Simply put, Ditkomania remains one of the best pure fanzines around. Honestly, I never paid that much attention to the work of Steve Ditko, but I feel like I’ve slowly been getting a heady education in the process, after reviewing so many issues of this publication. The price is still $1.50 and this issue is self-described as a miscellaneous affair with no overt connective theme. Javier Hernandez contributes a new column about the design work of Steve Ditko, aptly titled “Ditko By Design.” In this first installment, he discusses the look of many classic villains, such as Mysterio, particularly their lack of traditional heads and recognizable facial features. It’s clear that there really is some inventive detail happening when analyzed so closely. So many of the Ditko figures had no face, from The Question to Mr. A, perhaps some form of commentary relating back to the creator’s Objectivist worldview and general Randian philosophy.
Martin Hirchak explores an interesting idea in the Mighty Marvel Manner of “What If…” Steve Ditko had created The Human Torch. It’s a bit of a biographical tale about how this MIGHT have come about. There’s a speculative essay accompanying the piece, which is a 1962/63-era cover to Human Toch #1 in a style after Steve Ditko. This “maybe” tale is fairly compelling, particularly because reality and fantasy get blurred, some things change and some things stay the same. It’s a fun exercise, but I also found it to be really compelling reading.
“The Ditkoburger” by Mort Todd chronicles an impromptu meeting with Ditko, as he recalls a lunch they shared together. Who knew that the EIC of Cracked would be involved, not to mention a Thundercats parody(!). There’s something to be learned from everyone we meet in life, I’m convinced, and here Todd learns that it’s the pragmatism of the underutilized hamburger wrapper.
Barry Pearl writes a lively piece about the Comics Code Clashing w/ The Flash. It jumps through many interesting facts, including how the term “Silver Age” came about, succinctly describing how the Comics Code Authority became an invasive editorial tool that limited creativity, and how it changed the industry content to characterize African Americans, women, and an endless litany of storytelling material. It dives into detail about how 50 viable publishers became just 12, how 24 of the initial 29 subscribers to CCA went out of business, and gives numerous examples of the micro-managed and nonsensical guidelines the Code enacted. Creators simply left, and the big secret, despite Marvel’s marketing juggernaut, was that their line was absolutely aimed at 10-12 year olds and not the hip college crowd the suits would have you believe. It’s amazing what the Code did to the industry that continues to have lasting repercussions today. In 1962, the industry holistically went from selling 800,000,000 comics to 350,000,000 and ad revenue plummeted from $1,000,000 to just $176,000. It’s staggering. The case was certainly proven that both the art itself and monetary profitability suffer whenever censorship rears its ugly head. This should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the medium.
Nick Caputo describes why “Teen Superheroes & Aliens Don’t Mix.” It’s all about how certain characters may not be in keeping with the tone of a work. For example, the Terrible Tinkerer didn’t belong in Spider-Man, a book with teen reality roots. Responsible creators, like Steve Ditko, operated with dogged determination for adherence to established character principles. They argued that foes of Spidey shouldn’t be aliens; this only cheapen his impact. Instead, they should be street level thugs or inventor types, proper foils that would counter his own characteristics.
Brian Franczak dives into the character “The Void” by examining his crime/mystery roots. There’s appears to be some question surrounding his status as a human, but no question about him doling out justice regardless of his ultimate origins or classification. The Void has very few appearances, so Franczak is able to provide an exhaustive analysis based on the limited material available. In short order, this pieces serves as a definitive primer this corner of the Ditkoverse.
Jason Sacks takes a look at what he calls “the gift of darkness” vis-à-vis Steve Dikto’s creation “The Shroud.” This character was certainly against type, dishing out justice that was “dark” and not “light.” It’s another piece that functions as an official take on one component of the larger Ditko creative mosaic. Of course, Ditkomania also arrives with the usual intelligence and interactive nature of the letters column. Once again, I’ll offer my usual enticing disclaimer that anyone with interest in Steve Ditko or even a more passive interest in some of the properties he contributed to, should consider this required reading to enhance their understanding of the work. It’s clear a labor of love for all involved. Grade A.