Waiting on Steve Ditko


14-steve-ditko-w1200-h630Writer Benjamin Marra has a fascinating article focusing on Spider-Man’s Co-Creator Steve Ditko. The article also has a quote from Ditko that I’ve never seen before. Ditko explains why he left Spider-Man, Marvel and his strained relationship with writer Stan Lee.

“Why should I continue to do all these monthly issues,” he says he thought to himself, “original story ideas, material, for a man who is too scared, too angry over something, to even see, talk to me?”

steve-ditkoThe writer then talks about his visit to Ditko’s apartment and trying to get an interview with him.

The lock clicked. The door opened. And there he was.
Imagine Uncle Junior from The Sopranos, but with sagging cheeks and a taller stature. He was wearing a black-and-gray checkered sweater-vest over a light-blue button-down. Coke-bottle lenses floated in thick, black spectacle frames. I didn’t get a look at his pants or shoes. He looked directly into my eyes, his expression sharp acorrado_junior_sopranond preemptively irritated.
“Mr. Ditko?” I asked.
Before I could finish the second syllable of his name, he furrowed his brow, pursed his lips, and narrowed his eyes. He turned his head down and to his right at a 45-degree angle, and then shook it in what I assume was disgust. The door swung back into its frame and the deadbolt slammed in. The whole interaction lasted about six and a half seconds.
I stood there and the first thought that came to me was, Yeah, that seems about right. I considered knocking again, but froze. What am I doing? I thought. Why am I bothering this guy? I had done my due diligence, and now I felt a little ashamed. I grabbed my backpack and headed to the elevator.

 

As the writer was waiting outside Ditko’s apartment, two neighbors came out to talk to him and described their meeting with the man.

“One time, about ten years ago, I accidentally got a piece of his mail,” she said, her eyebrows rising scandalously. “I opened it and then realized it wasn’t mine because that check had too many zeroes.” My body jerked up with shock — that contradicted Ditko’s claim that he doesn’t get a cut. I asked for more details. She said it was from a movie studio, and that when she gave it back to him, he just took it and said nothing. “That’s probably why he can work in that little office,” she said, and laughed. “He’s doing all right.”

(12) Comments

  1. Jeff Gutman

    Given how interested in Ditko you guys seemed to be, I figured more people might be curious to hear about the multiple Ditko letters I received? At the very least I figured Brad might be curious? But after a week no one's responded to my post. I guess you guys aren't that interested in hearing Ditko's thoughts after all?

  2. Jeff Gutman

    Having written a number of times back and forth with Ditko I would say categorically that he does NOT view himself as a victim. He believes in a strong randian philosophy of equal work for equal pay. He believes he was compensated for the work he did for marvel in the 60s as per their agreement and he is entitled to no more or less than that.

  3. Andrew_C

    Stan may take credit for others' work or be difficult to work with, but I get the sense that Ditko is a bit of a jerk who loves to play the "I'm a victim" game too.

  4. Jeff Gutman

    Here's another question I asked: is absolute good a realistically attainable goal in modern society?

  5. Jeff Gutman

    I've written him a few times now. He always responds with a few months. I thought it was best to not ask him about spider-man. I asked him about some of philosophies about the nature of good and evil. Some of the things I asked: 1) if he believes in absolute good and absolute evil as shown by Mr A, does he believe in the ability for people to find redemption? 2) was he inspired visually by the black and film noir movement? Some of his use of shadows in reminiscent of black and white noir films. 3) for someone how believes they are absolute good and judged by society to be evil - how are they defined? 4) does he draw from real models and still lifes, or does he keep an archive of images to draw from? 5) which artists influenced him when he was starting? He answered all of these and more for me. It got to the point where I couldn't think of anything new to ask!

  6. Mark Alford

    Interesting. Supposedly there is a 4 page essay on why he quit Spider-Man, but when I sent off for it, it was out of print. They sent me one of the other essays and it is just printed off a computer, so I'm not sure why it would ever need to be out of print.

  7. Brad Douglas

    I already have his address. I've been thinking about what I'm going to write to him for a few years now. I just need to sit down and do it.

  8. xonathan

    He gives enough clues as to find Ditko's studio in the original article. It's 9 blocks NW from Times square with an LCD screen on the front with the names of the studio. He's on the 17th floor. So now Brad can try and get an interview from him :)

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