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Steve Ditko's Outstanding Two Years of Horror at Warren Publishing

Steve Ditko's comic book career started at a strange time. Ditko was a born horror artist, but he started comics right when the Comics Code practically wiped the horror comic book off the face of the map. Eventually, comic book companies regrouped and began doing horror again, but they were working under so many new restrictions due to the Comics Code. Think of how galling it must have been to start doing horror comics when EC Comics was still in its heyday and suddenly even the seemingly tamest sorts of stories were deemed offensive.

However, Ditko managed to work through the restrictions and he became an acclaimed horror artist at both Marvel and Charlton Comics. Luckily for Ditko, for a brief period in the late 1960s, he was allowed to do horror stories without Comics Code restrictions and while working with one of the most talented comic book writers of the generation. This was Ditko's two-year stint at Warren Publishing.

RELATED: Steve Ditko: An Independent Man

James Warren launched Warren Publishing in 1957. Initially, it was just magazines ABOUT horror, like the Forest Ackerman-edited Famous Monsters of Filmland and Monster World. Warren also tried to do their own Mad magazine knockoff, Help! In 1964, after Russ Jones convinced Warren to test out horror comic stories in the pages of Monster World, Warren launched two new black and white comic book magazines, Creepy (in 1964) and Eerie (in 1965), both edited by Russ Jones. The great Joe Orlando also worked on the magazines from the beginning. Orlando was one of the top EC Comics artists of the early 1950s.

The hook was that since these were magazines, they did not have to be approved by the Comics Code. For the first time in a decade, there was an avenue for comic book stories done in the classic EC Comics style. Of course, just because there was an avenue doesn't mean that there was anyone to drive the magazine. Luckily, Warren hired a writer in his late 20s named Archie Goodwin. Goodwin was a huge fan of the EC Comics horror titles and Goodwin wrote his stories in that style and he was brilliant at it. He was so good that when Russ Jones and Warren had a falling out, Goodwin took over as the editor of the Warren comic book magazine line.

In early 1966, Ditko was already quite displeased with Marvel Comics and had started working for Charlton Comics again. At the same time, he was also available to draw for Creepy and Eerie. He began with 1966's Eerie #3. Goodwin was writing most of the stories at the time and of the 16 Ditko stories for Warren, Goodwin wrote 15 of them.

In "A Room With a View," a man insists on taking the only available room in a hotel, a room thought to be haunted. As it turns out, it is via the mirror in the room...

Ditko's demons have a very familiar feel to them. Much like how his old women all sort of look like Aunt May, his demons are also fairly distinct. They're really cool looking, though.

Ditko works in strict pencils and inks here. However, as you'll see on the next page, in his next story for Warren he did one of the first instances of ink washes in his entire career!

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