Sad news reaches us at Film ‘89 Towers today with the Hollywood Reporter bringing us the news that legendary comic book artist Steve Ditko has passed away. He was 90 years old.
He was found unresponsive at his apartment in Manhattan on June 29h and was declared deceased by paramedics who attended the scene. The New York Police Department confirmed the news today. No cause of death was announced.
In 1961 Ditko and Stan Lee co-created Spider-Man. Lee, the editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, gave Ditko the assignment after he wasn’t satisfied with Jack Kirby’s take on the idea of a teen superhero with spider powers. The look and design of Spider-Man’s costume and web-shooters all came from Ditko with the character’s first appearance coming in Amazing Fantasy No.15. The character’s successful debut lead to the spin-off of his own series of comic adventures in The Amazing Spider-Man series, where Ditko helped create a series of now famous villains, including The Lizard and Dr. Octopus. Ditko was also the creator of Doctor Strange and his character debuted in Strange Tales No.110 and Ditko continued his work on the comic through to issue 146 in July 1966.
Cracks began to show behind the scenes with Ditko and Stan Lee, with the cause believed to be due to Lee not sharing the credit for Marvel’s success with Ditko and after several years of not speaking to each other, Ditko left Marvel blaming Lee’s self promoting ways.
Ditko went on to work for Charlton, DC Comics where he created many characters including The Question, Hawk and Dove and the Creeper. He also began to work with other small independent publishers before eventually returning to Marvel in 1979 where he continued to work for them as a freelancer until the 1990s. Amongst his last creations was Squirrel Girl in 1992, who has become a cult favourite in recent years.
Intensely reclusive, Ditko shunned the spotlight, rarely giving interviews even when some his most famous creations had had huge box office success.
“We didn’t approach him. He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger,” Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson told THR in 2016. “I hope he goes to see the movie, wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work.”
Directors Edgar Wright, Guillermo del Toro alongside author Neil Gaiman took to Twitter to pay their respects to Ditko;
Wright tweeted that Ditko was “influential on countless planes of existence” and “his work will never be forgotten.” Gaiman wrote, “I know I’m a different person because he was in the world.” Del Toro shared an iconic cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 33, which last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming paid homage to. Del Toro called it “Peak Ditko.”
Ditko continued to work in his Manhattan apartment up until his death and it is unknown how much of his recent work remains unpublished. Comic book creator Graig Weich of BeyondComics.TV struck up a friendship with Ditko over the last year of his life and would frequently visit him, where he’d find the legendary creator well-dressed and sporting a beret, as though he had stepped right out of the 1940s.
“He wasn’t 90. He seemed like a young, cool artist who happened to have an aged body,” Weich told THR. Weich also recalled asking Ditko about his relationship with Lee, and says the artist looked down and told him, “We’re peaceful.”
Stephen J. Ditko was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Nov. 2nd 1927. After developing an interest in comics in his teens, he graduated from high school and served in the army in post-war Germany, drawing for a military paper. After being discharged, he moved to New York City in 1950 and studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts). He began drawing for Marvel Comics forerunner Atlas Comics in 1955, leading to the successful collaboration with Stan Lee on Spider-Man.
He has no known survivors but leaves behind a legacy of Comic Book history.