Monday, November 7, 2011

Ditko at VALIANT and DEFIANT – Part 1


I first met Steve Ditko sometime in 1977. For the life of me, I can’t remember where.  

It might have been at Continuity, Neal Adams’ studio. Continuity was the crossroads of the comics industry. Besides the people who actually worked there, a lot of artists would show up looking for freelance advertising or storyboard jobs, which paid way better than comics. Some comics creators—Cary Bates, Jack Abel and Howard Chaykin come to mind—sublet studio or office space from Neal. Continuity was a Mecca for young artists. New kids trying to break into the business like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz would turn up hoping that Neal would look at their samples and give them advice.  Other comics people, like me, for instance, would show up once in a while to see someone who worked there, talk business with Neal or just hang around the crossroads for a while and catch up on the industry gossip.

As far as I know, Steve Ditko never worked there, but, like I said, almost everybody stopped by at some point for one reason or another. 

Anyway, I met Steve, probably there. What an honor. I loved his work. When I was a kid I tried to emulate his style.
Drawing by Jim Shooter when he had just turned age 13
By the way, Neal was at his crusading best in those days, leading the fight to get Siegel and Shuster recognition and compensation for creating and establishing Superman—and winning. He also was one of the prime movers of the Comic Book Creators Guild. A story about the Guild which includes an anecdote involving Steve Ditko can be found here

After I became Editor in Chief of Marvel in 1978 and therefore had the power to offer him work, I told Steve that if he ever wished to work for Marvel he was welcome. Anytime. He was a Founding Father.  I couldn’t rectify all the past injustices (though I was trying), but I could and would keep our door always open to him.

Steve apparently wasn’t too keen on having anything to do with Marvel early on, but a few years later, he came to see me at Marvel’s 387 Park Avenue South offices. I think he realized that we had made a sincere effort to make things better and deal more fairly with creators. Or maybe the fact that Stan wasn’t there any more (having moved out to the Coast to work at Marvel Productions) made a difference. Or maybe he just wanted work. Whatever. He was willing to work for us and I was happy.

Giving Steve work is easier said than done. He’s very particular about what he will and won’t do. He wouldn’t consider anything to do with Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, for instance. He refused to work on any books with “flawed” heroes. He had a pretty strict definition of “hero.” Per him, the character isn’t a hero if he or she is flawed.

I said, but what about Spider-Man? Wasn’t he flawed? Steve said that when he worked on Spider-Man, Spider-Man wasn’t yet an adult. It was okay for a kid to make some mistakes, but….

Okay.

Fortunately, we had ROM, Spaceknight. ROM fit Steve’s criteria well enough. He did some great work on ROM.

But if we hadn’t had ROM, we would have created a character for Steve that suited him. As long as I was EIC, there was a place for him at Marvel, even if we had to make one up special. 

I left Marvel in April of 1987.

In November 1989, I started a company called Voyager Communications Inc. No comma before “Inc.” Just like Time Inc. Voyager published comics under the VALIANT imprint. VALIANT (my VALIANT) is all caps, always.

I had acquired the rights and set out to publish new adventures of Magnus Robot Fighter, Solar: Man of the Atom, Turok Son of Stone and other old, then-dormant Dell/Gold Key characters.

But I lost control of the company shortly after we started. On Friday, December 22nd, the last working day before Christmas, I was walking home from the office at Seventh and 47th. I lived on Madison at 38th. Partner Steve Massarsky was with me, headed for Grand Central. We walked together as far as 44th and Madison. There, on that corner, he told me he had been secretly dating and was sleeping with Melanie Okun, one of the two principals of Triumph Capital, the venture capital firm that had funded Voyager.

Merry Christmas.

I told my other partner, Winston Fowlkes. Like me, he was appalled. Talk about a conflict of interest…! 

After the holidays, Winston protested to Melanie’s partner, Michael Nugent. Winston insisted that something be done. 

Something was done, all right. Massarsky, his bedmate and her partner convened the board and fired Winston for daring to object. Massarsky’s shares and those controlled by Michael and Melanie/Triumph constituted a majority. I was President of the company, but they had ultimate control. 

So, my plans to do super hero books were shelved. Massarsky had other plans.

Massarsky had been supposed to wind down his entertainment law practice and work full time for Voyager, but he didn’t. He increased his practice, in fact. Even hired an associate. He worked nearly full time on his own business, screw us, though he still drew a salary from the comics company. Used our space. Ran his mail through our postage meter. Used our supplies. Etc. Nothing I could do about it.  His bedmate and her partner allowed it. They had me outvoted.

Massarsky became the entertainment lawyer for Nintendo and also took Leisure Concepts International as a client. LCI represented Nintendo for licensing as well as the World Wrestling Federation. So, he did a little self-dealing, licensing first Nintendo for comics, then the WWF for comics. Those deals he made with himself profited him, personally. A lot. And I was stuck with having to create Nintendo and WWF comics. 

Why not quit?  Easier said than done. Lots of reasons I’ll explain sometime later.

Besides, all the bad guys wanted was money. I believed that if I could somehow make the company succeed, I could raise the money to buy them out. Fulfill their “exit strategy.” That’s what Triumph and Massarsky wanted—the big killing and exit. 

So, we were making Nintendo and WWF comics. An interesting (to me) tidbit is that David Lapham’s first professional comics work was for one of our WWF books.

Then one day, Steve Ditko came to see me.

I don’t know exactly how long Marvel had kept Steve on after I left there, but eventually they’d cut him loose. Jerks.

I’d never before seen Steve looking…I don’t know. Worn down? Worried? Troubled? Hard to say, Steve doesn’t exactly show his feelings much, and was not the type to express despair or even its lesser cousins. But he didn’t look happy. He didn’t look well. And he needed work.

I didn’t have the power to make something to suit him, and believe me, Steve is the kind who would starve rather than violate his principles, but luckily, I had WWF scripts waiting to be drawn! The WWF “faces” (short for babyfaces, good guys) were good enough and the “heels,” or bad guys, were evil enough to pass muster with Steve. I think that was the one time I was happy that we had the WWF.

He started working for us.

He may not have been a Founding Father of VALIANT, but as far as I’m concerned, his Founding Father card should be honored everywhere in this business. 

P.S. He did some great stuff for us. 


NEXT:  A 3-D Special!  Old Timer’s Day at VALIANT

181 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve Ditko is THE MAN! He was the first comic artist to catch my eye (at the wee age of 5), and has remained my favorite comic artist all the while. A sheer genius!

Thank you very much for sharing your stories and remeniscing with us, Jim. I was reading comics from '78-86 (ages 7-15), and your blog is like revisiting my childhood in a way....look forward to your every post (and the occasional pic of JJ!)

Jeff

Chris said...

Mr. Shooter,

I'm sorry how VALIANT ended for you. At the time, those (Pre-Unity and Unity) books were among my very favorites to read.

I've always wondered how much involvement you had in VALIANT's version of Turok. I loved the old Gold Key version, but wasn't a big fan of the talking dinosaurs. My father, who grew up with the Gold Key version, wasn't happy at all with Andar's fate. I had always assumed those were someone else's plans for the characters and not your own, but I wanted to make sure.

ja said...

It never seemed right, that Steve Ditko drew the WWF comics magazines. It seemed beneath him. Certainly not worthy of his status and accomplishments in the comics industry. Those WWF comics seemed rushed.

Life is too unfair, and too cruel.

Unfortunately, outside of someone who has the ability to make things better winning the Mega Motherfucker Lottery (thereby being able to effect change), I don't see how this can be corrected.

Or at least outside of someone who might have the money to do so, but is ignorant of what specifically it would take to effect that change.

Jim, this is why I had asked before about what the economics were today when it comes to starting up a competitive comics company, starting at a dozen monthly books.

It would be at least good to have in mind what it would take to start up a company that could compete. With a strong showing, and some solid consistency in sales and quality, then you can allocate funds to come up with a comic book that would bring someone like Steve Ditko back into the proper spotlight.

With great writing, and Ditko's solid storytelling, the only concerns after that would be the inking and coloring. The only inkers I have ever enjoyed over Ditko has been Steve Leialoha or Klaus Janson.

Okay, I've gone over into dreamland, still not understanding the specific economics of what it would take to start up a competitive comics company.

Maybe one day. I mean, the good guys have got to catch a break sometime, yes?

Neil Anderson said...

Amen! I finally got to read (in my mid-teens) Ditko's run on Spider-Man thanks to the reprints in Marvel Tales during your editorship, and I was particularly excited when Ditko came back on a new strip Speedball. Is there a story about Speedball you can share with us?

Mort Todd said...

Steve did a lot of weird licensed books (Chuck Norris & His Karate Kommandos?) but always put his best effort into anything that came out of his pencil. He told me that after Wally Wood, his favorite inker was Ralph Reese on the Magnus, Robot Hunter books.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The Marvel Tales reprints of Ditko's run on Spider-Man pulled me back into comics after a few years of not reading. I really enjoyed Ditko's excellent work on ROM and feel it is still under-recognized. Thanks for sharing.

JediJones said...

Ja, not sure if you saw it, but Jim answered your question here. Although I'm sure it's not the answer you wanted. It wouldn't have been the one I wanted.

It fuels my feeling that a startup comics company should be digital, internet-based. Anything to lower costs. The internet really is one place where even if you do the same thing that everyone else is doing, you can succeed and rise to the top by doing it better. MySpace was huge, but Facebook came along, did the same thing but better and beat them at their own game.

And, man, if the comics produced looked like those WWF pages above, I for one would love it. I want to see more comics with clean layouts, clear and naturalistic coloring, and realistic (as opposed to cartoonish) figures.

World Famous Psycho Chicken said...

So Jim, Paul Bearer and Undertaker killed a guy and ate him right?

JediJones said...

Was that with or without some fava beans and a nice chianti?

Dan said...

If we can separate the work from the man for a moment... I have no particular sympathy for Ditko or any creator who insists on unreasonable/unrealistic demands when asking a company for work. Work was there for him. He just created arbitrary barriers--self imposed limitations that mattered only to him. It's not like his only options were Ghost Rider or Son of Satan. To me, this wasn't a principled stand--it was just a political one.

And what a shame. He still had fans. Not that he seemed to care. How he equated the fannish desire to own a autograph with some kind of welfare entitlement still boggles my mind today.

How ironic that Ditko put himself above characters with flaws--when he himself had such a flawed character...

czeskleba said...

Dan, it is true that Ditko made (and continues to make) choices that are different from the ones most people would make if they were in his position. I don't see how that amounts to him having a "flawed character" though. He has a set of values, and he acts according to them. Why is that "flawed"? Simply because you disagree with his values?

I do agree that he is not deserving of sympathy for his economic situation. But to the best of my knowledge, he has never asked for anyone's sympathy for that, so it is a moot point.

JediJones said...

