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Ditko at Atlas Comics: The Unexpected Ditko/Martin Goodman Reunion

One thing that you will have likely noted from these articles is that Steve Ditko is very much a man of principle and, in general, tended not to want to do business again with people that he felt did not live up those principles. For instance, two creators that he had problems with over the years, Stan Lee and Dick Giordano, he managed to never work with again after parting ways with each of them in 1966 and 1968, respectively. Considering how significant Lee and Giordano were in the history of Marvel and DC Comics in the decades after that, that was no easy feat. Ditko took a few meetings with both men over the years, but could not come to an agreement with either one of them that fit into his standards (Giordano did ink one Ditko cover in 1980 after Giordano returned to work for DC, but it seems likely that that wasn't something that Ditko had a decision in and Ditko stopped working DC Comics right around that point). Interestingly enough, however, another person Ditko clashed with in the 1960s, Martin Goodman, actually managed to make up with Ditko during the mid-1970s for a short-lived comic book company called Atlas Comics.

As you may or may not know, Martin Goodman was one of the pulp fiction magazine publishers in the 1930s who decided, "Hey, comic books are a great place to make some more money" and started up a comic book company in 1939 that technically didn't really have a consistent name (Goodman notably used many little different company names for each of his magazines, possibly to help confuse stuff with payments and things like that) but soon became most commonly known as Timely Comics. Of all of the many comic book companies that launched during the 1940s, Timely was one of the few companies that made it out of the 1950s unscathed. Just barely, though, as the time of the Comics Code and the corresponding comic book sales slump hurt them, as well (plus they were almost put under by Goodman signing the company up with a distributor that promptly went out of business, leading him to have to rely on his rival, National Comics, to distribute their comic books for the next decade). By that point, the unofficial title of the company was Atlas Comics and its Editor-in-Chief, Stan Lee, had been with the company for over a decade (Lee joined Timely as Editor-in-Chief in 1941 when he was just 19 years old). It mostly published science fiction, horror, westerns and teen humor comics after its early superhero efforts proved no longer popular by the end of the 1940s.

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That is when Steve Ditko went to work for the company. Ditko was one of Atlas' most popular artists and even when the company had to cut down on its talent, Ditko kept his job. Soon, Atlas transitioned into superhero comic books again and Ditko was a major factor as the company became known as Marvel Comics.

Ditko plotted and drew one of the most successful titles, Amazing Spider-Man, as well as the popular Doctor Strange feature in Strange Tales. This is on top of other gigs like a stint on the original Incredible Hulk series and the Hulk feature in Tales to Astonish and the Iron Man feature in Tales of Suspense.

As time went by and the Spider-Man character became more and more famous, Ditko became more and more dissatisfied with Marvel Comics. Famously, Ditko and Stan Lee stopped communicating with each other and Ditko just drew all of his stories by himself and then brought the pages to Marvel's production manager, Sol Brodsky, who would give them to Lee, who would then script them based on Ditko's notes. While Ditko did not communicate with Lee during this period, he DID stay in communication with Marvel's owner and publisher, Martin Goodman, and Goodman would often give Ditko notes on the series. Goodman wanted Spider-Man to have more action in the book. He essentially wanted the book to be more commercial. Ditko complied as best that he could, but at the same time, Goodman was also the guy who was making deals to license out Spider-Man for cartoon and stuff like that without giving Ditko any sort of a percentage into the licensing. Ditko naturally felt that he should be sharing in all of the money that Marvel was making from Ditko's co-creation. So Ditko left Marvel in 1966.

Less than a decade later, though, he was working for Goodman once again.

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