Steve Ditko: An Independent Man

The first thing that Ditko did for the series in 1967 (by which point Ditko had already left Marvel and was working for Charlton Comics mostly) was, of all things, just an incredibly simple gag story...

It's well done, but man, you never would have even guessed it was by Ditko, right?

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The following issue has the biggest contribution from Ditko, a five-page story introducing Ditko's new superhero, Mr. A, who is literally just the Question but with more straightforward Objectivist teachings (since Ditko was scripting himself and he knew that he did not have to appeal to any sort of commercial interest like he did at Charlton. They gave him tons of freedom, but they still expected him to make it somewhat commercial)...

He then contributed an even longer Mr. A story in the following issue, a 10-pager!

How good is Ditko? The character is, well, you know, but the art, man! The art is amazing!

Wood, though, then gave up on witzend after that issue (he sold the series to Bill Pearson for $1.00) and Ditko was there mostly for Wood. He and Wood even tried another comic book called Heroes Inc. in 1969 that didn't work out exactly as they planned (that's a story for another day).

Ditko then did some fanzine stuff with Mr. A. Finally, in 1972, he decided to self-publish for the first time, working with a comic book fan named Joe Brancatelli. They collected the various Mr. A material into a new book. They printed 5,000 copies and sold barely half that.

While that did not work out, it did inspire another person, the entrepreneur Bruce Hershenson, who had been doing well selling reprints of E.C. comics, to get into the Ditko business. Hershenson bought the remaining 2000 copies that Brancatelli had and Brancatelli let him know that Ditko was interested in doing new material, as well.

This led to the release of Ditko's Avenging World.

It's truly amazing. It's this giant polemic about the ills of the world.

Things went well enough that Ditko and Hershenson put out two more comics together. A book called Wha? and then a second issue of Mr. A.

Around this time, Ditko teamed up with Wood again for another try at Heroes Inc. It was published by the same fan publishers that did the Charlton Comcis fanzines. What's really interesting about this era is watching these young fans pull together to essentially help their idols get their independent work out there. It's really nice to see.

Anyhow, in Heroes Inc. Featuring Cannon #2, Ditko inked Wood on a story featuring Wood's secret agent character that would later appear in military publications sans Ditko (the comic got a lot more salacious once Wood started doing it on his own)...

What's fascinating about Ditko and the early 1970s is that that while the comics world still really wasn't ready for independent comic books when Wood started, by the end of the 1960s, there was a clear market for independent comics in the head shops of the country and for a brief period in time in the late 1960s/early 1970s, starting an independent comic book series was actually a reasonable business opportunity. And yet that's when Ditko was really only doing fanzines! By the time he got into it, the scene had died down a bit (as head shops were driven out of business in many towns in the country). Just kind of bad luck.

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