As we've mentioned in the previous looks at Steve Ditko's comic book career, the one company that he remained the most involved with throughout his career was actually Charlton Comics, working there off and on from 1953 through Charlton going out of business in 1986. However, he is clearly most famous for his work for Marvel Comics in the 1960s. Honestly, it is kind of strange to consider that this man's five decades plus in the industry is really boiled down to a five year period from 1961-1966. But hey, people still think of Bob Dylan for what happened between 1963-1966, so that's just what happens when you make such a major impact on pop culture history.
In any event, after years away from Marvel, Ditko made a return to Marvel in 1979 and, outside of a short break in the early 1980s, worked steadily there until the end of the 1980s. However, the titles that Ditko worked on now were much less high profile, due both to his reduced stature as a "hot" artist but also Ditko's own restrictions of what kind of books that he was willing to work on.
In the late 1970s, Jim Shooter became Archie Goodwin's second-in-command when Goodwin became the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. During this period, Shooter first met Steve Ditko at some New York City comic book based situation. Shooter recalls it as being some sort of Continuity event (Neal Adams' company that produced artwork for a variety of clients). Shooter then took over from Goodwin as Marvel's Editor-in-Chief in 1978. He used this time to approach Ditko about a return to Marvel. Shooter later recalled on his blog:
After I became Editor in Chief of Marvel in 1978 and therefore had the power to offer him work, I told Steve that if he ever wished to work for Marvel he was welcome. Anytime. He was a Founding Father. I couldn’t rectify all the past injustices (though I was trying), but I could and would keep our door always open to him.
Steve apparently wasn’t too keen on having anything to do with Marvel early on, but a few years later, he came to see me at Marvel’s 387 Park Avenue South offices. I think he realized that we had made a sincere effort to make things better and deal more fairly with creators. Or maybe the fact that Stan wasn’t there any more (having moved out to the Coast to work at Marvel Productions) made a difference. Or maybe he just wanted work. Whatever. He was willing to work for us and I was happy.
It it possible that Shooter is thinking about Ditko's later return to Marvel around 1984. However, since Ditko's return to Marvel did line up pretty well with Shooter becoming the Editor-in-Chief, I'm willing to say that Shooter played a role in Ditko's original return to Marvel in 1979, although Marv Wolfman clearly played a major role, as well.
It all started with a surprise cover by Steve Ditko on Incredible Hulk #235!