Marvel Comics continues to celebrate their 80th birthday in a variety of ways, one of which is reprinting their Visionaries line in trade paperback. So far this year the once hardcover-only collections for John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Jack Kirby are now in the cheaper paperback format. This week Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko gets his time to shine, featuring stories from 1961 through 1992.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The House of Ideas proudly presents a timeless testament to another true Marvel visionary! Best known as the first artist to bring Spider-Man to life in the pages of Amazing Fantasy, Steve Ditko illustrated The Amazing Spider-Man for four years — helping create characters such as Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Vulture, and dozens more of Spider-Man’s classic villains. In contrast to the grounded realism of Spider-Man, Ditko also drew the adventures of Doctor Strange, a master of the mystic arts who defended Earth’s citizens from bizarre otherworldly threats. Now, this trade paperback edition collects his greatest moments.
Is it worth reading?
Of all the Visionaries entries, this one feels the most accessible to simply sit and read thanks to many of the stories being self-contained and shorter. The first ten stories collected here are short sci-fi and horror stories drawn by Ditko and written by Stan Lee. The short format makes for a great read, particularly if you’re short on time or patience. It’s also quite clear Ditko and Lee were incredibly creative with clever twists keeping you guessing to the very end.
There are of course the classic superhero tales worth rereading too, which Blake Bell explains well in the introduction. There are seven Spider-Man stories, the introduction of Doctor Strange, two Hulk stories (one introducing the incredibly weird Metal Master), a Daredevil story, and the introduction of Speedball in Speedball #1. Rounding out the collection is the introduction of Squirrel Girl from Marvel Super-Heroes Vol. 2 #8, which featured Squirrel Girl defeating Dr. Doom in a hilarious way. Since many of these stories feel like beginnings it’s quite apparent Ditko wasn’t just an artist, but an innovator. Creative ideas abound and it’s clear much of what made Marvel work started with stories collected here.
Ditko’s style is quite unique in how the characters have a sense of weight and depth to them. It may not be hyper-detailed, but when Spidey is doing a handstand you can understand he’s lifting himself rather than just floating there. The Sinister Six story collected here is proof of that thanks to the innovative idea to depict Spider-Man fighting each member of the Sinister Six in a full-page splash. There are of course other innovative ideas at work here including the amazing Doctor Strange mystical realm and powers he uses.
Is it good?
I had a blast with this Visionaries collection and it might be the most accessible for readers new and old alike. It’s also the most enjoyable since it doesn’t require you to read stories not printed here to truly enjoy them. Ditko was a creative genius and it shows after reading this collection.