I don't see a problem with refusing to do any type of work as long as you don't turn around and ask for a handout at that point, claiming you can't find work. If you're self-sufficient and surviving on your own, you're free to do or not do whatever work you want. There's nothing wrong with setting conditions before you'll accept employment either. It's the other person's decision to make as to whether or not they'll accept your conditions and hire you or not. You could just as easily say a person is "selling out" if they produce a product they don't believe is worthwhile just because they want the money.

As to how someone relates to the fans, I guess I would file that under the "nice" column. It's always nice when people do a favor for someone who asks for it. But it's up to the individual to decide if they feel comfortable doing whatever that is. That doesn't break the basic standard for personal conduct of "I can swing my fist wherever I want as long as it doesn't hit your face."

Nobody is required to do work just because they have fans or anyone else who wants them to. If someone's producing a product and asking us to pay for it, we're entitled to criticize it. But if someone doesn't want to produce something or provide a service because it doesn't fit their vision for how they want to lead their life, I do think that qualifies as a principle, not a flaw. If someone thinks humanity is better off by not collecting things such as autographs, they're entitled to that point-of-view and entitled not to participate in facilitating something they don't believe is worthwhile.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I have been curious about the Nintendo and WWF phases of VALIANT because I have long wanted to see American comics expand into new genres. I know you've talked about this period of VALIANT before, but I hope to see more details that cast light on the do's and don'ts of reaching new audiences. I know things didn't turn out well, to say the least, but I'm glad you got to work with Steve Ditko. Here's a list of everything he penciled for VALIANT.

How many of your early drawings do you still have?

Did you have Ditko in mind when you penciled Spider-Man in the 80s?

I didn't know writers also sublet space at Continuity.

Dear czeskleba,

Exactly!

JediJones said...

I remember Jim saying in some interview that WWF fans and Nintendo fans just happened to be two groups of people who were unlikely to be avid readers of anything. Maybe that's why no company had been interested in those licenses before and they remained available for Valiant.

Even G.I. Joe and Transformers, as toy licenses, seemed to be the exception to the rule in terms of success. Masters of the Universe and M.A.S.K. were two popular toy lines with comic series in the '80s that folded after a short life. And that was even with smaller comic books being packed in with many of the Masters of the Universe toys. I guess G.I. Joe and Transformers, as solid action/sci-fi series, had enough crossover appeal to people who weren't the target toy-buying audience. It's easy to see how WWF and Nintendo game-based comics would not have been able to pass as a genre that would be accepted by non-fans. Video games still haven't even been able to find success as movies, with the lone exception of Tomb Raider, which was able to pass itself off as part of the Indiana Jones-esque action/adventure genre to non-fans.

jimshooter said...

Dear Chris,

I wrote the first appearances of Turok in VALIANT comics, in Magnus Robot Fighter #12 and Archer & Armstrong #2. I developed the foundations of the Turok, Dinosaur Hunter concept that was to follow UNITY. I drew the very first image of Turok, Dinosaur Hunter for an ad. It showed Turok about to fire an arrow at a dino on a city street. What they did with Turok after I was gone was not good, in my opinion. I had nothing to do with talking dinos or what happened to Andar. Those things were nothing like what I had in mind.

Anonymous said...

Screw Ditko. The fans support him and he spits in our faces. Hey Ditko, come to a comic book convention and let your fans meet and greet you. Sign a few books. Do a panel. Better yet, next year is the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man's first appearance: do a Spider-Man one shot for Marvel. What's that Steve...you won't do any of that? Oh right, I forgot, you have a 45 year old grudge. How silly of me not to think that's perfectly justifiable. Get therapy you creep.

cloudmover said...

Any stories about the inker of this WWF book, Don Perlin?

He's one of those creators who always popped up in a 70s-80's Marvel book and always did a great job.

Since he was a managing AD at Marvel under your watch(?) and a penciler and editor at VALIANT, there must be a story or two you can tell about him.

Just wondering about one of the unsung heroes...

Marc Miyake said...

Dear JediJones,

Another "exactly!" to you for your comments on Ditko.

Good points about nonsuperhero comics. One factor I'd add is story. As a kid in the 80s, I thought the Masters of the Universe and M.A.S.K. cartoons and comics weren't written at the level of their Marvel counterparts G.I. Joe and Transformers. Filmation and DIC had no Steve Gerber and DC had no Larry Hama or Bob Budiansky. The Joes and TFs were well thought-out characters whereas Matt Trakker and his team were ciphers. The second series of M.A.S.K. had art by Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, and Murphy Anderson -- no more Superman for them at post-Crisis DC, alas -- but all that aesthetic power couldn't overcome the weakness of the material. Strong stories have crossover appeal. I was only interested in sci-fi Star Trek and Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato)-style military stories before I got into GI Joe which then prepared me for the realism of The 'Nam.

As for video games, IIRC, someone once asked, how many people want to watch other people's D&D games? I don't play video games or RPGs, but I imagine that participation is what makes them fun. A passive viewing experience isn't the same thing. Take away the first person factor and is there enough left to appeal to both players and nonplayers?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Chris,

By coincidence I linked above to a page that features Jim's first Turok art. Here's a direct link to the image.

Dear cloudmover,

I too would like to read Jim's memories of Don Perlin. In the meantime, I recommend the Silver Age Sage's interview with Perlin if you haven't already read it.

Mort Todd said...

Wow, "Anonymous." Ditko owes you nothing except maybe that spit in your face. He's not the one in need of therapy.

JediJones said...

Marc, I definitely agree those particular cartoons weren't as well-written as what Marvel/Sunbow was doing. Too bad, because M.A.S.K. definitely seems like it had a strong enough concept to be as successful as G.I. Joe if the writing had been at the same level. Heck, the masks giving each character something tantamount to a "superpower" should have helped with crossover appeal to comic book fans, I would think, anyway.

I only realized this recently, but Masters of the Universe actually changed hands over to Marvel in 1986 and was published under the "Star" label. I've been wondering if there's a story behind that, but I imagine it has to do with Marvel getting cozy with Mattel after doing Secret Wars. I think more Marvel issues were published than at DC, but still only 13. It probably didn't help that the Masters of the Universe toy line was on its last legs right around this time too. Maybe labeling it under the "Star" brand (no pun intended) was a turn-off to older readers. I guess even the toys, with their more childish play gimmicks like squirting water and slime, were aimed at somewhat younger children than G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Defiant1 said...

I admire Steve Ditko's principles even if I don't always understand what motivates them.

Urk said...

Agreed Defiant1. I think that, from what I know of Ditko, his politics are pretty much polar opposites of mine. But I do respect that he has them and seems to stick to them even if they cause him difficulty.

and Dan, how is it that political stands and principled stands are mutually exclusive? that seems awfully cynical to me.

Defiant1 said...

I was hoping to see comments about Ditko's later work at Valiant. I guess that's a future installment..

http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=560758&GSub=87739

Kid said...

Jim, can you comment on the story that a few inkers didn't want to work on Steve Ditko's pencils (in the '80s) because they were devoid of detail? I believe I read that Joe Sinnott declined to ink them because it meant that he would have been doing most of the work, and a few other inkers took that view also.

ja said...

JediJones,

No, I did NOT see Jim's response to my query. I totally missed that!

$50 Million. Hm.

SIGH.

That's very frustrating.

jimshooter said...

Dear ja,

I wasn't thrilled about doing the WWF books, but Steve seemed to enjoy them. They weren't particularly rushed. Yes, you'd think that the co-creator of Spider-Man (Stan said it was 50/50, Steve told me it was 70/30 in his favor) would have grander and more significant assignments. But Steve seemed okay with it and we were very glad to have him.

Part of the problem with starting a new comics company today is that you'd have to greatly expand the market to succeed. Most of the fare from the current, significant publishers doesn't have much appeal outside of the little hard core club to which we, you and I, belong. It's a pretty small club. Comics could have wider appeal -- but they don't, because the benighted people in charge at the majors are unable to make it happen, or unwilling. Possibly, they're content to milk the remaining, dwindling business dry and collect their checks till retirement, the future beyond that be damned. There's that, plus the distribution currently available doesn't even serve us hard cores well enough!

To pay for top shelf creative for a three year period, I would want at least a $25 million facility. That's not counting staff, SG&A, etc. I'm guessing $10-15 million more. If a strategic partner was involved, say a Viacom, the cost of reinventing distribution and developing the market might be less than if only financial partners were involved. With a strategic partner, I'd ballpark a commitment of $15 million. A new entity doing it on its own would take substantially more.

And that's running tight and lean.

If a company already in the industry -- a Marvel, DC or even Dark Horse, with some of the plumbing already in place -- really wanted to revolutionize and revitalize the industry, the price tag would be somewhat smaller. But they'd rather keep shooting fish in a barrel.

jimshooter said...

Dear Neil,

There's a story behind Speedball. I'll get to it. It's in the queue.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

Among the reasons that I stuck around at VALIANT and did the WWF and Nintendo comics was that intriguing offers of access to new audiences for comics were dangled. Nintendo, for a while, was going to give us their two million name mailing list and help us get our comics on sale in displays right alongside their games. They reneged. The WWF promised to arrange for our books to be sold in the wrestling show venues. They reneged. I would have sicced our lawyer on them, but our lawyer was Massarsky, and he was too busy counting all the money he made to bother trying to enforce things that would benefit the comic book company.

I have a few early drawings. My mother saved many things.

When I was forced to do breakdowns for a Spider-Man story because there was absolutely no one else available in the time frame, all I thought about was laying down a foundation for finisher Jim Mooney. The Ditko influence in my "art style" showed some, I guess.

jimshooter said...

Dear cloudmover,

Lots of Don Perlin stories coming up. Stay tuned.

jimshooter said...

Dear Kid,

I don't remember inkers being refusing to work over Ditko's pencils in the 80's. Did they? That would have been just a matter of money, and if I had to pay someone extra to do more than the usual work on Steve's admittedly sometimes sparse pencils, I would have cheerfully done so, and no one would have denied me. I had a lot of clout about such things, and I would have used it for Founding Father Steve. If Joe Sinnott said inking Ditko's pencils was like finishing, respecting the great Joe Sinnott, I would have paid him for finishing. No one would have questioned it.

j said...

Didn't Ditko also do some Solar issues or am I mistaken?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Shooter,
I thought Valiant was coming back into play? Didn't they announce it recently?

And, I don't want to disrespect the guy, but would you say that nowadays Ditko is the comic industry equivalent to Howard Hughes? That's what I've heard....

--Anonymus Inquirer

ja said...

Jim,

By "reinventing distribution and developing the market", it seems as if you're talking about going beyond (or replacing?) Diamond Distributors as a means to distribute product?

That would make great sense, as Diamond is the only significant distribution mechanism around for the comics industry, headed up by Steve Geppi's terrible mismanagement. One real major screw-up from Geppi, and the whole comics industry is fucked.

In what ways would you reinvent distribution? Putting product into places that don't normally sell comics, of course. But what? Where?

And by "developing the market", I take that as marketing the product in a way that's not the lemming-like way that everyone else does, which is the same the same the same, until they all run off that same cliff to their ultimate doom?

