” The Enigma of Steve Ditko: The Giant, who walked humbly, among men.”
I was signed in to Facebook in the very early evening, last night, for a couple of hours, chatting with several internet friends about comics, and some other topics. Then, I signed OUT for a couple of hours, having been busy with some other things.
When I signed back on to Facebook, later that evening, I was a late-comer, as it turned out, regarding the very sad news that Steve Ditko had passed away. And, the scuttlebutt seemed to be that he had (perhaps) passed away sometime in late June, and we were all only finding out about it last evening — about a week later.
The scuttlebutt on this – which is (NOT) confirmed – is that Mr. Ditko may have (?) perhaps passed away in his apartment, and that he may have not been found, until a week or so, later.
(If) that is the case, then that makes three celebrities that I am personally aware of, who had something to do with comics, who passed away in their respective apartments; and then, it not having been discovered that they had even died, till a week or more, later.
The other two people who I am speaking of, where the same thing happened to them, in the order of the dates of their passing, were Ms. Tarpe Mills, the long-running costumed hero newspaper comic strip character ‘Miss Fury’ crearor.
Miss Fury was also the title of that very long-running syndicated newspaper strip.
The third comics – related person that happened to, that I know of, was Walt Disney’s Guy (Zorro) Williams – whose body was found only about a week or more later, in his Buenas Aires, Argentina apartment.
And, friends and his then – girlfriend, told the story that the Buenas Aires police stole a lot of his jewelry, a watch, and possibly some money, while up there, in Williams’ apartment, before they called the morgue.
This information, as well as the reasons for his April, 1989 death, came out in the book ‘Guy Williams The Man Behind The Mask’, by Antoinette Girgenti Lane.
Whereas, Tarpe Mills’ sad demise was told in the large, coffee table tome ‘Tarpe Mills & Miss Fury Sensational Sundays 1944 – 1949.’ I quote, From page 215 of that IDW book, I quote, in part, “Tarpe Mills died alone in her brooklyn apartment and her body was not discovered for several days. During that time, someone broke into her apartment, and stole all her original art.”
What could be sadder than someone dying, and their relatives and friends not even being aware of that fact, for quite some time?
I’ll tell you: having someone steal from the dearly departed.
I fervently pray — the same thing did not happen …. with Steve Ditko.
The other sad thing I have to report, is that — well, actually, this first part is not sad, in the least — is the fact that I grew up in the 1960’s.
That’s a pretty inescapable fact, seeing as I was born in May, of 1960. This means that, of course, that I was THERE, for the Silver Age of Comics. Let’s face it, no one likes getting older, but, I tell you — I wouldn’t have wanted to have been born later, and my therefore having MISSED all that! No Siree!
I have an older brother James, who is eight years senior to me.
As a kid, he was buying Silver Age comic books, with monies he was paid, as a daily newspaper delivery boy.
And so, I was looking at comics from numerous companies – HIS comics, growing up in the 1960’s, before I could even read!
And, a lot of those were Steve Ditko art comic books. Comics like The Amazing Spider-Man, Hawk and The Dove, The Creeper, early Captain Atom issues from Charlton titles ‘Space Adventures’, ‘Strange Suspense Stories’, and finally, in Captain Atom’s own – titled series! These were pretty exciting times to be kid growing up in, believe you me!
By the time I was 6 or 7, I was buying my OWN comic books. And, of course, I had access to my brother’s 4 or 5 hundred
Silver Age comics from numerous companies, in those much – used, ratty, worn cardboard boxes, under his bed!
Titles including Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man, including early issues, Hawk and The Dove, Chartlon’s Captain Atom,
and other Steve Ditko – art comic books. Those were GREAT times to be alive!!!
Anyway, I was saying, above, that “The other sad thing, is ….” — but I haven’t yet gotten around to explaining, as yet, what that other sad thing IS.
The other say thing IS, that throughout the course of my entire lifetime, I never, ever got to meet and chat with Steve Ditko. That’s a very sad thing, since he’s always been one of my heroes.!!!
On the other hand, I also happen to belong to a hugely massive pantheon of life-long Steve Ditko admirers — endless millions of them, the world over, who never, ever, ever, got to meet Steve Ditko, either.
Because, as much admiration as we all have for the now late Mr. Ditko …. the man mostly kept to himself; he was a man who liked to live an extremely private life, away from most everybody — including, especially, most all of his admirers.
I’m actually okay with that. I mean, it WAS life. We all live and conduct our lives in the manner in which makes us happy, and content, right? Steve Ditko most certainly had that same right.
And so, when I say that Steve Ditko was most, a recluse, there’s no negativity in that statement. I’m saying that the previous statement is most certainly not a loaded gun.
As most all of us know, Steve Ditko never, ever, ever — and, I mean never — gave interviews.
He would say, in print, words to the effect of, “I prefer to let my work speak for itself.”
But that isn’t the entire explanation. It can’t be. Can it? I sometimes wondered if most of that had to do with the fact that the writings of Ayn Rand so heavy – influenced his thoughts and ideas, on such a massive scale, that he felt the need to turn away from society.
A fairly large body of his work in comics tends to lead me to think about Steve Ditko, in that direction.
But gee, that’s a heckuva lot of unprovable speculation, based on the merest of evidence.
However, I’m in good company with millions of others, many of whom have speculated as to why Steve Ditko valued his privacy, over pretty – well everything else. Which, nonetheless, doesn’t make those opinions right, in that our opinions
on that question, outnumber his opinion, on himself.
What I’m trying to say, here, is that only Steve Ditko knew what made Steve Ditko tick.
And maybe, that’s the way it should be. Especially in that that is the way Steve Ditko wished it. It was his life, not ours.
