God, where do you even start? We've lost a lot of our greats over the last couple of years, but this....
Let's face it, Steve Ditko was a presence in all our lives, for all our lives.
Here's a few of my Ditko memories:
The first time I came across the work of Steve Ditko, the first time I came across Marvel, was here:
The origins of The Hulk, The FF & Spidey, all in glorious black, white & green. And that was it. I'd read Superman & Batman a few times, but this was literally the moment I became a comic fan. Forever.
And for the first time, I knew who wrote and drew the comics, and Jack & Steve were obviously the best artists ever, before I'd even seen anybody else.
A while ago, I reread Ditko's run on Spidey, having not fully delved into it for decades, and expecting to go through it in that scholarly way I sometimes read a lot of Silver Age DC, appreciating it for the times in which it was done, but not really enjoying it in the same way a kid would.
More fool me. I was enthralled, and am 100% positive that, alongside Stan & Jack's FF, Stan & Steve's Spidey is the greatest run of comics ever done by anybody ever.
Then British Marvel gave us this:
British Marvel actually ran Doc Strange's origin first, then going back to this in the 2nd issue:
With that astoundingly cinematic three panel bottom tier that's etched on my brain forever.
Gene Colan & Frank Brunner, of course, did their own wonderful versions of Strange's universe, but really, Ditko's is the real one.
Then there was Captain Atom, which I read in Alan Class' summer holiday comics, and again, thought was the greatest thing ever.
Plus Alan gave us all those fantastic Lee / Ditko sci-fi twist ending tales, every one a classic.
Then, I guess like a lot of us, I fell slightly out of love with Ditko's work. When the American import books started dribbling into our town, I moved onto the new kids, the Chaykin's, the Smith's & Wrightson's. The Starlin's and Russell's ( both of whom, I now realize, learnt everything from Ditko )
And distribution was so haphazard, although I did hear about The Hawk & The Dove and The Creeper, I never actually got to read them till years later.
And then, when Ditko returned to Marvel & DC, it all seemed a bit lacklustre.
I picked up the last couple of issues of Shade The Changing Man, and hated it.
It seemed like Ditko didn't care anymore, and was just collecting a buck. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Like so much else about the man, we'll probably never know.
But then there were flashes like The Destructor, still one of my favourite comics ever, where he was teamed with Wally Wood, and was absolutely magnificent.
And of course, over the years, I've gone back and read everything I missed, and realized what a dumbass I was. Like this fantastic Blue Beetle run for Charlton:
Or Stalker, a way too short sword & sorcery title for DC, again with Woody.
And I finally got to read The Hawk & The Dove and The Creeper, and loved them too.
I even eventually got to read Mr. A:
As I say, Ditko has always been in our lives, and even if, as Paul Gambaccini says, talking about the after-Marvel years in the Jonathan Ross documentary: 'He lost the kids, and he never got it back',
well, Ditko was there at the start, and he'll probably be there at the end too. He, along with Kirby, is responsible for my lifetime reading comics, and Mighty World Of Marvel #1 is probably the last comic I'll ever read.
Reports are saying he died alone, and that he wasn't found for a couple of days. That's desperately sad, but it's also strangely appropriate, a fact I'm by no means making light of.
In the end, after all the conjecture, Ditko owed us nothing, other than the work he gave us. But I'd still like to think that whenever he walked the New York streets, and saw a little kid in a Spidey outfit, he at least raised the ghost of a smile. I'd like to think he knew that what he did was important, and knew how much he mattered to us.
But we'll never know. We'll never know.