This industry is one Army Corps of Engineers-built New Orleans levee away from total disaster.

Bosch Fawstin said...

Anon, with "fans" like you....

Defiant1 said...

Marketing a product is more than just printing an order form with colorful pictures and send out copies to anyone willing to buy it. Marketing is the psychology to make someone want your product. I noticed that DC is doing a cross promotion with a cereal company. It's about time! Unfortunately though, the product itself isn't fit to be marketed. There are elements that Jim has outlined in his blogs that simply must be fixed. If your product isn't designed to entice and to please, throwing money at a marketing campaign would be like flushing it down the toilet.

czeskleba said...

Anonymous, comparing Ditko to Howard Hughes is not really apt. Ditko is not a recluse, nor does he avoid normal social contact. He simply does not want fame or public notoriety, so he doesn't do things like interviews or convention appearances, nor does he make the details of his personal life public. But it's not like he sits hiding in his apartment, refusing to come out or to speak to anyone.

JLH said...

Jim,

Oddly enough, I used to get the VALIANT Nintendo comics when they were coming out in 1990/91, at the Navy Exchange. Guess where those comics were sold? In the video game section. Not just the oversized album collection versions, but the original issues. I have fond memories of seeing the ads for Magnus & Solar, being interested (but thinking "Solar: Man of the Atom" might be a ripoff of Stan Lee's tepid "Solarman" book from 89. I didn't know any better). Yet none of the VALIANT hero books ever made it to where my family was station (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the record). So just to let you know that they did get sold near Nintendo products, at least somewhere in the world. (Though most of them sold, I remember them having at least one or two issues straggling around behind the shelves up until I left in 93)

I did find the paper quality on those original Nintendo issues really nice, especially the cardstock covers, I think they were?

And concerning later VALIANT, when you went back and did research on the stuff they did after you were fired when writing Unity 2000, were there any you found to be not so bad? I know you've spoken highly of Priest & Bright's Quantum & Woody, but what about of books that you'd established?

And lastly, what was the absolute last thing you were working on for VALIANT when you were railroaded? I know Rai #0 is one of the last things published with your name on it at all. You must've had involvement in H.A.R.D. Corps, at least its planning stages.

DJ said...

Hi Guys,

One of my favourite Ditko inkers was P Craig Russell, he did a nice job on ROM. Jim, there was a series of well known artists who inked Ditko on ROM: Byrne, Russell, Liealoha, Milgrom etc, how did that come about? Did they request to do it, or did you put out the word? I'd like to see David Lloyd, or Dave Gibbons have a crack at inking Ditko.Of course my favourite Ditko inker is Ditko.
As to Ditko being a recluse, and anti fan, as far as I'm aware Ditko will talk to anyone who approaches him, he won't invite them into his home, but he will politely converse at the door (see the Jonathan Ross documentary In Search Of Steve Ditko for example). He just has different values to most people. Principle & integrity are higher up the ladder to him than money & fame, and who's to say he's not right.
Cheers.
David J.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who's interested in Mr Ditko should get the hardcover 'Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko' by Blake Bell. A highly recommended insight into the life of a mysterious genius.

Pete Marco

Chris said...

Mr. Shooter,

Thanks for the response. I'm relieved to know that the changes to the characters that I didn't like were not what you had in mind.

Marc,

Thanks for the link. That's the Turok look that I had hoped for in the VALIANT books. I remember I used to go to Petrilak's old VALIANT fansite and was really jealous of all the insider interviews and stuff that he had on there.

Anonymous said...

As to the inkers/sparse pencils, in Blake Bell's comics biography about Ditko, Bell says that inkers like I believe Sinnott refused to work on Ditko books because Steve was barely providing pencils

Bell says Ditko was putting much less effort into the work he did that was not personal work (unlike the MR. A stuff)-the pay the bills stuff and justified it by some kind of Randian principles/Gault stuff.

His work clearly suffered because of his 'principles' whatever the story. and his principles to me are pretty whacky. He's a fanatic and like most fanatics, because of that, his work and life has suffered. For someone who wanted the work to speak for itself, he does not have the place in comics history to the fans he should have.

Even when he explains his position, it's in some obscure comics thing. So it is hard for him to complain, as he sometimes does, that he doesn't get the credit he deserves re: Spider-Man.

Ironically, his near complete silence otherwise, did not have the effect of focusing things on his work, but on his mysteriousness. Completely backfired.

Rob

Dan said...

Urk said: "and Dan, how is it that political stands and principled stands are mutually exclusive? that seems awfully cynical to me. "

I didn't say they were "mutually exclusive," so I'd prefer to stick with what I am actually saying.

Ditko's argument against "flawed" heroes--when he helped create, and his career is essentially defined by a flawed hero--is somewhat hypocritical, but also sounds like a later conversion based on the development of his politics. I don't see where the concept of principles enters into this in any way.

If Ditko was truly principled, it seems to me he would be thankful to those who ultimately pay his keep--the fans. No fans = no work = no money = no survival. I don't mean Ditko has to do conventions or give interviews or offer autographs or interact with fans/customers in any way. There's nothing wrong with being reclusive. But Ditko's attitude towards his fans is downright vitriolic. Have you ever read his words on this subject? He doesn't say "no thanks," he gets downright mean about it yelling (in print) "unearned! undeserved!" Easy there, Steve! It's just how fandom expresses love and appreciation. But no, he's gotta be freakishly political about it--using political language that equates fandom with welfare handouts.

Ditko's politics has severely skewed his perception of reality. If Ditko was a reasonable person, he would understand that his job is as an entertainer and it greatly helps himself, his employer, and his industry (y'know, those necessary things that enable him to earn a living off his drawing) to at least remain somewhat polite. Not as any kind of favor to anybody. I mean this more as a business idea: you groom the cash cow, not kick it in the teeth. Ditko wants to extract from the industry but not give anything back.

Stan Lee might owe Ditko something, but Jim Shooter certainly didn't. Any work Shooter gave Ditko was a kindness. Ditko's art was completely out of favor in the 80s and 90s (a few old time fans, but not a sales-generator).

Ditko sure didn't mind asking Marvel and Shooter to give him work when it really wasn't in their best interest to do so. (Notice that every book Ditko was assigned suffered cancellation. Many of us believed companies only gave Ditko doomed books because it was certain to go down in sales once he took over. That might sound harsh, but the numbers back it up.)

So no, I don't see Ditko as principled as much as political.

(Sorry if I'm stepping on any toes. But Ditko is no victim. He created his own problems.)

Dan said...

Just a follow up...

Sounds like Ditko wanted to live like a machinist--a simple workaday job where the only relationship was employer to employee. Only he didn't choose that kind of work. He chose entertainment. And he blames the industry and all the people who directly pay his income for his misunderstanding. It's like blaming a dog for wagging its tail.

Nick M said...

Love Ditko, and I know the WWF comics were beneath his level, but so what. When I found out he did those, I rushed online to grab a few issues. Not just because they were Ditko, but because it was Ditko doin WWF. I LOOOVE 80's wrestlin', they were great characters back then. So having a love for spider-man, and for WWF, and finding out Ditko drew 'em both was a great find in my eyes.
And truth be told, those are actually really good comics. Well written for what they are. Very fun reads. Obviously, you'd need to be a wrestling fan to really enjoy it, but they were well done if you ask me.

DJ said...

Not exactly sure what you're trying to say here Dan. I think Ditko's Objectivism is more religious than political. Created his own problems? Made his own choices, and then stuck to them. Maybe the only thing you can accuse Ditko of is inflexibility in his thought processes. I don't personally agree with his ideals, but believe he has the right to hold them, particularly when the only person it really impacts on is Ditko himself. I agree that in print he can sound a bit extreme, but then the choice is there to read or not to read. You talk about a business idea? I'll bet Steve has no designs on any business idea. Much like money seems to make no impact on him. He does the work he gets paid, THAT is the business deal, if you don't like what, he states upfront that you'll get, then don't hire him.
I don't see how Ditko has extracted anything from the insustry without giving something back? If not for Stan, Steve and Jack, there may not have been a comics industry around today at all. I think maybe the comics industry owes Steve Ditko much more than he owes anyone anything.
Keep Smiling.

David J.

Anonymous said...

Re: Ditko in the '80s and '90s.
I enjoy his work on ROM, Speedball and Valiant. Wish he could have done more. He is a great storyteller.

JL

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Ditko is currently making a living? Anyone know?

Anonymous said...

I remember reading that comment from Sinnott about refusing to ink Ditko.
Very strange, like most inkers Sinnott was very "heavy handed" and imposed (or brought) his stamp to the pencils. It seems almost silly for a penciler to knock himself out doing highly defined drawings if the inker is going to use his own feathering technique.
A recent issue of the Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man published a whole issues worth of Ditko pencil stats, and they weren't stick figures or anything, hands and faces were carefully drawn, mainly the figures lacked shading, and little details like the web patterns on the costume. And those were pencils Ditko was going to ink himself, so you would think they might not be as complete as something he knew was going to be inked by another artist.

Dan

ja said...

If I were a publisher, I would hire Steve Ditko in a heartbeat. As Jim said, he's a Founding Father, and should be treated as such.

However, I know his work isn't perceived as anything close to contemporary, or as good as the quality work others are doing in this industry. His storytelling is always good. His illustrations have a distinct look that, if inked precisely as they were penciled (without the embellishments needed to ink over breakdown pencils), would not be considered 'good' enough, or 'contemporary' enough to compete with the other top artists.

Like it or not, this is what I truly believe is the reality. As this imaginary publisher, I would make the decision to (of course) have only the best story for Mr. Ditko to illustrate, but I would get him the best of the best inkers who would bring his work much closer to that level of competition. Inkers who are artists themselves, instead of ink technicians who can give you solid lines, but don't understand lighting and depth.

As I said before, someone of the caliber of Steve Leialoha or Klaus Janson would work well. P. Craig Russell is a great choice, too. Someone whose work would be lush and full, while still keeping the essence of Steve Ditko's style.

In addition, I would make sure the coloring was top-notch, and that this creative team would stay intact for the duration of the current storyline. Rotate in new inkers for the duration of subsequent story arcs, that way the consistency helps sell any reprints.

I would make other decisions in my fantasy company. John Byrne would never ink himself ever again, and he wouldn't choose his own colorist. He would likely never write anything he'd illustrate. Pencils only. This would improve the quality of his work by a factor of twenty, at least.

I would do my level best to take decently talented people who (for whatever reason) are not perceived (justifiably or not) as being contemporary enough, and team them up with those who are. Also, I would not do this for a lot of titles. I would do this only for certain exceptional people. The rest of the titles would be to pair up as much of the best of the best teams to create really good books.

The bottom line would be not to just slap together whomever happens to be standing around at the time. That happens way too often, and it should be stopped.

Like it or not, Steve Ditko's work is a challenge to publish because of this perception that he's not good enough for today's publishing standards. I believe that's the fault of the unimaginative, lazy editors that are working today. They either don't want to figure out how to make a Steve Ditko comic book work, or they simply don't have the ability to.

