We are getting so close to point where I can just release a big post collecting all of my Steve Ditko articles. I was about one article shy from getting to that point, but like I tell you all every time, if you do want to write in suggestions for future Steve Ditko articles, I'm still accepting them. I don't particularly mind pushing the collection off for however many articles we need to get through until nobody has anything left to ask me to write about Ditko. It's not like we're working on any sort of deadline here. So if you have an idea for something Ditko-related that you'd like to see me write about, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I noted, I was about one article shy, as reader Silas F. wrote in with a fine question that about who, exactly, were Steve Ditko's biggest influences when it came to the design of his artwork. Excellent question, Silas, and heck, let's get into it!
One of the things that you have to know about pretty much all of the comic book greats of the Golden Age and, in Ditko's case, the Silver Age, is that they grew up when the comic strip was king. Ditko was obviously younger than all of the Golden Age guys, so the traditional comic book did, in fact, exist when Ditko was a teenager, but when he was a little kid, there really weren't any comic books as we now know of them. What there WERE, though, were newspaper comic strips. The world as a whole loved newspaper comic strips but Ditko's dad, in particular, was a big fan and so Ditko grew up with an appreciation for them. When Ditko was a pre-teen, superhero comic books started and Ditko was a big fan of the early Batman comic books. I am sure he did not know who Jerry Robinson was at the time, but Jerry Robinson was Bob Kane's first art assistant on the Batman feature in Detective Comics (and then later in the Batman ongoing series) and Robinson soon moved on to become a penciler on he feature himself. Therefore, those Batman comic books that Ditko enjoyed so much as a pre-teen/teen (to the point where Ditko's mom made him and his younger brother Batman and Robin costumes one year) were quite possibly drawn by Jerry Robinson.
Another big influence when Ditko was a young teen was Will Eisner's The Spirit, which was a noir superhero that appeared in a special newspaper supplement beginning in 1940. The supplement was essentially a little comic book that would be part of the Sunday funniest section (which was HUGE back in those days).
I'm looking to the great Blake Bell for most of these stories, as I learned pretty much all of this info from reading his amazing book, Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko.
Bell wrote about Ditko's appreciation for Eisner's Spirit:
By his teenage years, Steve came to admire the strip that headline the comic section of “The Philadelphia Inquirer”, Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”, and his mother would sew little cloth covers for the sections. Steve would take his kid brother Pat across town every week to fetch that Sunday’s “Inquirer”. Once, returning during a winter blizzard, Pat’s boots filled with snow. Throwing away the rest of the paper, Steve pocketed the “Spirit” section and tossed Pat on his back. Inspired by Eisner’s “The Spirit” and [Jerry] Robinson’s “Batman”, Ditko aspired to become a professional comic-book artist.
Silas specifically wrote in about how Ditko's page designs changed when he had more freedom on stories like his Mister A stuff...
Clearly, when it comes to elaborate page designs to open up a story, the entire comic book industry owes influence to the great Will Eisner, who made a whole art of just doing elaborately designed opening pages in the Spirit...
So while obviously Ditko was just one of many, he clearly WAS influenced by Eisner.
He even paid specific homage to Eisner with the famous window in Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum...
Those were both from early issues of The Spirit, which is when Eisner was at his most devoted era of reading the series (as the above Bell quote notes, Ditko's mom would even make special cloth covers for the collected Spirit comics).