As I mentioned a little earlier in my Detroit Comix Party post, as a kid I didn’t exactly get comic books but there were always exceptions.
While a lot of the big obvious stuff like Superman and all of the X-Men that weren’t Cable tended to whizz by me, I would occasionally glom onto something for reasons I couldn’t really articulate, often due to external media. I knew about Fantastic Four and Batman through cartoons and movies, I knew about the X-Men through video games that I’d rent even if I didn’t know jack about their source material, and a lot of the “comics” I liked carried something of a qualifier as to why I knew about them or how.
My introduction to Steve Ditko came from a similar place. The first work of his I would ever be aware of would be, of course, Spider-Man, and also thanks to video games (of which the Sega Genesis had a surprising amount), and while I liked Spider-Man for what it was I can’t say I had a greater appreciation or understanding of comics as a result. I was 6 years old. I just liked his costume.
Years later, mostly thanks to an issue of Watchmen, I would both discover Steve Ditko’s importance in the history of comics, and be frankly shocked at the amount of things he was involved in. I can’t act like I was aware of them in any kind of ground-floor capacity, and most of my most impactful comic book discoveries (at least in the more mainstream Marvel/DC sense) would come between the ages of 18 and 25 so I was a late bloomer on this, as I was most things in my life.
But good lord was it impressive to learn about the various Ditko creations that had some kind of impact on comics I’d read over the years. Learning about The Question and his development into Rorschach was big enough for me – as I type this, there’s an autographed Question action figure above my desk – and even if later incarnations of the character were more Buddhist and mullets and less Ayn Rand and murder, The Question is one of my all-time favorite comic heroes and deserves better treatment than he’s gotten lately, since he’s a demon now or whatever. (Shout out to any of you reading this who spent a lot of time talking to me on forums about The Question and/or Jawbreaker.)
The more I read, the more I’d find out about Ditko and the influence he had on comics I’d like later. He wrote the best version of Blue Beetle, who would later become a mainstay of the funnier (and better) Justice League spin-off books. He created Captain Atom, who was like Superman but cooler and scarier somehow. He created The Creeper, who got a series of fun solo adventures and appeared in one of the better Batman: The Animated series episodes. The New Gods! Hawk and Dove! Legion of Super-Heroes! One of the earlier Starmen (Starmans?), which as many of you know is literally my favorite comic of all time, at least in a later incarnation. For god’s sake, the man even once drew a coloring book for Transformers that my sister and I would own (and refuse to color in).
I can’t sit here and act like I’m an expert on Ditko, nor can I really speak with any authority about the vast majority of comic books period, let alone stuff he worked on. I am, however, continually impressed with how his work would shape the look, presentation, and tone of things I’ve loved throughout my life, and even if I disagreed with the vast majority of his politics, you can’t argue with results (goddammit!) and I love his work all the same.
Of course, he probably wouldn’t care either way, would he?