See, this is what I think of sometimes when I buy lottery tickets.

Cory said...

There are quite a few people here who say that "Ditko got into the entertainment business", and he's rude (or worse) for not being fan-friendly.

When Mr. Ditko got into comics, it was not a fan-based business. It WAS like machinework. You went to an office, got a script, drew your portion of it and went on to the next one. There were studios of artists, none of which got a byline, who drew stories that got no feedback from "fans", but were just there to fill a deadline on a book that was being used to make sure that the printing presses weren't idle.

NOW comics are an "entertainment" business, but in the 40's 50 and even into the 60's, it was commercial art and wasn't that much different than drawing an ad for breakfast cereal or soda pop. When I met Curt Swan, he said he drew comics because he could work at home, be done by noon and go bowling, not because he had a deep love of comics.

Ditko is a follower of Ayn Rand (who is getting a huge resurgence with Tea Party folks misinterpreting her works), and one of his main tenets is that he takes a job, delivers what is paid for and moves on. He's not doing it for fans, or posterity or fame, he's doing it the same way that I would put together an excel spreadsheet or an interoffice memo.

I think it is very hard with "rock star" comics creators to understand a different way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this talk of Steve Ditko's principles leading his talent into odd territory just shed some light on the weirdest thing I've ever heard of him drawing: An early Transformers coloring book called "The Autobot Smasher"

http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~sstoneb/tf/books/coloring/smasher.html

I'm mostly a Transformers fan who knows little about comics that don't have toy tie-ins, but even I could see that this was almost comparable hiring a renaissance master to paint your house.

It probably didn't do much to quiet those who criticize his work for a lack of detail either.

-Bumblevivisector

Tue Sørensen said...

Hi Jim,
One thing I've always wondered about VALIANT is, did you consciously go for a "house style", artwise? Looking at Windsor-Smith's VALIANT stuff and also Ditko's, the lay-out and the coloring and also the proportionality of the art seems, in a way, a bit standardized. Was this a particular policy from the editorial side?

Daniel K said...

This excellent British TV documentary is well worth a watch for anyone interested in the mystery/cult of Ditko:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfxVO0fLHvA

gn6196 said...

ja


I agree with a lot of the ideas you have regarding handing out assignments for creators. Bryne is better handling scripts written by others. Trouble is has disdain for doing it( he has called it art monkey and art robot a few times). As for Ditko, I don't think I would buy any of his books. He never adapted his style into the modern era like Kirby or Gil Kane did.
His art style works best in the 60's.

Ronnie said...

I recently read an old Power Rangers comic pencilled by Steve Ditko... After growing up on Spider-Man, it was great to see the man had touched another area that was such a great part of my childhood.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Speedball. The storytelling was good. But i don't understand why Ditko woulod not update fashions and looks. The fashions and haircuts could have come out of 60s Spider-Man.

There are a lot of stories in bell's books of huge fans of his helping publish his stuff-only to have him walk out in a huff because of some perceived slight to his principals, or some minor thing, or a coloring error or something.

I don't know. He sounds unreasonable but those are their sides of the story. He doesn't provide his so you only get one. So that becomes truth

Rob

Anonymous said...

Also his personal Mr. A stuff is basically screaming political rants at the reader which can only really be enjoyed by the already converted.

"The word "we" crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the gray of it."

"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction."

"You must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil."

"A is A."

Rob

Anonymous said...

This is the kinda stuff that makes people think Ditko is strange. After Time wrote an article about Spider-Man created by Stan Lee, Ditko wrote a letter to them that Spider-Man was a co-creation with Stan as scripter and editor, Ditko as artist.

Stan then made a public comment.


"I have always considered Steve Ditko to be Spider-Man's co-creator."
-Stan Lee (in a letter to Ditko)

"'Considered' means to ponder, look at closely, examine, etc. and does not admit, or claim, or state that Steve Ditko is Spider-Man's co-creator."
- Steve Ditko's response appeared in the May 2001 issue of THE COMICS

"At this point, I don't know what to say, I don't want this to turn into a feud, because I love the guy. But I don't know what to do to make him happy."
-Stan Lee


Rob------------------------------------------------------------

cease ill said...

Machine Man.

Billy said...

Dear Jim,

I have a question related to Marvel, VALIANT and their properties, just because I find this stuff interesting. If this is something well-known or that you've discussed elsewhere apologies mine:
When I was a kid reading Marvel, there was KULL, Conan, G.I. Joe and Transformers. They seemed to be hot titles too. Now in my late 30s I am reading comics again, and I find that the two 'Hasbro' titles -- including reprints of the Marvel issues -- are IDW comics. The sword and scorcery titles, also including the Marvel reprints, are now Dark Horse. How did Marvel lose these presumably profitable franchises? Along the same lines, how did the signature VALIANT titles end up at Dark Horse?
As an aside, I am also part of the legion of readers who found Ditko's surreal style fascinating. But I think it's odd he would draw Platonic stories -- isn't Shade the Changing Man by definition a Platonic character?

Chris Hlady said...

Man, the Anonymous dude who wrote this is a nut-bar, and a bane to all other anonymous people...
http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/11/ditko-at-valiant-and-defiant-part-1.html?showComment=1320721693183#c8831428377788510647
Just saying. Course, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

A few random thoughts on the above, and Ditko's knack for avoiding publicity, just remember, Ditko is the guy who invented Spidey-sense.

Man, I LOVE DITKO. The first stuff I read, of his, was Shade the Changing Man in DC's First Issue Special. That, and Creeper. Man, that was great stuff.

The Ditko Spiderman filtered in, over time, but I was more blown away by the Doctor Strange digests that were out of this world.

Something about Ditko's art is a joy to behold, and thanks Jim and Jay Jay for sharing the previous snippets and pages. Even with WWF, Ditko, and Jim, of course, makes me interested in wrestling and mysticism. No small feat.

I just love the insight. The mature Ditko wanting to do black and white heroes. Ditko forgiving the young Peter Parker for being a teen-ager. Wow, what a character.

Great work. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

He has lately teased certain things about the past while still only commenting from time to time in detail.

"I know why I left Marvel but no one else in this universe knew or knows why. It may be of a mild interest to realize that Stan Lee chose not to know, to hear why, I left."
-Steve Ditko

This would be interesting to hear.

Rob

Billy said...

I meant to write that Ditko would NOT write Platonic stories...

Tue Sørensen said...

@Billy: You can't expect Jim to explain 25 years of comics industry development to you. Have you ever heard of Wikipedia? It's all in there.

DJ said...

Re: The Transformers Colouring Book.
Um, it's a colouring book, it's not meant to have detailed art. Also, to draw, make recogniseable, look natural, and lend solidity and weight to any object without use of shading or blacks is a very hard task indeed. I think for what it is, Ditko did a bang up job.
Remember, Gil Kane & John Buscema both pretty much reverted to layouts or breakdowns near the end of their careers. Many inkers complained of Buscema's scribble technique, and Mark Farmer and Kevin Nowlan both have said they had to use old Gil Kane comics to make Kane's later layouts look like his artwork should. So, maybe we should lay off the Ditko art bashing. I feel part of the reason he submits layouts is that he knows the editors are only going to hire in heavy handed inkers to modernise up his work, most of which pretty much loses the Ditkoness that they apparently sought in the first place.
Cheers.
David J.

Billy said...

Tue,

SOME of it is in there. Wikipedia is hardly what I'd call a gold-standard resource of reliable information. I can surmise that Marvel lost those characters in the bankruptcy, but does that mean actual Marvel comics can be reprinted by another house? How does it work? How does the compensation work? I had a question. I went to a reliable source for an answer. If this strikes you as stupid, sorry -- if I had all the answers I would be asking questions.

gn6196 said...

Billy,


Someone owns the rights to those characters and can move them from publisher to publisher if they want.

Billy said...

Ugh... I meant to write WOULDN'T be asking questions... Stupid auto-correct!

Billy said...

gn6196,

Okay THAT much I know. My question is mostly on the how not the what. G.I. Joe, Transformers and Conan all released major motion pictures in the past five years. It seems like there had to have been a drop-down, drag-out fight by Marvel to keep those franchises under their imprimatur if they could. It seems strange that such a titan in the industry would NOT own the publishing rights to those franchises at the time when they're coming back into vogue...

Mister.44 said...

Someone posted this interview a while ago. It has a lot of the VALIANT stuff inside. I learned a lot. I am sure there will be more 'fun' gleaned later.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=147

gn6196 said...

Billy,

I am taking educated guesses that the contacts to those properties had expired sometime before they were made into movies. DH was publishing Conan the last few years. Marvel missed out. I don't think they would collect on those movies anyway. The owner of those properties get the money. Comic companies only get the money from the comic book.

Dimitris said...

Dan said: "Stan Lee might owe Ditko something, but Jim Shooter certainly didn't. Any work Shooter gave Ditko was a kindness."
I don't believe that Stan Lee owes Ditko anymore than Marvel does. He was one of the people who are responsible for what Marvel is today as a company, so I see it more as the DC-Siegel & Shuster case. DC might not have owed them anything legally, but you can't make a fortune off of Superman and let his creators starve. I believe Mr Shooter also felt that way. Now Shooter hiring Ditko at VALIANT, yeah, that was a different case.

"Ditko sure didn't mind asking Marvel and Shooter to give him work when it really wasn't in their best interest to do so."
I may be mistaking your point here (and if I do, correct me) but isn't it his right to ask work from Marvel? I don't find anything wrong or unprincipled in that. If Marvel believed it wasn't in their best interest, they could just decline him. It would be wrong if he demanded work without deserving it.

Anonymous said...

RE:DJ

I agree, it's probably the best art I've ever seen in what few coloring books I've perused, largely because Steve's uncluttered art style happened to be a good fit. Sorry if that came across as a slam, which it wasn't. I just always wondered how he ended up drawing a coloring book, and it suddenly made a bit more sense. I certainly respect an artist who adheres to few odd principles at the cost of some opportunities more than some sell out who doesn't care about what they're drawing.

Come to think of it, I'm actually most familiar with his work on ROM, so it's nice to learn that it's partly what got him back to work at Marvel. I really wish they'd do a Marvel Legends figure of ROM, in either scale.

-Bumblevivisector

Dimitris said...

Rob said :"Ironically, his near complete silence otherwise, did not have the effect of focusing things on his work, but on his mysteriousness. Completely backfired."
I wouldn't agree with that. There's a lot of talk over Ditko's art, even on this blog, he isn't sorely defined by his beliefs. If he was following the exact opposite tactic amd was giving a lot of interviews, much as I would like to read them, I believe the result would be worse for him.

Naturally a lot of the questions would be about his thoughts on Stan Lee or his objectivist views on life. I believe this would create a much more negative image of Steve Ditko than the one he currently has. Just think of all the interviews Alan Moore has given where he is always asked about DC and current superehero comics in general. He is, consistently, giving his point of view which is quite negative. It's not his fault, but they always ask him. I like reading his interviews, but as a result this has increasd the negative comments I have seen about him and I believe the same thing would happen with Ditko.

