Legendary Marvel artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee has died, aged 90.
In 1961, Ditko and Lee created Spider-Man – Lee, the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, gave the artist the assignment after he wasn’t satisfied with Jack Kirby’s take on the character. The now-iconic appearance of Spider-Man, his costume, web shooters and colour palette all came from Ditko.
The character made his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, going on to become an unexpected hit for Marvel, which led to him getting his own series – The Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko also helped to created classic Spidey villains like Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Sandman and the Lizard, and on a run from issue #25 to #38, Ditko also received a plot credit in addition to his artist credit.
Later, in 1963, Ditko created the surreal character of Doctor Strange, who debuted in Strange Tales #110, and Ditko’s run on the comic continued through to issue #146, in 1966.
Unfortunately, after this, Ditko left Marvel following a fight with Lee that would see them not speak for several years. The cause of the fight has always remained something of a mystery, with Ditko remaining silent on his reasons, and Lee claiming to not really know what the reasons were for Ditko’s exit. However, many have posited that Ditko was frustrated at Lee’s oversight and failure to properly share credit for Ditko’s contributions to the characters he co-created.
He went on to work at Charlton, DC Comics and some independent publishers, before returning to Marvel in 1979, where he worked on Machine Man and the Micronauts. He continued to work for them as a freelancer in the ‘90s, and among his final creations at Marvel was Squirrel Girl, which has become something of a cult favourite title in recent years.
Outside of his work at Marvel, Ditko is probably best known for creating 1967’s Mr. A, a character who embodied Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, which Ditko was a strong believer in.
Due to his reclusive nature, the artist was often said to be the “J.D. Salinger” of comics. From the ‘70s onward, he rarely spoke to the press, declining almost all of the interview requests he received, sitting out of the publicity that surrounded all of the Spider-Man films and the recent Doctor Strange film.
Doctor Strange director, Scott Derrickson told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2016, “We didn’t approach him. He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger. I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work.”
Ditko had a studio in Manhattan until his death, where he continued to draw and write, though how much unpublished material that exists there is still currently unknown.
As a man who contributed to such iconic, beloved characters, Steve Ditko’s work remains to this day the source material and inspiration for Marvel’s most popular properties. Though he may now be gone, the products of his creativity will live on for many years to come.