I keep thinking that I am ready to wrap up these Steve Ditko retrospective pieces and then you folks just keep on sending in interesting topics to cover and I “have” to keep going! Quotes because, of course, it is always interesting to write these articles, so I am certainly not complaining.
I’m getting really close, though. Off the top of my head, I have just one more article left after this one unless someone writes in with another topic.
Today, based on a suggestion from reader David P., we take a look at Steve Ditko’s costume designs.
David wanted to specifically point out the fascinating aspect of Ditko’s costumes is that they tended to be so distinct that you could pick them out of a crowd with just a look at the glove or the boot.
Here, for instance, from a panel showing Spider-Man’s powers in action from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1…
There really is no mistaking that costume design for anyone else, is there?
Of course, that distinctive Spider-Man costume design is what Ditko will forever be best known for…
Even Ditko himself understood how important the costume design is in the creation of a character. He wrote about it about 15 years ago, while discussing the creation of Spider-Man. Ditko showed Jack Kirby’s design for Spider-Man and then contrasted it with his own to simply inquire about the idea of “co-creating” a character and how much does it mean to be the guy who comes up with the famous design…
I was just talking about the importance of coincidences in history earlier and how I believe people are far too willing to read “conspiracies” into things where they don’t exist. A good example of this, I believe, is the notion that Ditko took the design for Spider-Man from a Ben Cooper Halloween costume that was popular in the 1950s called, simply enough, Spider Man…
When John Cimino sent some clippings of the Ben Cooper costume to Steve Ditko and asked it it was an influence on Ditko’s design, Ditko replied, “The burden of proof is on the person who makes the assertion, claim, charge. Some clipping, etc. are not rational proof of anything but some clippings, etc.” While that sounds awfully non-committal, once you understand Ditko-speak, you get that is about as straightforward of a “no” as you are going to get from Steve Ditko on most topics. He is saying there what I noted earlier, which is to say that something similar in the world existing that looks like Ditko’s design does not inherently mean anything. “Someone came up with something similar” does not equal “I was influenced by the similar-looking thing.”
The name came from Stan Lee, after all. Ditko did not come up with it, so the fact that the Ben Cooper costume was named Spider Man doesn’t mean anything. What we have is that both Ditko and Ben Cooper took the term “Spider-Man” and came up with the idea of a costume made out of webs. While it looks awesome, that doesn’t seem like it would be some shocking design idea, does it?
While David is correct that it is cool how you can identify a Ditko costume by simply looking at a glove or a boot, I think it is even COOLER that so many of Ditko’s intricate designs have essentially been kept the same since Ditko came up with them 50 or more years ago.
Here is just a sampling of Ditko designs that have mostly remained the same over a matter of DECADES in an industry that is known for re-doing costumes at the drop of a hat…
HAWK AND DOVE
Heck, even Doctor Strange, whose costume HAS changed some in recent years, still stayed pretty much the same for DECADES!
Of course, Ditko is also known for his love of the simple suit as costume, as well…
Costume-wise, Ditko is perhaps best known outside of his Spider-Man design for how he added a little bit of red to a certain armored Avenger’s costume design…
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