Anonymous said...

RE:DJ

I agree, it's probably the best art I've ever seen in what few coloring books I've perused, largely because Steve's uncluttered art style happened to be a good fit. Sorry if that came across as a slam, which it wasn't. I just always wondered how he ended up drawing a coloring book, and it suddenly made a bit more sense. I certainly respect an artist who adheres to few odd principles at the cost of some opportunities more than some sell out who doesn't care about what they're drawing.

Come to think of it, I'm actually most familiar with his work on ROM, so it's nice to learn that it's partly what got him back to work at Marvel. I really wish they'd do a Marvel Legends figure of ROM, in either scale.

-Bumblevivisector

czeskleba said...

"I know why I left Marvel but no one else in this universe knew or knows why."
*********************
That seems to be an overly dramatic statement on Ditko's part. Mark Evanier says Ditko told him that he left Marvel because he was unhappy with the amount of credit and pay Stan Lee received for their collaborative work, and because Martin Goodman reneged on promises to give him a share of the licensing profits for his co-creations. Dick Giordano also said that Ditko mentioned the issues with Stan as his reason for leaving. I doubt there's anything more to it than that.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

Valiant Entertainment, Inc. announced that they'd gotten some funding a while back. Ditko like Howard Hughes? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Czeskleba,

A is A. ;)

Rob

Steve Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Jones said...

Much as I love Ditko's work on both Spider-Man and Dr Strange, his artwork from the 70's onwards just isn't very good.

The only work of his I enjoyed during this period was Machine Man.

jimshooter said...

Dear ja,

The Direct Market badly needs overhauling. When it was an adjunct to the newsstand market, it was a reasonable proposition. Now that it's the main distribution channel, it has become a problem. It stifles growth. A 62.5% discount, firm sale only to retailers who reach just a small portion of the potential end consumers? It strangles publishers. Only well-established or "promotional" product is viable. It punishes retailers. The threat of choking on inventory curtails business development. As things stand, nearly all the incentives and disincentives inherent in the Direct Market system are bad.

I have ideas for reaching the mass market, too involved to explain here. To some extent, the approach changes with the players involved. A strategic partner would present options not necessarily available to a financial institution-funded venture.

Yes, there would have to be marketing innovations. I have ideas for that, too. No "lemming" marketing. That's a great term, by the way. Well said.

The quality of the product is the key. Comics Newco would have to produce consistently excellent books for a long time just to establish a beachhead in the mass market.

Imagine walking into a store that sold comics and finding a substantial selection of books every week all of which were must-have great, where a book as good as, say, Watchmen was an average offering.

czeskleba said...

"I have always considered Steve Ditko to be Spider-Man's co-creator."
-Stan Lee (in a letter to Ditko)
**********************
Regarding Ditko's taking umbrage to this comment, we have to look at the context. If you watch the Ross documentary on Ditko, Stan makes it clear that he believes the person who comes up with the initial idea for a character (regardless of how undeveloped that idea is) is the creator. He says he is willing to "give" Ditko co-creator credit for Spider-Man though. I can see how Ditko would take offense at that attitude. "Give" implies something unearned, and certainly Ditko believes he earned the credit for co-creating Spider-Man (and I agree with him). Stan is a professional writer, and no doubt chooses his words carefully. He deliberately chose to say he "considers" Ditko to be the co-creator, rather than simply saying "Steve Ditko is Spider-Man's co-creator."

Anonymous said...

One thing I don't understand. He is STEVE DITKO. I would think that he could make a very nice living off commissioned pieces alone. I don't know about his finacial situation but it sounds like he is broke.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, he sounded like a douche in that exchange. and he missed some definitions of consider "to regard as or deem to be; to think, believe"

Stan was right to wash his hands of it.

The man-Ditko- has alienated people left and right

Tends to happen when you're a fanatic.

Rob

bmcmolo said...

I admire Ditko even more for his "fanaticism."

Anonymous said...

Ditko could have made a lot of money if he wanted, anonymous. Commissions, appearances, signings, original art (to the extent he has it, returning to Spider-Man and to a lesser extent Doc Strange.He didn't want to apparently.

There are rumors he lives near broke. I don't know. But if so, it's because that's what he chose.

After all, when he left Marvel the first time by choice, he went to Charlton which paid half the Marvel rates. Romita could not understand him leaving a successful book. Thought he;d be back Thomas said a $5 rate increase -large for the time-was on the table when he left.

His principals obviously are that he not take advantage of opportunities.

Rob

Salamandyr said...

Compared to say, Alan Moore, Steve Ditko, with his privacy and his principles seems quite normal.

Anonymous said...

Principals are nice. On the other hand, human relationshops are better and that often involves compromise.

A congress for example standing purely on principal and unwilling to compromise would get nothing done.

Marriage is only possible through compromise. Etc.

Hey, Ditko's not asking for much of anything so fine.

But im never going to hold the opinion that anyone owes him something, like some supporters believe, because he did meaningful work 50 yrs ago but has allowed his philosophy to ruin his 'plots', and destroy his art. His work wouldn't sell and that's by conscious choice.

I happen to believe it is a good thing he left Spidey when he did too. You can See Peter Parker becoming the sort of unflexible, nasty, friend dropping man of "principal" in the last few Ditko issues.

Rob

Anonymous said...

principles. not principals. sorry :)

jimshooter said...

Dear JLH,

I think VALIANT did its distribution to the military through a jobber. Sounds like they did okay.

I think we used 10-point covers on early Nintendo Comics. Yes, card stock, more or less. UV coated, I believe.

I didn't like much of what I read of the series VALIANT published after I left. I thought Lapham's Harbinger was okay for a while. Windsor-Smith's Archer & Armstrong started out okay then quickly drifted way out of character and became bizarre. Magnus, Solar and Turok, from what little I've read of them were pretty bad right away.

Quantum and Woody had a lot good about it. There was one good issue of Ninjak, written by Mike Baron, I believe, the rest were amateurish, albeit some had pretty art. Bloodshot seemed very much like Deathlok. It got tedious after a while. And convoluted. The whole mob thing made no sense. Not much of any of the books made sense.

X-O and Shadowman went careening off in strange directions. I didn't like X-O at all. Shadowman had a few good moments, though the character was way off.

Eternal Warrior was terrible. They missed the point. Timewalker was a train wreck. Whoever wrote it apparently didn't even bother to read the established back story for EW and Armstrong. As I recall, there's a lengthy quest to find some McGuffin, a compass? And when it's found, it makes no discernible difference and is quickly forgotten, for the most part.

Doctor Mirage was a one-note book that should have been a mini-series at most. It dragged on, however, and made very little sense. Mirage could do, in any given situation, whatever the writer needed him to do. What were the others? None of any use. Armorines was amateurish, as were most of the rest. Trinity Angels had some nice cheesecake if you're into that. That's all.

The last things I was working on at VALIANT were UNITY #1, H.A.R.D. Corps, Rai #0, Rising Spirit, which became Bloodshot, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and, with JayJay, Eternal Warrior. They changed or discarded much of what I had done on those.

jimshooter said...

Dear DJ,

I think several artists asked if they could ink an issue of Steve's ROM pencils and it became a thing. A chance to work with the great Steve Ditko for one job was an honor. I believe Bill Mantlo also did some recruiting.

jimshooter said...

Dear Tue,

At VALIANT, I made storytelling top priority We couldn't afford the "star" artists anyway, we were using mostly kids right out of the Kubert school, and some of the art wasn't very pretty. But, at my insistence, it usually was clear and conveyed the info it needed to. I didn't care about rendering styles, but I did insist on panels in the grid with gutters. Also, every VALIANT logo was in a box. JayJay hated me for that, but from across the room in the comics shop, you could spot the VALIANT comics. House style? I guess. It worked.

jimshooter said...

Dear Billy,

RE: Kull, Conan, etc. Sales slow down, a company doesn't renew the license and someone else picks it up. Some licenses give the licensor ownership of the work created, which then can be used by the next licensee.

When VALIANT was bought by Acclaim, the license from Western Publishing for Magnus, Solar et al terminated with the change of VALIANT's ownership. The new owners were able to re-license the properties albeit on much less favorable terms. Acclaim's bankruptcy terminated their license and Western (which had become Golden Books Family Entertainment) also went bankrupt. The underlying rights to the properties were purchased out of the liquidation and found their way to Classic Media, which licensed them to Dark Horse.

bmcmolo said...

Glad you pointed it out. I was wondering since when Ditko held such passionate views on academic administration.

On one hand, I'll agree that when an artist's political agenda becomes more important than the story he or she is telling, the work suffers. On the other hand, to paraphrase Animal Farm, some political agendas are treated more "equally" than others. More power to Steve Ditko.

Anonymous said...

Well it's not just that the agenda overwhelms the story. it is the story.

Virtually all of his work is essentially political screeds these last few decades, in which Mr. A or someone essentially berates the reader as heavy handed as possible.

Similar to those comic strips with religious messages left everywhere. The purpose is to preach the gospel. Of Rand in this case. That's why it exists.

Rob

bmcmolo said...

I've never read the Mr. A stuff, but I can understand his passion for the subject. I've connected a lot with Ditko's beliefs in interviews I've read, but that of course is an interview and not a story, so I don't know how I'd respond if the story was subordinated to the agenda. Even one I agree with. That stuff, regardless of the content of the agenda, annoys me.

With regards to "those comic strips with religious messages left everywhere," I assume you mean Chick Tracts? If so, you need to check this out: http://foo.ca/wp/chick-tract-satire/darkseid/) - you won't be disappointed.

Anyway, whatever Ditko wants to do, whether it's work or not work, and for whatever reason he wants to do or not do it, I tip my cap to him. And I love the work of his I've seen.

Lord_Ganja said...

I think the credit for Spidey's creation should be 50/50.
If you look at the elements and assign credit then you realise what a potent combination it was and why it succeeded.
1. Teenage hero with real-world problems - Stan
2. Unique costume design - Steve
3. Villans created - Steve
4. Dialogue - Stan
5. Plotting - Steve > Stan.
It really was a great team effort - perhaps the days spent drawing isn't equitable to few hours spent scripting? Maybe that's where the sense of injustice arises?

We should all cut Ditko some slack - he never received the credit he deserved.

Daniel K said...

For the record, if more people had read Mr. A then Ditko's reputation would have suffered a lot more. Politics notwithstanding it's an absolutely awful read.

Daniel K said...

Also, Jack T Chick comics are way more entertaining than Mr. A, and not even in an ironic sense.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

Would you be willing to write an article explaining the direction you would have taken Shadowman, Eternal Warrior, and X-O? I would be interested to read what your vision for them was.

Anonymous said...

he's credited on the book as plotter. but when you quit the company, and do zero appearances, and zero interviews and hardly any comments until the 1990s, people are going to not realize who you are.

Especially when sales increased under ROmita and he stayed for a few decades in some capacity.

It's just the way it is.

Rob

Jason said...

