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Comic Legends: Did Ditko Destroy a Comic Over a Lettering Dispute?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and ninety-eighth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

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COMIC LEGEND:

A comic book was once shelved because Steve Ditko didn't like how it was lettered.

STATUS:

I'm Going With False

A while back, in the middle of my seemingly endless retrospective on Steve Ditko's career in comics, I wrote about Ditko's time working for Atlas/Seaboard, the short-lived comic book company that Martin Goodman started up in the mid-1970s after he sold Marvel Comics in the late 1960s.

Ditko's most notable series for the company was called the Destructor...

Ditko did the series with writer Archie Goodwin and inker Wallace Wood (both creators Ditko had worked with together in the past).

The Destructor was a young man who had been working for the mob whose father invented a serum that could basically turn a person's body into the peak of the human condition, including increased healing. When his father is killed and the man badly wounded, the father gives him the serum before he dies and the man becomes the superhero known as the Destructor.

Here's a story from the second issue...

Anyhow, my long time comic book pal, Keith Alan Morgan, wrote in to tell me about a possible future title for that series that Ditko walked away from over a lettering dispute!

Jeff Rovin, one of the main editors at Atlas/Seaboard, told the story to Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Artist #16...

Jeff: There were other ones, by the way, that were on the drawing board that never got produced, for one reason or another. Steve Ditko had done a thing called "Wrecage," which was, I think, one of the best things he ever did. It was spelled with no "k." [laughter] I don't remember really what it was about; it was a bunch of guys in costumes who were breaking things. He had penciled this job, and it came in, and the lettering, the balloons were in the middle of the panels instead of butting up on the edges, and he was so angry about that, he just threw the pages down and said, "You've taken the heart out of it," and walked out. We never saw him again. That was one book that, even though we had done the script, done the pencils, worked every detail out, it never got done. Along with...

CBA: Ditko was angry because the balloons were in the center of the panel?

Jeff: Right, instead of butting up against the panel borders, which is how he apparently liked them, but neglected to say.

CBA: Did you look at that like as an idiosyncratic response?

Jeff: Well, if I had known, I would've put it up against the panel! [laughter] I felt bad, because we didn't know, and if he had told me and I didn't hear it, or failed to communicate it to the letterer, it was unfortunate, but there you go!

Ditko later re-did the character as Recage for The Ditko Package many years later...

However, while Ditko might have actually walked away from the project because of the lettering, Rovin explained in a later interview that Wrecage didn't come out for a different, more practical reason. Rovin explained in an article about Atlas/Seaboard in The Comics Journal:

Steve Ditko, who labored endlessly on a terrific spy/super-hero strip called Wrecage, only to eat it when Martin pulled the plug on the black-and-white titles before the second issues even went on sale. (Martin's reasoning on this, which I still find incredibly specious, was that Marvel's black-and-whites weren't doing so well, so ours wouldn't either. Never mind that Warren's were making money and that, stylistically, our titles were much closer to his books than to Stan's.) The only magazine to survive the purge was Movie Monsters, which went on to become a camp classic, more on which in a bit.

So whether Ditko liked the lettering or not, it sounds like Goodman pulling the plug on the black and white magazines was a much bigger reason for the book not coming out.

Thanks to Keith for the suggestion and thanks to Jeff for the information!

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed - Did George Lucas quit the Directors Guild of America because of a dispute over The Empire Strikes Back not having traditional opening credits?

OK, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo, which I don't even actually use on the CBR editions of this column, but I do use them when I collect them all on legendsrevealed.com!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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See you all next week!

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