Comic Legends: Would Ditko Really Do Mr. A Stories for Free for Fans?

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Steve Ditko would offer up Mr. A stories to fans free of charge provided that they publish them.



In 1967, Steve Ditko was working for Charlton Comics and they gave him a tremendous amount of freedom (considering that they were a small publisher who were not paying Ditko a whole lot of money) to do essentially his own line of superhero comic books. However, even with that freedom, they still expected Ditko to do work that would be considered traditionally "commercial."

That was why Ditko found himself more and more interested in the world of independent comic books. Don't get me wrong, Steve Ditko wasn't a moron. He knew he had to work on mainstream comic books to make a living for himself, but he was a prolific enough artist that just working in his spare time, he could do a lot of other work.

So, when his friend Wallace Wood launched the independent comic book anthology, witzend, Ditko broke from the other creators involved. Wood knew the cream of the crop, but the other guys involved mostly delivered old stuff that they had that they couldn't use otherwise. Ditko, though, created a brand-new superhero, Mr. A, who was basically the Question if the Question did not even pretend to be a sort of kind of traditional superhero.

Mr. A debuted in witzend #3...

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

Wood, though, gave up on witzend soon after this, so Ditko had to find a new fix.

He then put it into the comic book fandom that he would contribute Mr. A stories for any fan produced comic book fanzine that would agree to either publish them or return the art to Ditko if they couldn't publish it (and, of course, he wanted them to return the art to him AFTER they published it, as well).

Can you even imagine how awesome of an offer that is? One of the greatest comic book creators of their generation was offering them free original content!

Naturally, a number of fanzines took him up on the offer, like Graphic Illusions #1...

and Comic Crusader #13...

And yet, of course, people being people, Ditko was taken advantage of a lot during this period. People wouldn't publish his art for years (to be fair, it was hard to make a fanzine, so some fans likely felt that they WOULD be able to do it on time and just fell behind) and some even sold the art out from under him. Towards the end of this period, Ditko would sometimes just send the art directly to the printers whenever the fanzines were ready to print, as Ditko did not trust the fans to return the art to him otherwise.

Eventually, Ditko got really disenchanted with the whole endeavor. He believed that he was being treated unfairly (and he probably was), but luckily, around this time, independent comic book publishing had improved to the point where there were guys out there who would PAY Ditko to publish Mr. A comic books, and so that was what happened from that point forward, especially in the last 30 or so years where Robin Snyder has helped publish Ditko's work (including new Mr. A stories).

Still, for a few years there, Ditko's Mr. A work appeared in a bunch of different fanzines. What a cool little period of history.

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Check back later for the final part of this week's Comic Book Legends Revealed!

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