As a student of Rand's thought, it's interesting to me that Ditko's understanding of her is... selective, let's say.

Take his requirement that heroes be perfect, for example. Rand wrote an entire book on her esthetic theory (The Romantic Manifesto), and stated that the goal of HER fiction was the portrayal of the ideal man. She did not hold that to be the goal of all art. (In fairness, this misinterpretation is not confined merely to Ditko.) If you've read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, you can easily rattle off a list of dozens of heroic characters who are flawed in some way. Part of their heroism is in overcoming those flaws.

It's a pity that he let his interpretation lead him into merely preaching at his readers, rather than telling dramatic stories (thinking specifically of Mr. A, but also to a lesser extent his Charlton work).

Anonymous said...

bmcmolo, you are right on. Political agendas are not treated equally. I actually find it quite annoying. Objectivism is perceived as leaning Right so Ditko is derided. If he leaned Left he would be revered. He is unusual because he is Ditko; What he's contributed can't be denied.

Neil Anderson said...

Personally, I'm not a fan of Ayn Rand's fiction or philosophy. And Ditko's self-written stuff strikes me as having the same problem Kirby's self-written stuff had, neither of them write "like people talk" as Stan Lee put it, and unless you're looking at where the word balloon is pointed, or the context/content of the dialogue, you can't tell who's talking--the vernacular all sounds the same, to me at least. Having said that, I'm surprised at some of the negative comments about Ditko--I've read a lot about him, including Blake Bell's book, and I've never read anything where he did something bad to someone else--as far as I can tell, he holds himself to a very strict ethical code. If he comes off as a bit cranky sometimes, don't we all?

Cory said...

Rob said :"Ironically, his near complete silence otherwise, did not have the effect of focusing things on his work, but on his mysteriousness. Completely backfired."

I respectfully disagree. I'm on a few mailing lists that talk about Ditko and Golden and S8ilver Age Marvel, and pretty much after a couple of months, discussion of Ditko as a person went away and discussion of his art has been the focus for over 15 years now. Once in a while something about his personal life comes up, but by and large, it's a scholarly discussion of his art style, his influences, his approach to storytelling, etc...

I think younger fans want to know creators as people, but for the most part, old fans and fans who aren't on the internet a lot care about the stories and the art.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

RE: My plans for Shadowman, the Eternal Warrior and X-O: It's in the queue. Thanks.

JayJayJackson said...

bmcmolo, that Darkseid tract is pretty funny!

bmcmolo said...

Glad you enjoyed! Definition of 'lol.' Thanks for checking it out.

Anonymous said...

Cory,

In every internet place i see ditko come up this always happens and the crazy, recluse and other comments start coming. pretty much immediately.

Ditko was always 'reclusive' i guess. he's one of the few bullpenners who avoided his picture being taken and included in the comics or the MMMS stuff IIRC

had he just been generally available, the mystery is gone and there's not much else to talk abotu but the work.

Anonymous, it has nothing to do with the work/philosophy being "conservative."

Neil Anderson, Blake Bell's book, imo, showed many cases of him acting rudely in pursuit of "principle" over normal interaction and human contact.

Rob

Anonymous said...

"There was one good issue of Ninjak....Shadowman had a few good moments, though the character was way off. Eternal Warrior was terrible. They missed the point."

[MikeAnon:] It's been a long time since I read any of these titles, so I hope I'm not too dumb for asking: What *were* the points of these three characters, at least as they were originally conceived? [--MikeAnon]

Chris Arndt said...

Thus far all I see is Robonymous oversimplifying every step.... Until he is comes off as a jerk.

Neil Anderson said...

I remember the incidents recounted in Bell's book that Anonymous is referring--the one that particularly struck me was Will Eisner (one of Ditko's childhood influences) asking Ditko for an interview, and whatever Ditko said, it led Eisner to comment (ironically) that it was like talking to a soviet commissar.

But, so what? Even if he was rude, he didn't actually do anything bad to Eisner--he just declined an interview, which was his right. Even if he can be faulted for the manner in which he does some things, I've never read of anything where he can faulted for something he actually did, or failed to do.

Van GoghX said...

Humans are strange and wonderful, no matter where you go... And the truly brilliant ones tend to be more so.

Sounds like Steve has plenty of all three.

Urk said...

Dan- I didn't mean to misconstrue you. You didn't say that "political" and "principled" were mutually exclusive, but you used them as opposing points, saying in that last comment "So no, I don't see Ditko as principled as much as political" for instance. And that's what I don't get. Sure, its a political stand he's taking, and one that I disagree with to a huge, huge degree. But how is it not a principled stand as well? Usually when I read something like that I take "political" to mean a stand taken out of convenience or for gain. Ditko's stands have, as far as I can tell, been pretty inconvenient for him and have lost him a lot that he might have gained otherwise. Not that I'm crying for him here, just trying to point out why your construction doesn't make sense to me. Political stands can be deeply principled, and no matter how wrongheaded or unreasonable Ditko seems to me, I don't find evidence at all that he's unprincipled.

Mostly though, I don't quite get the vitriol being aimed at Ditko here. I mean, I am a card carrying leftist, commie pinko socialist etc. I vehemently disagree with his politics and find a lot of his self-written work tiresome even just from a dramatic point of view. But we live in an age when people whose reading of Rand seems even more selective than Ditko's are actively running for office and trying to more or less dismantle the new deal. That's a big deal. Steve Ditko, who gave us all those wonderful, timeless, inspired images, who co-created spider-Man, whose vision is unique among visual artists, is rude to fans and other creators and insists on doing work I don't like. That's not a big deal, especially stacked up against what he has given us.

Dimitris said...

Rob said: "had he just been generally available, the mystery is gone and there's not much else to talk about but the work."
I don't believe that at all. Chuch Dixon is known for being a conservative. I do remember that when he was to write gay characters, some fans where suspicious of him and the fact that Dixon has a web presence hadn't helped. Gail Simone is a known liberal, the fact that she has a web presence hasn't stopped some people from arguing with her. Alan Moore is an anarchist and has a continuous problem with working with big companies (though he didn't in the past). Though he gives interviews, that doesn't stop some people from thinking of him as a whiner or grumpy.

Experience has shown that if you have a strong point of view, having a public presence won't stop people from discussing you for your point of you. I don't feel that Ditko gets more negative comments for his beliefs than the creators I mentioned above.

cecil said...

Steve came back to Marvel in 1979, where he drew Machine Man: the one title along with Tales to Astonish which he shared runs with Jack Kirby.

cease ill said...

On which. Sorry. I wrote up those issues on integr8dfix.blogspot.com. He also drew Spidey into one panel of ROM (unless it was the inker).

Dimitris said...

Will Eisner mentions that incident with Ditko ("Boy! It was like speaking to a russian commisar!") in the Eisner/Miller book as well, but I didn't get the feeling that he was accusing Ditko of being rude. It felt more like "Oh boy, that Ditko is quite a character" rather than "Oh man, what a jerk!"

It reminds me of Jonathan Ross in the documentary "In Search of Steve Ditko" where he is asking Ditko to let him visit him in his office. When he closes the phone, Ross says laughing: "I think he kinda told me to fuck off! In the most polite and firm way I've been told that!" And then he goes and visits him anyway (along with Neil Gaiman) and Ditko actually accepts them.

Lee K. Seitz said...

cease ill said: "He also drew Spidey into one panel of ROM (unless it was the inker)."

It was indeed the inker. I believe they covered that in the letter column of a later issue of ROM.

Anonymous said...

Based on everything I've read about Ditko I don't see him as being even the slightest bit rude.
Based on the number of rude fans who ridicule him at every opportunity it's no wonder he avoids fandom.

Philip

jimshooter said...

Dear Mike,

Telling you how the creators who served the pirates who stole VALIANT missed the boat with Eternal Warrior and Shadowman would take more time than I have right now. I'll do a post on it someday. (Maybe JayJay, EW co-conspirator will weigh in with some comments.)

Ninjak was an amateurish, clumsy pastiche of stereotypes and martial arts movie cliches. And it made no sense. Those who followed the original writer made it look better and feel more professional for a little while -- Quesada is a talented artist -- but did not repair the fundamental flaws. I did, when I worked for VEI for a while. It was difficult, but I think I pulled that mess together into something good. We'll see if VEI ever uses what I wrote.

Kid said...

Jim, further to my earlier post about Joe Sinnott declining to ink Steve Ditko's pencils, it was an issue of Chuck Norris in 1987. Mike Esposito ended up inking it.

JayJayJackson said...

I got the feeling from the Jonathan Ross documentary that he came away liking and respecting Steve Ditko. And as I mentioned before, even when I was having an intense argument with Mr. Ditko over the Platonic vs. the Aristotelian aspects of Dark Dominion he was calm and polite, though firm in his stance. I've found him to be very likeable and I've enjoyed speaking and even arguing with him. But then, I like Jim Shooter, so go figure. ;)

ChrisFusco said...

Dear Jim,

Off topic but since you've fielded some Valiant questions - I've always wondered whose idea it was for the mailaway coupons / #0 issues at Valiant, or how it came about? Were there other marketing ideas being kicked around that maybe didn't get used?

I thought it was a fun addition, even if the idea of comic-cutting makes me shudder a little bit. :)

czeskleba said...

I don't think anyone here has cited an instance of Ditko being rude to fans. I don't believe there is any instance to cite. I know some people have taken offense at things in his writings that they interpreted as being directed at fandom, but that's hardly the same thing. I think it speaks volumes that even after he told Ross not to visit him, and Ross did so anyway (which strikes me as pretty rude on Ross' part), Ditko let him in and talked to him politely.

Jason said...

The thing that struck me at the end of that Ross documentary was Neil Gaiman's face when they returned from meeting Ditko. That smile on his face is something I can't even describe. Child-like delight and amazement, maybe. And this on the face of the man who (admiringly) called Ditko "barking mad". :)

JediJones said...

Let me get this straight, we have comic book fans in this thread accusing Steve Ditko of not engaging in "normal interaction and human contact." Comic book fans? Really? The words "normal," "social," and "human," don't often come up when describing comic book fans. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a comic book fan. That's how I know that of which I speak. I've certainly never been called any of the above adjectives. ;-) The notion that Ditko's the weird one while the comic book fans that spend their time talking about him are all well-adjusted, properly socialized models of normalcy...well, you see where I'm going with this.

The bottom line here, if you'll pardon my French, is that anyone who co-creates MUTHA EFFIN' SPIDER-MAN doesn't NEED to do anything else for the rest of their life. They've earned their place at the table as far as I'm concerned. How many of us have co-created anything close to MUTHA EFFIN' SPIDER-MAN? If the guy who does that later decides to draw stick figures for a living, pray to Xenu every day, spend his free time arguing with homeless people about what objects different clouds look like, or just take things easy for the rest of life, I have absolutely no quarrel with granting him that privilege. If there's one emotion that thinking about Steve Ditko should conjure up, it should be gratitude that he helped create such a meaningful and memorable character, one that is still one of the greatest assets this industry has at its disposal.

