Sunday, September 07, 2008

THE OTHER HALF OF THE UNIVERSE

Similar to my recent post about meeting Jack Kirby, I also have a STEVE DITKO Story.

So I'm 16 years old, right, and I'm working for the second summer in a row at DC Comics. This time I'm in the export department, and I'm really fucking up at the job, but no one's bothering me about it, and in fact, I'm getting good, free, old comics left and right, because acting department chief JACK C. HARRIS says I can go through the export stash of comics, and if I find doubles they're mine to have. You can believe I found doubles. Anyway, Jack was a good guy to me, the first dude I ever saw who wore blue jeans together with a buttoned shirt and tie that wasn't Billy Joel, and he was also still doing a little comic book writing on the side in addition to running the export department.
One day it's lunchtime, and Jack's out. This little fellow comes looking for him. I remember him as little, maybe he wasn't. But he looked kind of like this:


A guy with a kind of working class build, sporting a short-sleeve shirt and simple trousers. He seemed quiet. I told him Jack was at lunch, and he said he'd wait in Jack's office, and I'm like "okay". He stays a while, I remember passing him by once or twice, and finally Jack returns from lunch and the two of them are talking. 
Then later the guy leaves, and Jack's all like "You do know who that was, right", and I'm all "no", and he says it was Steve Ditko.
I was young, but I knew that was pretty impressive. Not only did I know Steve Ditko was important, I was also a big fan. I mean, yeah, I liked Greg LaRoque back then, but I also knew the work of a true genius when I saw it. Afterwards, it hit me that even just SEEING Steve Ditko was a bit of a big deal, and I wished I'd taken a better look at him. He just seemed like a guy, a small working class guy.
Steve, to me, is the other half of the Marvel Universe. If Jack is all that's powerful and heroic, the true Wagnerian noise of Marvel, Steve is the dark undercurrent, the dissonant tone. The truly human tone. I should get that new Fantagraphics book about him. I should've gotten a better look at him back then.

13 comments:

Evan said...

On several occasions back in the early 90's I signed in at Marvel to drop off work and saw Ditko's signature on the page of the visitor's book. I would dash into the bullpen or Fabian's office to try to find out if Ditko was still on the premises, as I was super-keen to meet him. Or just catch a glimpse of him. Each time he had "just left". It drove me crazy. I felt like I was chasing Bigfoot.

Congrats on sorta meeting Ditko.

Joseph Tages said...

Yeah, meeting Ditko is as likely to happen as finding Jimmy Hoffa's corpse. But your story makes a great point about the man. He's the exact polar opposite of Kirby, and Marvel wouldn't be Marvel without Steve Ditko. It's like separating peanut butter from jelly and still calling it a P&B sandwich.

When I first began reading comics in '81, I was hooked on Ditko's classic 60's Spideys that were being reprinted in MARVEL TALES. Then I realized that Steve was still active, doing the art on ROM, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES, and WHAT IF? That just blew me away, how he was working on these lesser known titles when he basically co-created the modern Marvel.

Heck of a guy.

Shivers said...

Haha... I actually thought this was gonna be a blog about a noted anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and early 1970s... which would be a very different direction for you.

But in my defence, I have to say that his name IS kinda similar.

Great blog though, sweetie ;)

xxx Shivers

Lovelace said...

Yeah, Ditko's art was always bent. Twisted. There was a scary slightly insane quality to it. He created all those iconic Spidey poses. I learned a lot from copying his stuff when I was a little twit.

Biff Boulder said...

another fun story of meeting a comic legend. nice.
i especially like your drawing of him.

Matt J said...

Great story! Did you see Jonathan Ross' excellent documentary from last year 'In Search of Steve Ditko'?

Shivers said...

Here it is, Matt...
http://www.youtube.com

wolfboy said...

Dude; the Ditko book is pretty great.

Kind of like your stories.

I also wonder: how would you describe yourself? Perhaps I'll write about the day we met at NY steakhouse...

sdestefano said...

Glad you all liked the Ditko story. It was nothing! I was a dopey 15 year old who hardly knew his ass from his elbow. Thankfully I recognized a bona fide genius' name, even if I didn't recognize the bona fide genius himself.
Andy, I can't imagine what you'd write about me, or the day we first met, but I do remember it being a very warm summer day, and you being astonished by how hairy my back was under my tank top.

Liz said...

I met him once, and I remember he reminded me of Art Carney.

william wray said...

I think I told you the story of meeting him at the Cracked office and scaring him off with my professed love for him. I was a regular enough there to just walk in and talking to the editor was a dapper old guy. "Meet Steve Ditko boomed the editor. Unfortunately I acted like I had won the lotto and was on him like a fly on meat. He was in his full NY winter "Question" outfit. Gym rat blown in those days I spewed the full power of my hulking fan love on him as he slid along the wall like a feather weight pined to the ropes taking a beating, he pivoted out to get away from my aggressive glad-handing, mumbling apologies to the editor and bolted to the elevator.

william wray said...

PS I'm coming to NYC the first week of April...drinks on me.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.