Also, I should point out that I pose questions on this matter, with an innocent curiosity, as a great fan of the man’s life works, in comics. There is at the same time, a complete lack of negativity in these, my speculations, towards this immensely – talented illustrative creator of four colour masterpieces, known as comic books.
Steve Ditko wasn’t just a man. Nor was he just an enormously talented, or gifted, artist.
Steve Ditko, like Jack Kirby, and like so many others, was a Giant Among Men.
And those of us, his greatest fans, most of us, who never got to know him, in person, will, nonetheless, miss him, a great deal. A Legend has died.
I’ve also truly wondered, if perhaps the man was just, simply, just very shy. That’s entirely possible.
I’ve read, in comics’ prozines, and on the internet, over the years, that Steve Ditko actually DID attend, as a guest, ONE single early Comic Book Convention, in the early 1960’s. And that, he was laughed at, by Spider-Man fans, for gesticulating, with his hands, either as how Spider-Man fired his wrist web shooters, or perhaps, instead, to imitate how skinny and gangly the early Silver Age, unpopular Peter Parker either looked like, or probably felt like — seeing how unpopular the fictional Peter Parkerwas, in High School. Perhaps that was rather how young Steve Ditko saw — himself? Perhaps he had had a similar experience, in Junior High, and in High School?
We’ll never know.
I know I did.
In any event, (if) Steve Ditko did feel humiliated (as some have surmised, in the past — and, in print, I might add), would that have much to do — if anything, as to why Steve Ditko lived much of his life, as a recluse?
I would opine, probably not.
The answer is, we will never know.
For all we know, those fans at that early 1960’s Comic Book Convention, where Steve Ditko made an appearance, it’s entirely possible those fans were laughing with him, not at him.
Had I been there, I would have been in far too much AWE of him, Laughter would have certainly have been the furthest thing from my mind!
Mort Todd told me an interesting story, on Facebook, last night.
A comics fan on Facebook had, earlier, posted last night, that if he had only known that Steve Ditko was going to pass away (he was 90 years old), he and his friends would have, earlier, gone around to Steve Ditko’s door, knocked, and pulled him downtown, for pizza and peanuts.
I replied words to the effect of, “He (Ditko) wouldn’t have gone with you and your friends. He was a recluse.”
And then, Mort Todd posted something, in reply, a comment that I thought was rather interesting.
Mort said that he had had lunch with Steve Ditko, on at least a couple of occasions.
In fact, Mort said that he had run in to Steve Ditko at a Burger King joint, one time, and that Ditko invited him and his friends over, to have lunch, with him.
A couple of things I read on the internet tonight, about Steve Ditko — and I have no idea, whatsoever, as to whether or not these things are true: one, was that Steve Ditko hadn’t been out of his apartment, since 1988.
This I don’t believe.
The other thing I read, on the same web page, was that Steve Ditko was once ‘caught outside’, in winter, making a snow man. He ran back inside.
I think that sometimes, when people don’t understand people, sometimes, they tend to make up stories about them. Perhaps, to try to explain to themselves, why a person is the way they are …..
There was, as many of us know, a lot of ‘black and white’ philosophy, in a lot of Steve Ditko -scripted comics.
Comics like Mr. A, Charlton Comics’ The Question, DC’s Hawk and Dove, The Creeper, The Odd Man, and so on.
I have most of the independent comics that Steve Ditko illustrated for Robin Snyder.
I don’t have every single one, but I do have most of them.
Probably it was about eight or so years ago, that, seeing some of them in local comics stores, I emailed Robin Snyder and asked him how much it would cost to order one copy of EVERYTHING he still had in stock.
Mr. Synder emailed me back. At the time, (if memory serves), the price for all that was something like one hundred, or one hundred and fifty dollars. I no longer remember the exact price. So I snail mailed, through Canada Post (I’m a Canuck), a U.S. Money Order to Robin Snyder, and, weeks later, this colossal package of Snyder/Ditko books and comics arrived at my door stop.
It was like friggin’ Christmas time-!
Even earlier, about fifteen years ago, I ordered, through the mail, a few at a time, through Doug Sulipa’s Comix World, out in Steinbach, Manitoba, every Silver Age Charlton Comics’ single appearance in comics of Captain Atom, starting with Space Adventures # 33, Captain Atom’s very first appearance! I kept at this, until I had them ALL-!
NO ONE was more startled that I, the very first time I, ever – so – carefully, opened up Space Adventures # 33, only to discover, that IN that particular comic, Captain Atom’s costume INSIDE the issue, was NOT yellow and orangey-red, but rather, powder blue and black-! I’m telling you, that was a surprise!
It was only later reprints of that Space Adventures # 33 issue, wherein Captain Atom’s costume inside the book, was the same orangey-red and yellow, as it was on the cover of Space Adventures # 33.
A lot (far from all) Ditko/-Kirby fans on the internet, like to argue who was the better comics artist, and the bigger Legend,
Kirby or Ditko?
It’s an inspid question, to begin with. And besides, people like that, (above), are internet trolls.
It’s also a lot like saying, “Who was more awesome, Cary Grant, or John Lennon?”
How on Earth can you answer a question like that?! Like I said, it’s a stupid question.
My own favourite answer to that query, in an effect to deflect these idiots, has been – another question, instead.
Namely, “Hey, if Star Trek picked a fight with Star Wars, who’d win??
; – )
A more valid – if rather unpopular opinion, back in the 1960’s, was, “Who is more popular, The Beatles, or God?”
All I know is, the only God record I ever played on my turntable, was ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar.’
And, while I quite enjoyed it, at the time, it just couldn’t compare!
We never really got to know ya, Mr. Ditko. But you were then, and are, now — loved!
And, maybe, just maybe, he knew.
I certainly hope so!