Brian said...

Holy shit. I had that Undertaker/Bossman comic as a kid. Loved it. Had no clue it was Ditko.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

Will you add Bob Layton in your queue?
Or is there too much bad blood between you two that you don't want to talk about anymore.

Chris Arndt said...

Don't mention Bob Layton. At least not three times.

Chris Arndt said...

As it is, I think it is more than a bit insulting to insist that Ditko misinterpreted Rand because when you practice a set of beliefs since the halycon days of CHARLTON COMICS at their peak they are not someone else's they are your own.

Ditko's beliefs are not Rand's misinterpreted, they are simply the beliefs of Ditko. After nearly forty years I think it is fairly independent of another artist.

ja said...

I just saw the In Search Of Steve Ditko documentary. I enjoyed everyone's stories about Ditko, and their interpretations & opinions.

However, I thought it was the height of rudeness for Jonathan Ross to have essentially given out Steve Ditko's office (home?) address. Bad form, that.

I'm bemused by the idiots here (yeah, I'm talking about you) who ascribe all sorts of unwarranted or negative motivations and disrespectful judgements to Steve Ditko for not wanting to be interviewed or photographed. Not everybody wants to be a Kardashian.

That he doesn't is weird to you, fine. But maybe shutting your trap instead of characterizing Ditko as some sort of asshole or creep, just seems to be the kind of common sense you forgot to employ.

I had a time where I would have regular conversations with Steve Ditko over the phone. He was nothing but polite and pleasant to speak with.

Anonymous said...

Jedi Jones,

First of all, I'm not a comic book fan stereotype. I have normal social interactions just like anyone else. Comics don't consume me. I'm not Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory

Co-creating Spider-Man my favorite fictional character, doesn't make it that i can't comment on the negative sides to Steve Ditko and his philosophy and how his philosophy destroyed his work, his relationships, and negatively impacted his legacy

When you grow up, you realize just because someone did something important, doesn't make them immune from criticism. I don't hero worship anyone anymore. All heroes have feets of clay-whatever Ditko woudl think of that.

You know when i was a kid, I had several heroes and things important to me. But as an adult you realize-you love Rocky, not Sylvester Stallone, you loved "Hulk Hogan" not Terry "hulk Hogan Bollea, and you loved Spider-Man, not necessarily Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita.

what they create is not necessarily them.

So gratitude to Ditko for creating Spider-Man. Boo for becoming a fanatic. Fanaticism is part of what is destroying this country IMO.

Gratitude to Stallone for Rocky Balboa. Boo for the HGH.

Gratitude to Kirby for Marvel. Book for lying in TCJ interview that Stan couldn't spell and didn't ever write a word in his life that he didn't steal from anyone.

etc.

There's nothing wrong with having opinions or expressing them.

Rob

Anonymous said...

The hero worship thing in grown people is funny though

You have people here name calling people like me-idiots, "shut yer yap"-um, no and the like.

For daring to have a disparaging word about Ditko-while they disparage me.

Ironically, I know more about Ditko than any of you know about me. But im not free to have an opinion on Ditko-a public figure-but you are free to have disparaging opinions about me.

Interesting mental gymnastics there that makes that possible.

Rob.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows Ditko is a human being, and as such he has flaws like the rest of us.
Because of his private nature we don't know what his flaws are. The things detractors keep bringing up don't strike me and other people here as flaws. That isn't because I hero worship Ditko, but because nothing that seems to bother you about Ditko, bothers me at all.
Ditko is a private person, people who are bothered by that or his decisions to no longer draw Spider-Man or do self promotion are the ones being rude. Ditko owes comic book fans absolutely nothing.

Philip

Chris Arndt said...

I disparage Rob because his remarks regarding Ditko are unpleasant and bring a negative atmosphere, rather than being clinical.

Interestingly he has now put more of himself out into the public sphere right here today than Ditko has of himself. I see the contrast.

Mind you I am being subjective and in doing so am being mildly unpleasant myself but I say this: what we can bring to the table regarding the positives and negatives of Ditko's art can be educational.

Putting forth negativity regarding Ditko's lifestyle will likely only bring out stuff I read 10 years ago.

JediJones said...

Fanatacism destroying the country? I'm of the mindset that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." If anything's hurting the country, it's that wishy-washy bunch in the middle who don't pay attention to what's going on, haven't thought the issues through and don't have firm or consistent beliefs about anything. People like that would do the rest of us a favor by not voting. They end up casting their vote based on the last thing they happened to hear the day before the election. If people don't have time to follow the issues, that's fine, but please don't show up at the polls and think you're qualified to cast a vote. That would be like showing up to take a final exam after not showing up for class the whole semester or doing any homework and just trying to cram the night before.

I don't think anyone's saying you're not free to have an opinion. We're just freely expressing our opinions about your freely expressed opinion. No one's trying to get your posts deleted or get you banned.

I wouldn't give Ditko a pass if he lied about somebody like you're saying Kirby did. But the stuff he's been criticized for seems to be all abuot his beliefs, how he runs his career or how he lives his personal life. Those are his free, personal choices and I don't see any grounds for anyone else to criticize them, especially in a disparaging tone.

My point wasn't that you yourself were a geek or nerd. It was just that within this hobby, I would expect there to be more understanding towards people who don't fit in with societal norms, given that many comic book fans do not.

Chris Arndt said...

I agree with Phillip. I also believe that offering Ditko money in exchange for drawings and sequential art is of benefit to all of us.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I don't agree with Ditko's Ayn Rand based personal philosophy. The thing is, it's Ditko's philosophy, he's not trying to impose it on anyone, he's advocating his viewpoint.

Philip

ja said...

Anonymous Rob,

I don't mind someone opining about Steve Ditko's world view. I don't care if anyone debunks or has an opposing opinion from anything Ditko has presented through his work, especially if they're offended by what he creates.

I was talking specifically about people being rude for the sake of being rude. Calling him a jerk. Being insulting about him not wanting to be interviewed, or having his picture taken.

I say "shut your yap" to those people who enjoy being openly rude. I don't mind people not liking Ditko. I mind it when people are openly rude about it. There is a distinction.

But it's very telling that you thought I was talking specifically about you, as if you had a guilty conscience. I'm sure that you likely don't, but that you probably weren't paying specific attention to the point I was making.

Disparage away at Ditko's point of view, if you wish. I don't mind. I enjoy reading what you write. Just don't be a jerk about it.

And if you weren't, then I wasn't talking about you, was I? =)

Anonymous said...

Jedi Jones,

Free personal choices can be criticized. and are. all the time. beliefs are criticized all the time. It's a normal part of life.

You are now in fact critizing my free personal choice-to criticize Ditko.

You don't see the irony in your position? I mean really?


Ditko's work is about espousing those beliefs. Hard. Vehemently. and disparaging those who disagree. Hard. Vehemently. He is not shy in his work about his opinions. They are crystal clear.

and anything but the absolute truth as i see it of my response to that woudl actually go against his beliefs.

THis isn't criticizing say Don Heck's beliefs when he never put them into his work.

Spider-Man grew more Randian over time. The Charlton and DC stuff was very Randian. Mr. a is a complete philosophical/political screed.


I dont care whether Ditko makes public comments or not. (he actually does, when its convienent for him and he cant be questioned on his statements-"No ones knows why I left Marvel it may be of some interest Stan chose not to know" but he's not publicly commenting lol).

Has he destroyed relationships business and otherwise due to his fanaticism? Yes. Did he destroy his art? Yes. Did he diminish his legacy? Yes, in part. He never again created anything commercially viable and saw himself acclipsed by the public's favoring of Romita's version. That's the one that got the Macy's thansgiving balloon. That's the one that was in the coloring books.

If that doesnt bother him, cool. He's created the world he lives in. No one else is responsible. No one owes him anything.

But im not going to shy away from pointing out the obvious.


A is A.

"Justice demands that a man's principles be fixed in terms of good and evil, black and white"

Mr. A-Ditko's alter ego-is all about the judging.

Mr. A DEMANDS the judging.

So I've judged.



Rob

Anonymous said...

Ja

My bad.

Rob

Cory said...

BECAUSE of this discussion, I've gone back and read a bunch of the Ditko stuff he did for Marvel in the late 50's and early 60's, and the man was a brilliant storyteller. His stories all had a wonderful quality to them of being in a world just slightly different from ours, enough so that when you got to the twist ending, it fit because you knew everything was just slightly different than you expected.

Kirby had bombast and and action, but Ditko could make two people sitting at a table, having a conversation interesting just by how he draw expressions, and set up the scene.

Anonymous said...

Has Ditko any problem with a non-assumed homosexuality?

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that Ditko is a founding father at Marvel; whose whole premise from FF #1 was that the chracters WERE flawed. That's what we loved about them! They were interesting, had shortcomings, were relatable to us. The grey area is the interesting part, in my opinion. I think Rob has issues with Ditko's views and philosophy more than anything else. That kind of comes shining thru.

Neil

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

No one is safe. : ) When and where Layton comes up, I'll tell my tales. They're not all bad.

Steven R. Stahl said...

To Jim Shooter:

Could you touch on, some time, the differences between title characters and supporting characters in series? One of the historical differences between Marvel and DC might be that DC has tried to publish more series starring what would be, at Marvel, supporting characters.


I'm all for different approaches to marketing comics, but it might be difficult to get around the cash flow issue. Traditional publishers have often had cash flow problems and rely heavily on bestsellers to cover losses and small profits from the rest of their titles. Given the costs of paying a writer, the pencil artist, et al. for their work, regardless of sales, it's easy to see why Marvel, for example, insists on serializing material as a hedge against low sales of the collected material/OGN.

The creative problem with endless serialization is that, eventually, the hero's storytelling potential burns out. Repetition of various sorts is unavoidable over a period of years.

Publishing superhero stories as OGNs and requiring only very basic adherence to continuity -- preserving the basic aspects of the hero while allowing the supporting casts, settings, etc. to be changed -- would allow a writer some freedom.

SRS

Mister.44 said...

Like most creative works - often times it's best to separate the art from the artist. Some one can be a brilliant artist and a deeply flawed person, and vise versa.

gn6196 said...

Dear Jim,

looking forward to the Layton stories. From what I can piece together, you guys were buddies during the Marvel days but had a falling out During The transition of Valiants sale. There are two sides to each story. Everyone is "the good guy" in their telling of the story.

ja said...

gn6196,

I agree that Ditko's style doesn't match up with contemporary trends. This is why he should be 'helped' with top-notch inkers and colorists and writers.

Anyone else who is not Steve Ditko, Founding Father, whose work is as un-contemporary as Ditko's, I would not go to such extremes to 'help'. Mr. Ditko I believe would be worth the effort.

With being able to 'contemporize' Ditko's work, you'd end up with some good old-fashioned quality storytelling. That alone would be better than a whole lot of other books whose storytelling is not so good.

Chris Arndt said...

If Ditko would accede to the occasional substitution or addition of contemporary artifacts his layouts and action shots are nearly unequaled

ja said...

