Ditkomania #64

A book review article by: Jason Sacks
For anyone even slightly interested in the history of comics, Steve Ditko is a giant in the industry. Ditko didn’t just earn these accolades because he co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee. Ditko also has had a very long and productive career in comics, creating a slew of fascinating and intelligent comics over five decades.

I’ve been a fan of Ditko since I first discovered his artwork in the '70s. Ditko’s art has always had an odd, almost indescribably unique power to it that made it intensely compelling. Ditko’s characters have always seemed so real, like ordinary people forced into amazing situations they could never have predicted. At the same time, his work had an intense majesty and thoughtfulness to it that I have always found to be absolutely compelling. Intensity was always the word for Ditko’s comics. Even the simplest or most banal of stories would, in Ditko’s hands, have a certain level of passionate intelligence behind it that made the story uniquely compelling.

Of course, Ditko will always be joined with the great Jack Kirby in the minds of many fans. Each man’s work provides an interesting contrast to the other’s.

Kirby’s work was bright and bold. Kirby was an ideal super-hero artist because everything he created was grand and operatic. When Thor agonized, Kirby convinced the reader that his emotions were those of a god living an operatic life. Kirby was all about the big moments.

Ditko’s work, in contrast, was darker and more shadowy. His work seemed to reflect an inner life, a world of deep emotion and introspection. Perhaps no artist could have depicted Peter Parker the way Ditko did. Ditko’s Spider-Man was a real teenage outsider, often miserable in his own life but thankfully given a great escape by a certain radioactive spider. Ditko was all about the small moments.

Kirby’s generosity with fans is legendary, at least as legendary as Ditko’s famous unwillingness to talk about his career. Kirby was famous for attending conventions and regaling fans with stories. Ditko is famous for slowly receding from comics, producing complex and unusual comics that reflected his personal philosophy.

So it should be no surprise that Kirby is idolized these days. The Kirby Collector has reached its 50th deluxe issue, and a grand biography of Kirby has recently been released. Ditko, meanwhile, has this humble fanzine devoted to his and his work.

Ditkomania #64 is a nice little digest-sized fanzine published by longtime Ditko fan Rob Imes. Imes presents most of the articles in this humble but entertaining issue.

The highlight of this issue for me was Imes’s informal, entertaining and insightful look back at Ditko’s late ‘80s series Speedball. I’m not familiar with this series, but Imes does a nice job in his article of sharing his opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of that series. He does a nice job of placing the series in its contemporary context, talking with authority about how the series was just a bit out of its time. I especially enjoyed little asides like Imes’s mention of how hair styles in the comic look like something out of the ‘60s series Patsy and Hedy.

There’s also a very nice article by Chuck Nolan dissecting the documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko”. Nolan does a nice analysis of the show, bringing it to live vividly in my mind.

The only weak spot for me this issue was a Ditkoesque eight-page strip by Imes featuring Rob’s characters Kick-Back and the Jinxer. Imes does present a few interesting Ditko swipes in the strip, but the strip is a bit too long at eight pages, and unfortunately seems a bit out of place in a zine like this.

With the return of Ditkomania and a forthcoming biography of Ditko, he may yet be seen as a peer of the great Kirby. It can’t hurt to have such a charming zine devoted to him, anyway.

For ordering information on ordering this, visit http://www.comicbitsonline.com/2008/02/11/ditkomania/

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