Scott's Classic Comics Corner: Hidden Ditko Treasure 1965-1980

Many Steve Ditko fans are familiar with his popular work at Marvel and DC as well as his contributions to the Tower Comics line and his work at Charlton in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many of these books have been reprinted, and are widely available. There is, however, a lot more Ditko work to be found out there from the 1965-1980 period. Many of these books are quite affordable, if you are willing to dedicate some time and effort to dollar bin diving. Here are some examples:

After his departure from Marvel Comics, Ditko turned in some work for American Comics Group. Ditko had never done work for this venerable publisher to this point, and at first it would seem that he would be an odd fit for its lighthearted titles such as Adventures Into the Unknown and Unknown Worlds. By my math, Ditko contributed 7 stories, totaling 36 pages in the second half of 1966. Most, if not all, of these were inked by Sal Trapani – who wasn’t the worst fit for Ditko, but it’s definitely a bare bones look. None of these are particularly strong stories, but they are fun and some, like the whimsical baseball themed “To My Pal Joey” are unlike anything you’ve likely seen from Ditko.

At the same time, Ditko turned in a few stories for Dell. He contributed a couple of stories to Dell. He penciled Nukla #4, a pretty dull series released during the time when every publisher was trying to jump aboard the superhero bandwagon. He’s inked by Sal Trapani here as well, and you will see a vast difference in the overall look as compared to Ditko’s self-inked work from this period. What is even more odd is that Ditko contributed to a couple of issues of Get Smart, the adaptation of the TV series.

Atlas-Seaboard had a very short life in the mid 70s. Many of the books put out by A-B were weak Marvel rip-offs, but at least they used some great artists. Ditko did a good amount of work for them, including all 4 issues of The Destructor (the one true Spider clone?) and several issues of Tiger-Man and one Moorlock 2001. When I was a kid, these were regular denizens of the ten cent rack, and can still be found for a buck.

Ditko did an absolute ton of work for Charlton in the 60s and 70s and I encourage people to check it out. Many people have already discussed his horror books and short-lived superheroes such as Liberty Belle. The books I really want to bring to your attention, however, are a handful of issues from Charlton's reprint era during the late 70s. These are the best (and cheapest) way of getting your hands on Ditko's work for Charlton in the 50s. I assume Blake Bell will continue bringing Ditko's work to comic book stores, these books will get you a taste for 50s Ditko.

One of the stories that once made the rounds is that Dick Giordano brought along his stable of Charlton artist when he made the move to DC. Apparently, it was Steve Ditko, already working for DC, who strongly recommended Dick Giordano. Everyone is familiar with Ditko’s work on the likes of Hawk and Dove and Beware the Creeper, but Ditko’s first work for DC were a couple of stories contributed to Strange Adventures #188 (May, 1966) and Strange Adventures #189 (June, 1966). These would be the only non-Creeper, non-Hawk and Dove stories Ditko would do for DC until the mid-70s. As far as Silver Age books go, they are a relative bargain.

Shade, the Changing Man, Stalker (with Wally Wood inks), the Demon strip in Detective Comics and a return to the Creeper in World’s Finest are all well known and strongly recommended. Ditko made some lesser known, yet equally interesting contributions to various DC titles during the latter half of the decade. Man-Bat #1 gives you the rare opportunity to see Ditko’s take on Batman and Gotham City and Superboy and the Legion #257 and Legion of Super-Heroes #267 do the same for the world of the Legion. Plop! #16 features an example of a Ditko humour strip and select issues of Ghosts (#77), Weird War Tales (#46 and 49), House of Secrets (#139 and 148), House of Mystery (#236, 247, 254 and 258), Time Warp (#1 and 2), Secrets of the Haunted House (#9 and 12) and The Unexpected (#189 and 190) all feature good examples of Ditko’s horror and sci-fi vision during a time when the work at Charlton had dried up.

Finally, I’d like to sign off with a bit of information regarding Steve Ditko’s work at Warren. Ditko contributed some wonderful stories during the early years of Eerie and Creepy. Most, if not all, of them were written by the late, great Archie Goodwin. Ditko uses a wash technique for many of these stories, and it is absolutely beautiful. Those 60s mags can be pricey and tough to find. In 1982, Warren published Eerie #135 which features 100% Goodwin/Ditko reprints. I’m hesitant to bring this one to people’s attention, as I am still looking for an affordable copy. I’ve seen some on-line retailers offering it for under $10.00.

This is really only the tip of the iceberg, but I want to give a sense of just how much hidden Ditko treasure was out there. Perhaps one day, I'll touch on where to find some of his more obscure work from the 80s and 90s. For more comic book nonsense, including some fun Ditko covers, stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

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