That's where the 'help' would come in. There is a way to contemporize everything, keeping the essence of Ditko's work.

Jason said...

Better yet, have a period story, lots of trenchcoats and fedoras, and let Ditko loose on it. No contemporizing needed.

In fact, license Mike Hammer, have Jim script it, Ditko on pencils, maybe a kid fresh out of the Kubert school on inks, Jayjay working her mojo on the colors, and I'll be three copies of every issue.

Mike H said...

Jim, maybe you'll touch on this in part two, but since Ditko had to have a clear hero how did he end up on ShadowMan for a few issues? (Sorry, that is the one Valiant title I mostly liked all the way to its end, even after you left)

The character is clearly confused and at conflict with himself, between his light and his dark side. His dark side-not necessarily evil-is a powerful outside force under whose influence he sometimes acts questionably.

So how would/did Ditko justify working on this character in his philosophy?

gn6196 said...

Just saw searching for Steve Ditko on youtube. Nice documentary, looks like he just wants to be left alone.

Sanjiv Purba said...

Jim,
it's wed evenin and still no Part 2 posted.

i refuse to check back for at least an hour :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim,
I only have one question. What does Ditko look like or is that revealing too much? Most of us have seen the photo of him from the early 60s, balding with glasses. Is it too much to reveal if he has a beard or just looks like an older version of himself? As for Ditkos political philosophy, I don't see it's relevant if you're hiring Jim to pencil a book. If you hire him to script and it turns out like Mr. A , you only have yourself to blame/congratulate as Ditko makes no bones about his philosophy on superheroes.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

There are several old photos of Steve Ditko available online. As of the last time I saw him he looked the same as always, just a little older.

JayJayJackson said...

I would second that. Mr Ditko, when we worked with him, was slim, good posture, wirey. Confident looking man.

jimshooter said...

Dear ChrisFusco,

The story of VALIANT will be told soon, including the tale of the trading cards and coupons. Thanks.

jimshooter said...

Dear Steven,

I'll get to my opinion about the differences between star characters and supporting characters soon. Thanks for the idea.

"...it's easy to see why Marvel, for example, insists on serializing material as a hedge against low sales of the collected material/OGN." Not sure what you mean. I suspect that you mean extending a story over a number of issues (which are, at least, marginally profitable) to better amortize the costs of the material for future use. Right?

I completely disagree with you about your statement: "The creative problem with endless serialization is that, eventually, the hero's storytelling potential burns out. Repetition of various sorts is unavoidable over a period of years." Baloney. Pick a hero. Come sit down with me for an hour or two and I guarantee we will come up with a year's worth of new, groovy stuff, repeating nothing done before. Burn out applies to unimaginative creators, not title-worthy characters.

Writers with imagination already have freedom.

jimshooter said...

Dear gn6196,

"...two sides to each story." And that's how the bad guys break even at worst.

JayJayJackson said...

People who do things they know are wrong lie to cover it up. Some of them will maintain that lie until the end. Doesn't make them a hero of their own story.

jimshooter said...

Dear Mike H,

The Shadowman I developed with Lapham and others was nothing like what you describe, what the character suddenly became after I left. I can't speculate about Steve's decision except to say that he must have found it justifiable some way.

jimshooter said...

Dear Mort,

When Steve showed up at VALIANT looking for work, his shoes were held together by duct tape.

JayJayJackson said...

I totally get that. My favorite and most comfortable pair of sneakers just ripped down the back of one. I'm trying to figure out how to fix them. I don't care how it looks, I like those darn sneakers!

gn6196 said...

Jim,
Two sides of the story refers to the theory that everyone thinks they're right (I'm not saying Bob was ). I've read some of you past interviews that Detailed how Barry Windsor Smith was pitted against you only for him to realize later that he was being used by the guys how stole Valiant from you. It's possible that Layton was sold a bill of goods as well. I've been betrayed by people who convinced themselves they were in the right and i've been betrayed by people that held a grudge over a past mistake That I've committed.

David Marshall said...

Jim, thanks for yet another great post. I'm glad Dikto didn't revisit Dr. Strange or Spider-Man in his '70s Marvel run. Steve is a Founding Father, but -- in both writing and art -- those titles evolved since his '60s departure. Steve's approach would have been perceived as a step backwards. I was 15 years old at the time, and I wrote hate mail about Frank Robbins! Youth really is wasted on the young, but that's the comic book industry's bread and butter.

If you haven't done so already, please read Blake Bell's "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko" (http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Stranger-World-Steve-Ditko/dp/1560979216). It confirms what you've told us about Ditko's refusal to work on flawed heroes.

One editorial suggestion: please put different topics into their own posts. For example, this post is titled "Ditko at Valiant and Defiant", but by sheer word count, most of the content is about your battle with Steve Massarsky. Both topics are equally important; they should be in separate posts. There's a growing army of comics historians citing your blog.

That's my $0.02. Keep up the good work!


Dave Marshall
"Inky Stories" is my web comic. "Art of the Comic Book" is my traditional ink-on-paper comics class.

David Marshall said...

"When Steve showed up at VALIANT looking for work, his shoes were held together by duct tape."

How Rorschach is that?

jimshooter said...

Dear gn6196,

Layton was not "sold a bill of goods." He willingly and actively served the white collar criminals and they got away with it largely because of his complicity. This is not speculation on my part.

Anonymous said...

"Never compromise. Even in the face of armageddon."

Steve Ditko. Our Congress.

Rob

ANDREW said...

Ditko's current work:

http://ditko.blogspot.com/p/ditko-book-in-print.html

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

From what I've read Bob say, he sunk all the money he made off Valiant into Future Comics and subsequently lost it all. He started selling one-of-a-kind memento's and collectibles from his days at Valiant. It was things that surely had personal meaning to him. I think Bob has seen the full cycle. He stole his way to the top and fell back to the bottom again. I think it will always haunt him that you were the means by which he got to the top. I can't imagine there being any joy in knowing he can't take any credit for the magnitude of success he momentarily gained.

Carl Taylor said...

Ditko didn't look at comics as just a job, He left Marvel because Stan kept changing what he had planned for the stories. Like the identity of the Green Goblin. He has sent back huge checks From the Spider-man movies. Then complained about credit. Vic Sage would despise him for not having what is rightfully his. Mr A would have no sympathy for Steve's irrational positions if he were a character in one of his stories. Steve was a great inker. He should've been offered inking as his penciling starting to decline. He didn't just look at drawing as a job. Everytime he put his heart & soul into books after his early Marvel work the books got cancelled. Creeper, Hawk & the Dove, Shade the Changing Man, Etc. I think fandom broke his heart. I was heart broken too, because I loved those books. I think he did draw books for the money later on. Those books where he had minimum story input is where you see minimum detail. To me his contradictory positions are only rewarding those he thinks have treated him unfairly. Would Vic Sage spit in the face of those who cared about him? Yeah you wanted to prove it was you was responsible for the success of Spider-man not Stan, by doing it again and most fans didn't support you, but the ones that did, would love to continue to support you, by buying reproductions, being able to express how happy you've made them in person. Yeah maybe he doesn't owe them that. Maybe he owes it to him self to feel their appreciation otherwise why complain about Spider-man?

Anonymous said...

I think someone else on this thread said it best. Ditko is entitled to his views whether or not we would agree with him. I'd also like to echo the sentiment that they seem to affect no one but himself. Ditko is a lifelong bachelor as far as we all know. No children, no family to support. And evidently, no significant others in his life. This is the only reason we can see that he can be so particular about his assignments. Jack Kirby on the other hand was more accessible than Ditko ever was and was often giving the proverbial key to the city wherever he went to work. But this didn't change the fact that he had to support a family and pay bills.

So Ditko is very entitled to his beliefs and how he wants to live. He owes nobody anything. He may be an entertainer, but he is not an entertainer with dependents to support. And from every account I heard, it doesn't take much to support his spartan, almost monastic lifestyle. I'm pretty sure that he's living within some limited means. But then that raises a question. How could Ditko afford a studio in NYC. Believe me, just about anywhere in New York is very expensive. That being said, I hope we don't find find out somewhere along the line that Ditko had been independently wealthy all along, then that essentially ruins the image of the man.

I'm sure this has been done already but in response to that Ross doc., just how hard was it to "Search" for Steve Ditko? I found him quite easily on 411.info. Not that I plan to go visit him uninvited like fanboy Ross did. The man's entitled to his privacy. And besides, If I wanted a political lecture, there's plenty of people in my workplace who can subject me to that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think in search was that literal. Not "where is he" since he's apparently listed, but "who is he."

Just FYI, Blake Bell's book claims Ditko does have a son though it's not clear to me whether Ditko ever had a relationship with him. I don't remember Bell's source.

Rob

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. Apparently the source was will eisner.

Rob

czeskleba said...

Carl Taylor said:
He left Marvel because Stan kept changing what he had planned for the stories. Like the identity of the Green Goblin. He has sent back huge checks From the Spider-man movies.
**********************
As we've discussed in the comments area of other Ditko-related postings, it's extremely likely both of the above assertions are false rumors.

The "Stan and Steve argued disagreed about the Goblin's identity" story runs counter to available evidence. Given the way they worked (Ditko doing all the plotting himself, the two of them not speaking for the final year they worked together) it would have been impossible for them to have a disagreement or for Stan to change anything significant in a story.

To my knowledge no official Marvel source nor Ditko himself has ever said Ditko was offered money for the Spider-Man movies which he declined. It strikes me as very unlikely a corporation like Marvel would just go and offer unsolicited money to anyone. Considering Stan had to sue to get the money to which he was contractually entitled, it seems even less plausible. And I don't believe Ditko would have declined money either, as long as it was offered with no strings attached.

jimshooter said...

RE: "How could Ditko afford a studio in NYC. Believe me, just about anywhere in New York is very expensive"

New York has rent control and rent stabilization laws. If you are in a space subject to those laws for a long time, the limits imposed upon rent increases are incredible and the rents can remain very low relative to similar places that are unregulated. Example: Marvel publisher Mike Hobson managed to maintain occupancy of an apartment his mother had rented when he was a child. It was a palatial place on the Upper West Side in a good neighborhood. It was huge. It was beautiful. His rent was a quarter of what I paid for my 450 square foot apartment on Madison. Mike paid rent like you'd pay for a shack in Nowheresville, North Dakota.

Anonymous said...

"think Ditko's Objectivism is more religious than political."


It certainly comes across that way, although I doubt he would agree since he doesn't believe in religion. Part of his philosophy is to not work on books that have supernatural elements, which is most comics. I really don't care what his philosophy or politics are, except for how they affected the books I was reading that he ruined back in the 80's. His intentionally bad art, which somehow relates to his philosophy, helped cause those books to be canceled. He can subscribe to whatever politics he wants, Alan Moore said something like, "I might not agree with his politicaly philosophy, but at least he has one." But he was being paid to draw those books, and he turned in practically unfinished work, he should pay Marvel back if he really wants to live up to some higher moral code.