Steve Ditko, the legendary co-creator of Spider-Man, has passed away, as confirmed by the NY police department. The reclusive artist, who was 90, was found dead in his apartment, and is believed to have died on June 29. THR broke the story, although rumors had been circulating for a few days.

Ditko’s Spider-Man run remains a seminal example of storytelling, but his Doctor Strange also set the standard for Marvel’s magical realm. Although a stalwart of the early Bullpen, Ditko’s falling out with Stan Lee led him to leave Marvel in the mid-60s. He appeared at numerous publishers after that, but also self-published books set in his own objectivist universe, including Mr. A. He was busy making comcis right up until the end of his life, and one can only wonder what will be found in his studio.

Ditko never gave interviews and was billed as a recluse, but his phone number was in the New York phone book and over the years, he actually quietly befriended some who sought him out who remained respectful and discrete. I’m sure some of those stories will come out in the weeks to come.

Others, including Brit chat show host Jonathan Ross (accompanied by Neil Gaiman) and Vulture’s Abraham Reisman attempted to find Ditko in his lair and make a big deal of it, but he managed to elude them, leading to an aura of unsurpassed mystery.

I actually met Ditko once when he was dropping off work at the DC office, and spotted him in the lobby another time. The guy wasn’t as unseen as the legend had it but he was intensely private.

Perhaps that’s for the best as his spectacular work spoke for him.

I often listen to this Merry Marvel Marching Society record, made at the height of the legendary Silver Age bullpen. Ditko is notably absent, but Stan, Flo, Jack and others are represented in their height. Stan’s still with us, although he couldn’t remember or wouldn’t say why he and Ditko had that falling out.

Listen and respect these creators.



The Merry Marvel Marching Society 1965 from Frank Santoro on Vimeo.





  1. What a talent. Just skimming through pages and panels on the internet after I first read about this. Unless I’m just blanking about someone, he’s Kirby’s only rival in those early Marvel years.

  2. Fitting tribute. Thank you. I said on twitter Steve Ditko was a brilliant artist whose work shaped popular culture. He was exploited by The Bosses & spoke out about it. I only wish he’d realized the solution was organizing, not isolation & Objectivism. He needn’t have stood alone.

  3. An eccentric man but an iconic, unparalleled artist, R.I.P.

    Furthermore, for someone who was supposedly so straight-laced, note that his delightfully demented character the Creeper anticipated both glam rock and The Rocky Horror Show by a good half-decade.

  4. I knew that it was coming, though I thought he might actually outlive Stan.

    Along with William Marston, Ditko can lay claim to being one of the first creators to engage with philosophical issues in the medium. Whether one likes or dislikes his philosophical stance is irrelevant.

    I wonder what the super-Marxist critics will have to say about him.

  5. Well, I know what I’ll be (re)reading tonight: Essential Dr. Strange Vol. 1 and Essential Spider-Man Vols. 1 and 2.

    Also worth seeking out: the short horror-fantasy stories Ditko did for Marvel in the late ’50s and early ’60s (for Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, and other titles) and his work on the Charlton “action hero” line in the late ’60s (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question).

    The first Marvel story I remember reading was a reprint of Spider-Man No. 6 (first appearance of the Lizard), so I’ve been a fan of Ditko’s art — if not his Randist ideas — for a long time.

  6. Gene Phillips said: “Whether one likes or dislikes his philosophical stance is irrelevant.”

    It’s actually VERY relevant, considering the loathsome content of Rand’s worldview. That’s why I ignore Ditko’s little-read “philosophical” comics, and focus on comics where he was trying to entertain rather than “educate.”

    “I wonder what the super-Marxist critics will have to say about him.”

    Don’t you love how some fans have to turn everything into a liberal vs. conservative spat? If Ditko had embraced Marxist philosophy, fans like Gene (the defender of Gamergate trolls) would be attacking him 24/7.

  7. @George: I think that Gene Phillips’ statement was meant to be interpreted along the lines that regardless of whether you like or dislike Ditko’s philosophical stance, Ditko was one of the first to engage with philosophical issues in the medium.

