Steve Ditko, 1927–2018
The enigmatic comic artist who helped create Spider-Man
Steve Ditko’s superhero creations are today known to millions of moviegoers and comic-book fans. Together with writer and editor Stan Lee, the artist was a defining force at Marvel Comics in the 1960s, where he helped dream up characters including the sorcerer Dr. Strange and, most famous of all, Spider-Man. Ditko gave Spidey his costume, web shooters, and relatable alter-ego: Peter Parker, a teenager with an inferiority complex. Ditko himself seemed to long for a secret identity. He shunned the limelight, declining public appearances and almost all interview requests. “When I do a job, it’s not my personality that I’m offering the readers, but my artwork,” he said in 1968. “Steve Ditko is merely the brand name.”
Born in Johnstown, Pa., Ditko inherited his love of comics from his carpenter father, said The New York Times. After high school, Ditko served in the Army and later flitted between comic-book publishers, eventually landing at Atlas Comics—later rebranded as Marvel—in 1955. Spider-Man debuted in Amazing Fantasy in 1962, but was such a success that the character was soon given his own title, The Amazing Spider-Man.
Ditko quit Marvel in 1966 at the height of his success, said The Times (U.K.). He appears to have objected to Lee’s self-promotion. “If all the web lines I’ve drawn were laid end to end,” he once wrote, “they still wouldn’t be enough to fit around Lee’s swelled head.” Ditko would work for other comic publishers, creating characters including the Question, the Creeper, and the more lighthearted Squirrel Girl. A near recluse in later life, he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment last month, having suffered a heart attack up to two days earlier.