Spider-Man co-creator and iconic comic-book artist Steve Ditko has died aged 90, it has been confirmed.
Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee in the 1960s, was a legend in the industry, inspiring countless writers and artists with his imaginative creations and leaving a significant impact on popular culture to this day.
In his later years Ditko became a reclusive figure, known as the “J.D. Salinger of comics” as he usually refused interviews and declined to be involved with the comic-book publicity machine, even as he maintained writing and drawing until the end. He was found dead in his apartment on the 29th of June, and is believed to have died about two days earlier.
“Today, the Marvel family mourns the loss of Steve Ditko,” the company said in a statement.
“Steve transformed the industry and the Marvel Universe, and his legacy will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, and fans during this sad time.”
While writer Lee came up with the concept for Spider-Man it was Ditko who devised the character’s look, iconic costume and web shooters, and he also designed the webslinger’s classic foes including Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, the Lizard and Green Goblin, and contributed to the plots as the series continued. Ditko and Lee’s run on the character lasted 38 monthly issues, and is now seen as a hugely influential period in comic-book history.
Ditko’s art, which imagined Spider-Man as a gawky, ungainly teen rather than the lantern-jawed heroes fans were used to was a revolution at the time, and hugely inspired the character’s development over the decades.
Following this, Ditko also co-created mystical hero Doctor Strange in 1963, with his psychedelic visual style for the character’s multi-dimensional world still lauded to this day and inspiring many later artists, as well as the recent Marvel films starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Ironically, the imagination on display in this series also won the staunchly conservative Ditko many fans within the US counterculture, who felt that the “trippy” visuals spoke to their experience of the world.
Ditko left Marvel in 1966 for unknown reasons, though it’s largely believed that he resented Lee for not sharing enough of the credit for the characters they worked on, tacitly alluding to this idea over the decades.
After Marvel Ditko worked for DC comics, Charlton and other independent publishers, creating characters including The Question, Mr A, Hawk and Dove and the Creeper. Many of his later creations were influenced by his social and political beliefs, which were derived from Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy.
However, he did return to Marvel in later years, and one of his latest creations was popular hero Squirrel Girl.
Still, it’s probably Spider-Man that Ditko will be best remembered for. Over the decades the character has since become one of the most famous pop-culture figures in the world, appearing in multiple blockbuster movies, cartoons and other media in the costume Ditko designed.
Ditko’s designs for Spidey’s villains, allies and general adventures have also continued to be a part of the culture, with one of his most famous panels – which sees a crushed Spider-Man find the inner strength to push immense fallen masonry off himself to save his loved ones – adapted for the Tom Holland-starring Spider-Man: Homecoming just last year.
Both Spider-Man and Ditko’s other famous creation, Doctor Strange, also played key roles in this year’s Avengers: Infinity War, which continues to break box office records around the world.
And given that legacy, it’s no surprise that many people were affected by Ditko’s death, with many famous faces from the comics industry and beyond (including Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, author Neil Gaiman and comics lover Jonathan Ross) remembering his work online after the news was announced.
Stephen J. Ditko was born in 1927 in Johnstown Pennsylvania, developing an interest in comics when characters like Batman and the Spirit debuted during his teens.
After joining and being discharged from the US Army, Ditko studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York in the 1950s, and began working for Marvel (then called Atlas comics) in 1955.
He is believed to have never married, and has no known survivors.