Creator / Steve Ditko

Stephen J. "Steve" Ditko (born November 2, 1927) is the third creator of the Marvel Universe along with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who is most famous for co-creating Spider-Man.

Unlike Kirby, whose work is like a grand symphony of grandiose spectacle and mythic archetypes, Ditko's work at its prime is more like a bluesy soloist, determined to follow his own vision to create his own path. As such, he took to Stan Lee's ideas for deeper characterization much more easily than Kirby did and carved out his own special niche into Marvel.

That means while Ditko was not as dominant in the company's work, his work stood out as something special, such as his original take on Spider-Man being so distinctively him that he was among the first to share official writing credits with Stan Lee on the comic as a plotter. Likewise, his surreal imagery of his Doctor Strange stories have set the tone for the supernatural in the Marvel Universe for decades. In addition, it was his Incredible Hulk stories where the eponymous character first began to change when he is under extreme stress, turning the character from a Jekyll & Hyde copy into the pop culture embodiment of runaway emotion.

Unfortunately, Ditko had a falling-out with Lee, the exact reasons for this decision are not quite clear. Supposedly, it had to do with the revelation of Norman Osborn being Green Goblin which the Objectivist Ditko thought that criminals were pathetic losers and that the idea of a supervillain turning out to be a successful businessman was politically offensive (which is not much of an Objectivist viewpoint). Another explanation suggested that Ditko was unwilling to compromise on realism while Lee pushed for a move towards "Marvel time"; and yet another explanation was that he simply thought it was unrealistic for Peter Parker to have known the villain in both his civilian and superhero persona. However, this seems to have been debunked by Ditko himself recently, and the true reasons for his departure remain murky. In the course of his long retirement, Steve Ditko has remained silent about his departure from Marvel and refuses to mention Spider-Man in any way, shape, or form.

He defected back to Charlton Comics where he would work on some of his classic secondary creations like designing Captain Atom, revamping the Blue Beetle and creating The Question, which were all eventually purchased by DC Comics in the 1980s. In 1960s, Ditko would later move to DC himself to create characters like The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, and Shade, the Changing Man. He would return to marvel during the Jim Shooter era, illustrating such titles as Machine Man and Rom Spaceknight.

Eventually, Ditko's storytelling shifted to push his Ayn Rand influences and interest in Objectivism further into the open. Nowhere is that more obvious but in his Mr. A stories about a Black and White Morality vigilante (a less commercial version of the Question). Alan Moore notably despised this character — the character of Rorschach in Watchmen is a deconstruction and parody of these characters, though some have missed Moore's point, thus perpetuating this type of character and even impressing Ditko with its faithfulness to his own creation. Also, Moore admires Ditko greatly as an artist and was appalled that like many Marvel creators, he was struggling in the 70s. He also says that while he disagrees with Ditko politically, he admires him as an artist and appreciates him for discussing his political perspectives seriously.

Today, his work has slowed down due to its inaccessibility and consistent reports of Ditko being difficult to work with in general. He has become the most famous Reclusive Artist of the medium, refusing all interviews and photos even while he's getting his due with official credits in the Spider-Man Trilogy feature films and his DC/Charlton characters getting the spotlight in Justice League Unlimited.

...Oh yeah, and he created Squirrel Girl. Make what you will of that.

Tropes associated with Steve Ditko:

  • Aggressive Categorism: The first few pages of Avenging World outline the types of people Ditko has issues with: The Mystic, The Skeptical Intellectual, The Middle Roader, The Enlightened, ect...
  • Author Avatar: Peter Parker in the comics bears a startling resemblance to Steve Ditko himself.
  • Author Tract: Mr. A and essentially all of his self published works.
  • Black and White Morality: Just in case you don't get it through his didactic comics, Ditko reportedly likes to emphasize his point by taking an index card, blackening one half of it and saying: "This is black and this is white...and there's nothing, nothing in between". The black/white card is the calling card of Mr. A.
  • Expy: In Ditko's words, Watchmen's Rorschach is "the one who's like Mr. A, but insane." note 
  • Irony: Of the situational variety. Ditko is an avid Objectivist, yet the two characters he's most famous for creating, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, both start their origin tales as haughty men only interested in helping themselves to profit who slowly learn how to become heroic altruists.
  • Minimalist Cast: Mr. A doesn't have much in the way of supporting characters since his character is given no backstory.
  • Old Shame: Infamously uses his original art (including his original work on Spider-Man, which he could sell for thousands a piece to collectors) as cutting boards in his studio, as a jab towards Marvel for their mistreatment of him and other artists over the years (and as a statement that he's still working today and shouldn't be defined by the work he did a half-century ago).invoked
  • Spiritual Successor: For Charlton Comics, Ditko created The Question as a more accessible version of Mr. A.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Mr. A, The Question and Hawk and Dove will often talk their foes to death while in the heat of battle. (Though this wordiness is usually typical of older comics, for Ditko characters, it will probably be about Objectivism.)
  • Wall of Text: Notably in his Mr. A and Avenging World.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: In Ditko's essays, his punctuation can't be faulted, blamed per se, but his tendency to have more than one descriptor, identifier in the same sentence, statement tends to become awkward, unwieldy.