RIP: Steve Ditko dead at 90: Marvel’s Unsung Hero

steve ditko creater of spiderman doctor strange has died

What many outside the comic book universe probably don’t know is that Stan Lee isn’t the sole center of the Marvel Universe. While we currently worry about Stan Lee’s well-being amidst allegations of elder abuse towards him, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange’s co-creator Steve Ditko lies silent amidst Stan Lee’s spotlights. That time is over as Steve Ditko, the artist behind Spider-Man and the one behind the trippy visuals of the Doctor Strange film, has passed at the age 90. The cause of death has yet to be announced, but the New York Police Department stated that he may have died days earlier.

Steve Ditko was the co-creator of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk and other popular Marvel characters along with writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Ditko was behind the trippy psychedelic art that made the book popular in the 60s and influenced the visuals of the Doctor Strange film. Steve Ditko was essential to the creation of Spider-Man as we’ve known him for so long, managing to translate Stan Lee’s vision of the character to the printed page which Jack Kirby, unfortunately, failed to realize.

“The Spider-Man pages Stan showed me were nothing like the published character. In fact, the only drawings of Spider-Man were on the splash, and at the end, Kirby had the guy leaping at you with a web gun… Anyway, the first five pages took place in the home, and the kid finds a ring and turns into Spider-Man…. One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character. I had to know how he looked … before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power so he wouldn’t have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc. … I wasn’t sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character’s face, but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character….”

— Jack Kirby

“Steve Ditko squeezes every ounce of anguish out of Spider-Man’s predicament, complete with visions of the uncle he failed and the aunt he has sworn to save… After his origin, this two-page sequence from Amazing Spider-Man #33 is perhaps the best-loved sequence from the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era.”

— Peter David, novelist

Ditko left Marvel due to disagreements with Stan Lee, the details of which remain vague until now. We may never know. But the popular version is that their disagreements stem from character credit rights to which Lee had been busy taking. We could probably say that Stan Lee is the Steve Jobs of Marvel comics, more interested in marketing and self-promotion than Marvel or the craft itself. Lee and Ditko have never been on speaking terms since until the both met at the New York Marvel office last 2007.

“Quite a few years ago I met him up at the Marvel offices when I was last in New York. And we spoke; he’s a hell of a nice guy and it was very pleasant. … I haven’t heard from him since that meeting.”

— Stan Lee

Ditko went on to work for other comic book publishers like DC, Charlton Comics and Dark Horse. He went back to Marvel and created the now popular Squirrel Girl. Despite Ditko’s influence on Doctor Strange, he wasn’t approached by director Scott Derrickson due to his reclusive nature.

spider-man doctor strange by steve ditko stan lee

Ditko’s other comic book creations include:

  • Doctor Octopus (Marvel)
  • Sandman (Marvel)
  • Electro (Marvel)
  • Green Goblin (Marvel)
  • The Lizard (Marvel)
  • Eternity (Marvel)
  • Speedball (Marvel)
  • Squirrel Girl (Marvel)
  • Blue Beetle (DC)
  • The Question (DC)
  • Captain Atom (DC)
  • Creeper (DC)
  • Hawk and Dove (DC)
  • Static (Eclipse Comics)