I don't believe that even the biggest Steve Ditko fan would object to the assertion that Spider-Man likely would not have been as popular of a character had Ditko scripted the series himself instead of Stan Lee. Lee clearly brought a major element of accessibility to the character that went with Ditko's brilliant artwork and inventive plots to create a star.
However, at the same time, I think people are perhaps a bit too caught up in the fact that one of Ditko's first superheroes where Ditko also scripted the series, Mr. A, is so serious and lecture-like. Yes, Ditko liked to teach lessons with his characters and yes, Mr. A is an extremely serious character. That does not mean that Ditko was always a serious guy. It is sort of like the whole legend about him being a recluse. Because he doesn't speak to the media, then he is though to be "silent," and since he is silent, he is considered to be stand-offish and a recluse. When, in reality, that was not the case. He was just a dude who had some strict viewpoints on things.
RELATED: Steve Ditko: An Independent Man
As I talked about in my recent article about Ditko's independent comic book work, the first story that he contributed to Wallace Wood's witzend was an extremely simple gag story where a car stuck on a railroad track appears that it is about to be destroyed by an incoming train, until we see that it is just an owl flying with a lantern on its head...
That's not the sort of thing that an ultra serious guy comes up with, ya know?
So, with that in mind, it should be too much of a surprise to learn that Ditko once came up with a comedic superhero during the 1970s. What is perhaps a bit unusual is that the comedic superhero was also an object lesson in Ditko's Objectivist beliefs, but clearly, Ditko believed that his philosophical beliefs could be expressed well through a joke character.
Dubbed Killjoy, this superhero is a lot like Deadpool in that he mocks that conventions of the superhero genre while also just being a bit of an absurdist character. He debuted as a back-up in 1973's E-Man #2.
The basic gag is introduced right away, where the silent hero attacks villains who are send-ups of things that Ditko think are worthy of mockery in modern society, specifically in this case the idea of people feeling that they are being discriminated against. Here, he takes it to the absurdist degree where it is common criminals complaining about being discriminated against.
Not only that, but Ditko then mocks the conventions of superhero comics by having the hero's secret identity obviously show up at the end of the page.
However, he then does a twist on it with the next page....
Now his secret identity is someone else entirely.
Then on the next page it is someone else again...
The basic gag throughout is the sight of the criminals all crying because Killjoy won't just let them commit crimes in peace. That was it for the first Killjoy story, but what about the second one?