WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in theaters now.
This was a painful year for comic book fans due to the deaths of two industry giants, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, co-creators of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, among other Marvel Comics characters. Ditko died in June at age 90, while Lee passed away in November at 95. Two legends, who for decades created some of the most fantastic stories and characters of all time, were gone within months of one another.
It's fitting, then, that Sony Pictures should release Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, featuring not only their most famous creation, but also such other characters as Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, albeit in different incarnations. As one might hope, the film also includes a heartfelt tribute to both men that fans with tears in our eyes.
It comes in the mid-credits, with simple title cards. First, there's a quote from Lee on a black background that reads, "That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero."Just below it is an image of Lee's signature glasses.
The card then transitions into another message that reads, "Thank You. Stan Lee & Steve Ditko. For telling us we aren't the only ones." It's a nice gesture to honor the former collaborators, especially as so much of Into the Spider-Verse centers on Miles Morales coming to believe he's worthy of continuing the legacy of Peter Parker, who has died in his world.
As nice as it is to see another tribute to Lee, following his cameo in the film, it's heartwarming to witness the acknowledgement of Ditko, without whom Spider-Man as we now know him wouldn't have existed -- never mind much of his most memorable foes and allies.
Ditko left Marvel in 1966 following a disagreement with Lee that's never been publicly explained. Lee himself claimed he never knew the reason for the rift.
When Ditko passed, Lee said he was "always impressed" with the artist's work. "He told a story like a fine movie director would," Lee said.
"Steve was certainly one of the most important creators in the comic book business," Lee said, "and his talent was indescribable."
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse stars Shameik Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney and Kimiko Glenn. The film is now in theaters.