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Steve Ditko and His Life In (and Out of) Photographs

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Steve Ditko and His Life In (and Out of) Photographs

We are finally here. This is the last Steve Ditko retrospective article that I am doing. Later on Sunday, I’ll put together a post collecting all of them into one place. Probably under the title “Steve Ditko: A CBR Retroespective,” but maybe something else.

In any event, I am finishing this out with a piece that was suggested by my pal, Glen Cadigan, who suggested that I write about Steve Ditko’s dislike for having his photograph taken and the extremes that some people have gone to to try to get his photo.

RELATED: Steve Ditko Speaks!

Now, obviously, when he was growing up, Ditko was like pretty much everyone else in the world during the same time period. That is to say that he got his photo taken for school and after that, it was a crapshoot.

And yes, is there something to be said for the fact that Steve Ditko, in high school, was a slim guy with glasses, just like Peter Parker?

Probably, but at the same time, it is also likely a bit overblown, all things considered.

In any event, there’s not a whole lot of Ditko photos between school and his time as a comic book artist, but then, suddenly, during his time when he was sharing a studio with Erik Stanton, there was a whole flood of photos from the late 1950s and these are the photos that you probably have seen if you have ever seen photographs of Steve Ditko.

There are three in particular that get shown a LOT.

Him at his desk, with the “Think” sign…

Him sleeping at his desk…

Him on the phone behind his crowded desk…

Visitors to his studio over the years noted just how much STUFF there was piled up all over the place (it is funny how many famous visitors Ditko has gotten over the years. We’re talking Jim Henson visiting, people!). And that, really, is likely these photos exist in the first place.

Ditko, you see, was surprisingly quite free with putting himself into his comics or, that is, characters based on himself.

Look at this Charlton comic book panel where the character is blatantly in an office like Ditko’s…

From Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, you can see Ditko using a few of his reference photos, including the sleeping one…

As Ditko was becoming more and more of a public figure, however, he was also becoming more and more interested in not letting his image be used. As we’ve pointed out numerous times in these columns, it is not that he was trying to be a recluse or anything like that, but just that he had a very strict idea that readers shouldn’t be getting anything from him about his work other than his work itself. So he usually would not talk about his work publicly and he wouldn’t let people post photographs of him.

A sort of exception was made for the creator-owned series, witzend, which was founded by one of Ditko’s closest artist peers, Wallace Wood. Ditko did a self-portrait for Wood, but even there, obviously Ditko leaned heavily for symbolism over an actual portrait…

However, you know how these things go, the more that you tell people that they can’t have something, the more that they want it!

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