I’m not fanatical about comic books, but I’ve always enjoyed graphic stories of all kinds, and I’ve been impressed by much of Marvel’s screen universe especially the brooding Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Daredevil‘s first season on Netflix. I recently attended a preview for Doctor Strange and it’s got much to recommend to readers of a blog like this one: it’s a psychedelic tale about an arrogant surgeon who must let go of his own ego to realize his true vocation as the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Comics Universe. He does this by training with an ancient shaman to master occult powers that reveal new levels of consciousness and access to a multiverse of parallel dimensions. Sounds pretty cool, right? Also, there’s demons.
I flipped a story about the artist who created Dr. Strange with Stan Lee into Remnants the other day. Here’s a bit about Steve Ditko…
“Steve Ditko was almost primarily responsible for bringing the alter-ego into the comic book narrative.”
But in 1966, Ditko walked away from Marvel, reportedly giving up all rights to the characters he created. And according to Bell, Ditko is unlikely to see a penny in royalties from the Dr. Strange film.
“There’s no evidence that he has received any money from any of the Spiderman movies or this movie.”
In Marvel’s earliest days, Ditko collaborated closely with fellow co-founder Stan Lee.
But as the decade wore on, Ditko became disillusioned with the industry, says Bell. He felt that he was not being fairly credited or compensated for his work as a storyteller.
Ditko’s working relationship with Lee began to deteriorate. By the time Ditko finally walked away from Marvel, he and Lee had not spoken in a year.
“This entire atmosphere caused him to say, ‘Enough — I’m going to walk away from it and leave it all behind.”
While Stan Lee went on to become one of the most famous names in comics as the public face of Marvel, Steve Ditko faded into relative obscurity. His last formal media interview was in 1968.
“He is a man who has always said, ‘The work speaks for me,” says Bell.
While various factors influenced in Ditko’s decision to walk away from Marvel, his political devotion to objectivism and Ayn Rand played a central role, says Bell.
“I would say you’ve never seen a creator perhaps in any medium apply those principles more to his professional and personal life than Steve Ditko,” says Bell.
Well into the early 1990s, Ditko did perfunctory work for mainstream comic companies to pay the bills, but focused the majority of his efforts on objectivist art that he often gave away for free.
“Here’s the co-creator of Spiderman at the top of his game — Spiderman’s the most popular character by now at the end of the sixties — and he’s giving away ten-page stories on his superhero ‘Mr. A.’,” says Bell.
Here’s a fascinating BBC doc about Ditko, the role he played in creating Marvel cornerstones like Spiderman and Doctor Strange, and his mysterious, reclusive retreat from the characters he brought to life, and the audiences and readers that love them…