the worst printing Marvel ever subjected us to, so you can't judge some of the inkers fairly.

Anyway, #68 has the story "Ad Infinitum", a 23-page story inked by Brett Breeding. This is a single issue story with ROM flying through space, following the end of his long war against the Dire Wraiths, and encountering a group of humans who are in a war against robots they created who turned on them and exiled them from their homeworld. ROM, being half-human/half-robot, tries to intercede in the conflict and convince the two sides to live in peace...

And completely fails, witnessing helplessly as they destroy each other. That was a pretty cool ending. A pretty fun book, far from any sort of high art, but a lot more interesting than a book based on a toy should be.



I liked Breeding's inks on this, solid, very clearly Ditko and very nice on the flying in space bits. Ditko did some nice design work on the design of the alien world and robots.

March 29, 2006

--Link-- Amazing Web Spidey reviews

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Dustin McNeill is reading an issue of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN every day, and has been posting about it since #17 and is up to Ditko's last issue, #38 (he'll eventually go back and post on the first sixteen issues). The link is to #38, you can work your way back from that.

http://amazing-web.blogspot.com/2006/03/issue-38-just-guy-named-joe.html

March 26, 2006

Marvel Tales #136 [1982]

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This issue reprints the third Doctor Strange story, "The Return Of The Omnipotent Baron Mordo", from STRANGE TALES #114 [1963]. As the title says, Doc's main rival, Baron Mordo, attacks again, this time luring Doctor Strange to an old castle in London by disguising himself as Lord Bentley, an old and apparently distant friend of Doc (distant enough that Doc didn't know he died a decade before). Mordo traps him in the vapours of a mystic candle, which will end his life if it's allowed to burn out. Ever arrogant Doc refused the Ancient One's offer to help, and instead reaches out to the nearby Victoria Bentley, who has latent mystic powers. Not taken by surprise, Doctor Strange is more than a match for Mordo, who is forced to retreat.

They sure did pack a lot into these early 5-page episodes. Mordo and his arrogance, clearly covering for his innate cowardice, is always nice to see. I thought it was kind of interesting that Victoria was pretty clearly set up to return, though she doesn't until long after Ditko is gone. There seem to be a few mild attempts to create a few supporting characters for Doctor Strange beyond the Ancient One, though none seem to take for the first few years.


March 19, 2006

Machine Man #12 [1979]

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Machine Man was a Jack Kirby creation, cancelled when he left Marvel in 1978. It was revived less than a year later, this time with newly returned to Marvel Steve Ditko drawing and Marv Wolfman writing.

I'm looking forward to reading and re-reading these. A few of them were among my earliest Ditko back issue buys, but I only recently got the last few (they were absurdly expensive in one of those odd comic book marketplace things where books become "hot" for a guest appearance that no one cares about a year later (Jack O'Lantern?), but the price never goes down).

"Where Walk The Gods" is a 17-page story, starting with Machine Man patrolling the streets of New York at night, and getting increasingly disenchanted with humanity. For no well explained reason, his frustrated electrical discharge ends up instantly hyper-evolving five humans, who appear just as Machine Man is about to kill a criminal who shot a young boy's father. A rather odd dialogue on ethics ensues, as the cosmic beings debate whether Machine Man will prevent humanity from reaching its destiny. One amusing anti-Ditko note, when the young boy pleads on MM's behalf he also says of the shooter "there's gotta be a way to help him without hurting him". Oh, Mr. A would be so disappointed...

Actually kind of some ambitious, if unsuccessfully done, ideas in here for a mainstream comic about a robot from 1979. Maybe if there had been a fuller explanation of what exactly happened, or a follow-up of some sort.

Pretty standard Ditko art from the era. Solid, but nothing too eye-opening. In some ways his Machine Man is a bit too visually restrained at times.

Ditko also draws the cover.




"Where Walk The Gods" LG718

March 8, 2006

Captain Glory #1 [1993]

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Topps is yet another short-lived comic book start-up that Ditko was a part of, being one of the artists for their "Kirbyverse" books, featuring character designs by Jack Kirby. Some of the actual comics weren't bad, but I think they were doomed from the start by launching a line that literally needed a flowchart to follow and their insistence on bagging all their comics with trading cards.

Captain Glory was a Kirby design dating back to the New Gods days, originally named Captain Victory until that name was used for someone else.

This issue introduces Keltan, a soldier from 15,000 years in the past, preserved in a pod along with two others as their civilization collapsed in order to help the next civilization survive. He emerges alone in modern day Chicago, unable to understand this new world and running into reporters and police, until he's found by other survivors of his time, determined to conquer the new world.

Ditko draws the 28-page story, written by Roy Thomas. It's some good looking stuff from Ditko, thankfully doing his own inks unlike a lot of his mainstream work from the period.

After this one-shot Ditko also drew the four issues SECRET CITY SAGA that told the rest of the story.


March 1, 2006

Pacific Presents #1 [1982]

1 comments
The Missing Man was a character Ditko created in the early 1980s, appearing first as a back-up in CAPTAIN VICTORY, then being one of the two co-features in PACIFIC PRESENTS. I thought the visuals on the character were really nice, but the execution was a bit lacking, with no real background on the character other than that he was troubleshooter Syd Mane, who had an odd gimmick.

"The Queen Bee" is an 18-page adventure written and drawn by Ditko. Mob boss King tries to take over the racket of another mobster, Headman, using the powers of Queen Bee, a singer with a hypnotic voice, who thinks King is helping her find the killer of her lover. With the help of Ma's Detective Agency, Syd is able to find her lover alive, defeat King and reunite the couple.

Like I said, cool visuals for a character with a cool gimmick, but not much of a story, lacking both the pure goofiness and the heavy philosophical musings of Ditko's more interesting creator-owned work.



Ditko also draws the bottom half of the cover, under a Dave Stevens piece for the Rocketeer.

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