After retiring from mainstream comics in 1998, legendary comics creator Steve Ditko has been a hard man to find. Admittedly, he wasn’t much easier to find before his announced retirement. Since very early on in his career, Ditko has been at odds with the celebrity nature that his work has earned with fans and fellow creators — avoiding the spotlight, refusing interviews and distancing himself from the community nature of the comics industry. In a way, Ditko has become comics’ equivalent of J.D. Salinger, rarely releasing new work and eschewing the modern notion that creators engage with fans and press. Stan Lee, he’s not.
So the news coming out that Ditko has written several essays about Spider-Man in various independent publications is something eye-opening for fans, be they casual admirers or the ardent devotees like U.K. television personality Jonathan Ross, who tracked down Ditko for a 2007 documentary (he declined to be interviewed or photographed). Earlier this year, Ditko published an essay called “The Knowers & The Barkers” in his comic book #17: Seventeen, and a second just popped up in the comic fanzine The Comics Vol. 23 No. 7, published by Robin Snyder, Ditko’s former editor at Charlton and Archie. This second essay, “The Silent Sel-Deceivers,” reportedly runs a page and a half and features Ditko addressing the creation of Spider-Man.
In this essay, he discusses the original take on Spider-Man by Jack Kirby before Ditko was asked to come up with his own interpretation of Lee’s idea for a spider-based hero. These pages, which Ditko says number five in total, have never been published or seen on the original art market. Lee, in a 2000 interview for Greg Theakston’s The Steve Ditko Reader, said he rejected Kirby’s work as “too heroic.” On several occasions, Kirby later claimed he contributed many ideas that ended up in the character’s formal debut in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15. Ditko talks about that in this essay, as well as Lee’s own contributions to the Spider-Man concept.
Details on ordering the books containing these essays, and seeing Ditko’s modern cartooning work, can be found at the Ditko Comics Blog.