Synopses & Reviews
The first critical retrospective of the work of the reclusive Spider-Man co-creator.
In the wake of the astonishing success of Sam Raimi's three Spider-Man movies, Steve Ditko has become known as the co-creator, with Stan Lee, of the early 1960s character that helped propel Marvel Comics' popularity on college campuses and gave it much of its cultural cachet throughout that decade. But, in the context of Steve Ditko's 50-year career in comics, his creative involvement with Spider-Man is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Ditko is known among the cartooning cognoscenti as one of the supreme visual stylists in the history of comics, as well as the most fiercely independent cartoonist of his generation. His unique style and innovative spatial designs moved from the imaginatively hallucinatory landscapes of Dr. Strange to the almost plebeian earthiness of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Ditko began his career in the 1950s drawing comics for the notorious low-budget Charlton Comics (the Roger Corman Productions of the comics industry) where he developed his craft on various genre titles. He started working for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in 1958, churning out monster/horror stories, until he was conscripted to work on Marvel's new super-hero line, for which he provided the visual conceptions of The Hulk, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange, and plotted and drew these characters' adventures between 1962 and 1966. By 1966, Spider-Man had become a pop culture icon, and it was then that Ditko quit drawing the character over mysterious circumstances that will, for the first time, be investigated here.
He immediately created his Ayn Rand-inspired character, Mr. A, whose first story appeared in Witzend, a black-and-white pre-underground independent comics magazine edited and published by Wally Wood, another talented stylist who chafed under the constraints of the mainstream comics publishers of the time. Ditko went on to work at various publishing companies such as DC Comics, Warren Publishing, and even Marvel Comics (albeit steadfastly refusing to ever draw Spider-Man again), writing and drawing his didactic Mr. A stories, relentlessly extolling the philosophical precepts of Ayn Rand, and, more recently, bitter visual jeremiads against the moral status quo of the comics industry.
Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko is a coffee table art book tracing Ditko's life and career, his unparalleled stylistic innovations, his strict adherence to his own (and Randian) principles, with lush displays of obscure and popular art from the thousands of pages of comics he's drawn over the last 55 years.
"[A] glorious celebration....Strange and Stranger is beautifully designed, a coffee-table bio filled with Ditko's artwork, and Bell has interviewed many of the industry figures who both employed and tussled with this strikingly original, stubborn comics legend. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
is a coffee table art book tracing Ditko's life and career, his unparalleled stylistic innovations, his strict adherence to his own (and Randian) principles, with lush displays of obscure and popular art from the thousands of pages of comics he's drawn over the last 55 years.
About the Author
Blake Bell is the author of Strange & Stranger (a retrospective of Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko); The Secret History of Marvel Comics, Fire & Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics; Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives; and Strange Suspense and Unexplored Worlds (two volumes in The Steve Ditko Archives). He lives in Toronto, Ontario, with his son.