Veering off-course a little again, I want to talk to you about someone that most of you may never have heard of. You have to be something of a nerd to know the name, Steve Ditko. Steve, a reclusive man, passed away last night at the age of 90. While his contributions in this life may not have been earth-shattering or even notable to some, he influenced millions of childhoods, mine included.
Steve was the other half of the original Stan Lee Spider-Man creation team in 1962. He also created the comic character Doctor Strange. Toss out the movies and even the Spider-Man of the last 20 to 30 years, and you will have arrived at some of Steve’s work. This was the era when Spider-Man wasn’t a questionable figure with ambiguous ethics. This was the time when Spider-Man was righting wrongs and fighting villains.
I will be up-front with you, I collected comic books when I was younger. Marvel Comics were not my favorite, with the exception of Spider-Man. Here was a kid, who through no fault of his own, was suddenly thrust into a world of superheroes and supervillains. And while he suffered grievous losses, he came out a winner, a true hero. All the while making wisecracks and subtly mocking the people he was fighting. He defended the city he loved (and I can’t stand), even if it meant that he might die in the process. This wasn’t a ‘world’ hero, Spider-Man was designed to be a hometown hero, in large part due to the influence of Steve Ditko.
Why go on about Steve and his creation? Let me ask you, what influenced your dreams and aspirations growing up? Sports heroes are fine, but they are in the game for money and money is a lousy influencer. Who then? While the heroes may have been fiction, the things that they stood for, and hopefully still stand for, things like honor, protecting people that can’t protect themselves, generosity, and self-sacrifice. We have real-life heroes like that today, but most remain nameless and faceless to us. Police, military personnel and others like them do the same job in the here-and-now that our fictional heroes do between the colorful pages of a comic book.
In Spider-Man, Steve Ditko gave us a focal point for a hero. One with flaws and real human problems, but still a hero.
Rest in peace Steve Ditko and thank you.