Steve Ditko, the legendary comic book artist who helped birth Marvel Comics in the early 1960s, has passed away due to cardiovascular disease at the age of 90, People Magazine reports. Ditko, with writer Stan Lee, created arguably Marvel’s most popular character, the Amazing Spider-Man, who made his first appearance in the August, 1962, issue of Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy comic book.
A single copy of that issue, Amazing Fantasy #15, recently sold at an auction for more than $450,000, the pop culture site BoingBoing reported.
But Spider-Man was far from Ditko’s only memorable superhero creation. Also with Lee, he created the mystical superhero Doctor Strange who debuted the year after Spider-Man, in Strange Tales #110, according to the Marvel website. In 1968, Ditko’s taste for the bizarre reached even greater fruition when he created The Creeper — but according to Comics Bulletin, Ditko’s strongly independent streak led him to simply abandon the character after drawing only five-and-a-half issues of the first Creeper series, Beware The Creeper.
But Ditko had also suddenly quit work on Spider-Man in 1966. Because Ditko rarely granted interviews or made public appearances even in his prime, the reasons why he left those comic books will always remain a mystery. In a statement published in the comic book at the time, DC Comics then-editor Dick Giordano simply stated that Ditko was “ailing.”
Ditko, as the Hollywood Reporter noted in its obituary for the comic book great, became an ardent believer in the “Objectivist” philosophy of novelist Ayn Rand, sometime around 1967. That is also the year he created Mr. A, a superhero whom Ditko intended to embody Rand’s hardcore libertarian views.
Ditko was born on November 2, 1927, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. But in his teen years, he became fascinated by comic books, inspired largely by the then-new characters Batman — whose first appearance came in 1939 — and The Spirit, who artist and writer Will Eisner introduced in 1940, as Comics Alliance recounted.
According to a report by Deadline, Ditko’s body was discovered on June 29 by a social worker on Monday in the Manhattan apartment where he resided at least since his retirement from commercial comic books in 1998. Police say that he appears to have died about two days earlier.
Tributes to Ditko from comic book writers, artists, editors, and even publishers quickly flooded Twitter on Friday, after his death was made public.
Steve Ditko was one of the most amazing creators in the history of comics, and showed us there is a hero in all of us. Our hearts go out to his loved ones, and everyone who knew him. pic.twitter.com/ukvuA7odF5— DC (@DCComics) July 7, 2018
Steve Ditko was true to his own ideals. He saw things his own way, and he gave us ways of seeing that were unique. Often copied. Never equalled. I know I'm a different person because he was in the world. pic.twitter.com/2GFSA86Btj— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) July 7, 2018
Steve Ditko has caught the last web out across the city into the mystic. An early influence on my work, I met Steve exactly once many years ago for a few moments in the Marvel offices. Getting to shake his hand was a privilege. Thanks for all the lovely work, Steve. Godspeed. pic.twitter.com/gOsdFdJa92— Walter Simonson (@WalterSimonson) July 7, 2018
Too weird to process, too huge to accept. Steve Ditko, the closest I've had to a mentor, is gone. It's been an absolute privilege to enjoy his body of work. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/aemmYCejwE— Michel Fiffe (@MichelFiffe) July 7, 2018
Ditko departed Marvel in 1966, reportedly due to a personality clash with Lee, when their relationship had deteriorated to the point where “they never spoke at all, with Steve simply providing any artwork he wanted and Stan writing whatever dialogue fit,” according to the comic book news site Observation Deck.
He then went to work for Charlton Comics, where he created the ruthless “man without a face” character The Question, another embodiment of Ditko’s often harshly conservative views on life and politics, as the conservative political site WB Daily noted.
After his retirement, Ditko continued to write and draw comic book art, but how much work he produced or published remains unknown. In 2012, the New York Post caught up to Ditko, and reported that he “never married, never had children. He was never particularly close to anyone with whom he worked. He has been called ‘impossibly uptight’ by fellow comic book writer Neil Gaiman. The only thing Ditko ever seemed to care about is the Work, and to this day, even well past retirement age, he continues to turn up every weekday at his Midtown West studio and put in eight hours of drawing,” as the comic book news site The Beat recounted.