I was sad to learn that Steve Ditko died on June 29. Ditko helped make modern comics what they are today with his contributions changing the face of the industry. Moreover, Ditko was among a small handful of comics creators of whom the above can actually be said without any exaggeration. His status as the co-creator (or depending on who you ask, the ‘main’ creator of) Spider-man, alone would have guaranteed him a place as more than just a footnote in the history of the modern comic. But Steve Ditko was more than just Spider-man.
Among Ditko’s many contributions, besides his consistently wonderful illustration work, were characters like: Doctor Strange, Captain Atom, The Creeper, The Question, Hawk and Dove, Static, Shade the Changing Man, and Mr. A.
Over the years, Ditko worked for all the big comic companies (Marvel, DC, Charlton) and by the early sixties he had already collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business (Jerry Robinson- whom he studied under, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Stan Lee among others). When he teamed up with Stan Lee to draw Spider-man, it helped push a fledgling Marvel Comics into the limelight by solidifying the Marvel super-hero book. It wasn’t long before Spider-man overtook the Fantastic Four as Marvel’s most popular book with the result that, by the late sixties, the new Marvel style (featuring Spider-man as its flagship character) had come to transform the face of comics.
Ditko was a prolific artist and worked almost to the very end of his long life. Picking his most collectible comics is not easy, but if I had to list only three, I would choose the following:
This Charlton comic is the first ever Steve Ditko cover work. Ditko contributed some amazing artwork for magazines and comics before he came to international attention with Spider-man. Almost all of Ditko’s early (pre-Spider-man) work is brilliant. Lacking the dynamism of Jack Kirby or the naturalism of Neal Adams, Ditko’s style is memorable nonetheless for its precision, compactness and kinetic qualities. These qualities are clearly on display in his contributions to The Thing #12. The Aubrey Beardsley meets Frank Frazetta looking cover jumps right out at the reader, and the inside artwork that Ditko contributes for the short vampire themed story “Cinderella”, shows that he had early on found his unique style. The Thing #12 is a hard comic to find, a 3.0 copy sold for almost a thousand dollars in 2017. Best returns are on 6.0 copies (%31.5 roi over the last few years).
Ditko’s work on Doctor Strange hearkens back to his beginnings as a horror comic artist, but his artwork here transplants the early style placing it squarely into the super-hero genre he was now flourishing in. This comic also shows off Ditko’s surrealistic side. It’s no exaggeration to say that Ditko’s art defines Steven Strange and his universe, to the point where it becomes very difficult to imagine this comic having had the same impact without the iconic look Ditko gave to the Sorcerer Supreme. The introduction of Doctor Strange to the MCU was the event that really pushed this comic to new price levels – if you sought this out and purchased it before any word of the movie was leaked you’re one of the lucky ones. Hold on to it, there’s a Doctor Strange sequel planned. If you want to own this slice of Ditko magic a 2.0 graded copy will cost you around $775.00 according to GoCollect.com.
This comic needs no glowing recommendations or any words of support. It is, simply put, the hottest comic on the planet. Tattered copies of it will sell for thousands of dollars. High grade copies are basically out of the price range of the average collector at this point. A 9.6 copy, for example, currently averages sale prices of $1,150,000 (and the return on investment over the last three years alone is a staggering %602.03!). I doubt anyone would disagree that this is Ditko’s most collectible comic.