  8. Jeet Heer has an interesting Twitter thread comparing Ditko and Kirby. Notes that Kirby conceived heroes in groups, while Ditko’s heroes were loners and misfits.

    This reflected their real lives: “Kirby grew up in a world of groups: gangs, The Boy’s Republic, the army, the team of Simon & Kirby (and its bullpen), his family. Ditko, by contrast, was one of nature’s isolates.”

    And this:

    “As an arch-individualist, Ditko died as he lived, alone. When the police discovered his body earlier this month in his apartment, he had been dead for two days.”

  9. He was truly one-of-a-kind, and he will be missed.

    I felt that all his work was compelling and thought-provoking, even (especially?) the “little-read “philosophical” comics” George alludes to above. I felt that The Avenging World, a collection of comics and essays, was Ditko at his purest; I don’t recommend it to everybody, but I recommend it to anybody who’s already read a few of Ditko’s creator-owned books and wants to go deeper.

    At the risk of feeding the trolls, I would respond to gene phillips’s swipe about “super-Marxist critics” by saying that there was very little overlap between Ditko’s worldview and mine, but that I loved his work nonetheless. Even at his most impenetrable, his most didactic, his most Randian, he was a great artist and a unique mind.

    (And Heidi, you’re mistaken about his “eluding” Ross and Gaiman. They found him and they met him; Ditko just asked that they not record the meeting.)

    I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Ditko’s work. Robin Snyder’s Kickstarter notes have indicated there are several issues’ worth of unpublished material that are just about ready to print, as well as out-of-print books planned for new printings. But Snyder is getting up there in years as well, and can only do so much. I hope that wherever Ditko’s copyrights end up in the coming years, his work stays in print.

  10. I was buying all of his new work. He was so cool because he never lost it; he just got better and better. One of my absolute favorites….

  11. Some disturbing thoughts- Who called the cops to inform them that Ditko was in his apartment? The super? A neighbor? A friend? A relative? Someone must have been concerned about the ‘elderly man’ in the apartment enough to contact them. Slightly morbid, but after the medical examiner has his body, does it go to potter’s field for burial without any next of kin to claim him? At what point does the management of his office empty it out in a dumpster? I am not implying anyone will dumpster dive into Ditko’s belongings (artwork, comics and/or personal effects), but the thought is creepy.

  12. @MaxG there is no reason to believe Ditko was alone in the world (or an idiot); he just didn’t broadcast his life. Robin wasn’t his only friend. Other visitors to his place have before reported to DItkomania that he actually destroyed much of his own original art, at least whatever was returned by Marvel/DC. But as shrewd as Robin is especially I’ve no doubt that arrangements for this sort of thing (burial, what to do with his belongings, legal counsel, etc.) is well-covered. For all we know, Steve had a long-time girlfriend with out of wedlock offspring who he’s willed everything to.

  13. Comicsatemybrain is correct. Obviously no one’s personal response to a philosophy is irrelevant to that person. But from the POV of history, Ditko’s one of the first in comics to do some philosophizin;, and that’s a fact worth remembering, whether anyone likes what he said or not.

    I don’t believe I sent any posies to Gamergate aggro culture; in fact a Google search shows that I called the whole mess “Dumb-and-Dumbergate.” Mostly I questioned the accuracy of Anita Sarkeesian, w/o giving a pass to the aggros:

    I took a “swipe” at the Mickey Marxists because it has been their tendency to critique all artists from a political standpoint. I’m not responsible for that tendency.

    Jeet Heer’s contention is half-right, in that Ditko only rarely attempted teams, and then only in teams of two like the Hawk and the Dove, Captain Atom and Nightshade, and a couple others. But Kirby certainly did a wagonload of solo characters too. Keep in mind that a lot of what commercial artists do relates to what the publisher thinks the market will bear, rather than what the artist would like to do.

  14. I’ve read that Stan Lee introduced Ditko to Rand, by recommending “Atlas Shrugged.” To Stan it was just an interesting yarn, but it had a much deeper effect on Ditko.

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