Steve Ditko's 32-Page Package #5

Background

This is a self-published 32-page issue published by Roby Snyder and Steve Ditko. It is number five in a series of comic "Packages" from Steve Ditko, and it includes a combination of original material along with similar content previous published in "The Comics!"

The content is purely non-fiction. It contains one Spider-Man illustration by Ditko, several Spider-Man references in the text, plus a reproduction of a public letter from Stan Lee on the subject of Ditko's contribution to the creation of Spider-Man.

Story Details

  Steve Ditko's 32-Page Package #5
Summary: Spider-Man Article (Ditko defends co-creator credit)
Editor: Robin Snyder
Writer/Artist: Steve Ditko

The cover is light cardboard. The pages are newsprint, with black and white printing.

The contents do not form a story. Instead, there are 29 separate single-page "items" which consist of sketched diagrams and characters, with associated words and sentence fragments. None of these first items have any link to Spider-Man at all.

The topics of each item are essentially identical. The two primary themes appear to be:

  1. There's a lot of misinformed people in this world who go around believing things without factual justification, or claiming to believe things while actually lying and deceiving people.
  2. Just because you physically hold some "art pages" doesn't mean you actually own them.

There are some secondary themes mixed in to these, something to do with the absolute values of truth, and the importance of self-achievement even in the face of envy. Ditko's well-publicized support of Randian Objectivism is well documented elsewhere. But the majority of the items keep coming back time and time again to rail against misinformed or dishonest belief, and (of course) those apparently misappropriated art pages.

I have referred to these pieces as "items", but frankly a more accurate description would be "scribbled rants". There is a seething anger which pervades every page. Apart from his complaints about the Spider-Man co-credit, it is nearly impossible to establish any specific argument from the majority of the content. All I am left with is an insistent sense of deep-rooted resentment by Ditko against, well, people in general it would seem.

Right at the back of the book are the three pages that actually reference Spider-Man. They are as follows:

Firstly a one page art/text piece which argues that Ditko the co-creator of Spider-Man. Ditko bemoans that fact that some people claim that Spider-Man is a one-man creation, and then makes the case that anyone interested in "facts and truth" must admit that he, Ditko is just as much a co-creator as Stan.

Secondly, there is another truth/facts/justice rant which also complains about the fact that Time magazine back in 1998 failed to originally credit Ditko with co-creation of Spider-Man, though they did subsequently print a retraction. There is also a rather tongue-in-check quote from Stan Lee in 1999... "You know me, I'll take any credit that isn't nailed down."

Finally, there is the reproduced public letter from Stan Lee (also in 1999) which clearly states that he (Stan) gives Ditko full credit for the collaborative creation and development of Spider-Man. The letter is frank, generous and unequivocal.

General Comments

Really, this is a work of two halves.

The first 90% of the material is a rambling and incoherent complaint that is somehow related to ownership of original art work. Ditko has stated in the past that much of his original artwork from his days at Marvel was not returned to him. I believe that some of it subsequently came onto the open market, and was sold by art dealers. So I freely concede that Ditko has the right to a legitimate grudge about other people making a profit from art that he created.

Further to his credit, this would appear to be a purely ethical objection, since according to the fan forums, Ditko has expressed no interest in selling the original art that he does hold. It seems he occasionally gives pieces away, but generally just stockpiles it.

Fair enough. Ditko is angry about the situation. And perhaps a well-aimed editorial piece would communicate his objections. But this book doesn't contain a well-aimed editorial piece. It contains twenty-nine different variants of the same shambolic rant, in subtle shades of gibberish. I would infer that either Ditko was so angry he couldn't even think straight, or else he suffers from a mild form of autism. Possibly both.

The last 10% is Ditko letting off steam about how he doesn't always get credit for his co-creation of Spidey. Well, sure. But is that surprising? Stan Lee maintained a huge public profile for the following five decades, while Ditko for all intents and purposes went into self-induced exile. Is it any wonder that Stan is more of a household name?

Every single SpiderFan I know gives Ditko full credit. He got full credit in the recent movies. I can't recall the last time I saw Spider-Man referred to as "Stan Lee's creation" without equal recognition for Steve.

To be fair, maybe that's a recent thing. Maybe back in the 1990's things weren't so clear cut among the general public. I must admit that Stan Lee's concession of credit in Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee was disappointingly half-hearted. Shame on you for that, Stan.

But I have to wonder how much this self-indulgent griping by Ditko has helped his case. The only thing that I am certain of after reading this is that Mr. Ditko contains vitriol far in excess of his ability to constructively communicate it in writing or art.

Overall Rating

As a study for the Spider-Man historian, this work contains essential clues. Ditko almost never speaks in public, and never openly discusses his feud with Stan other than to say "Stan knows why I'm angry". The final three pages are as close as he has ever come to any direct discussion of the matter.

However, by any other measure, this comic book is an utter disappointment. At best it may be deemed an attempted collection of mini-essays, but this confused and inarticulate collection of repetitive text and muddled images eventually conveyed nothing to me but a sense of his bitterness.

Look, I adore those early Ditko issues of Amazing Spider-Man. But I think my love will be confined purely to the comics he created. For Ditko himself, I feel mostly pity.

One web. I'm sorry, Steve.