Thursday, 21 June 2012

Some more material on the Ditko departure

A little diversion from the norm but whilst doing a bit of further digging for these posts I came across a couple of interesting pieces that possibly offer additional information about Steve Ditko’s departure from the series. I’ve no idea how well they fit in with everything else but thought they were worth highlighting for others to see.

News from ME: Today’s Video Link by comics writer and historian Mark Evanier is about the Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon series from 1966 which featured Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Sub-Mariner. This one was notoriously cheap and static with many of the images composed largely by just taking artwork from the actual comics and using camera moves and zooms to convey motion. I have vague memories of this from a c1990 screening on Channel 4 but much preferred the Aquaman and Fantastic Four cartoons from the same decade that were also screened then. Those ones had proper animation.

Anyhow originally the series, produced as “syndicated” for sale to local TV stations, would have included Spider-Man but when it was discovered there was interest in him from the countrywide networks he was replaced with the Sub-Mariner. Mark Evanier comments:
The artists who had drawn the Marvel Comics were not happy to see their work used on a TV show like that. ... Steve Ditko appears to have decided to leave the company at about the time the material he’d drawn for Spider-Man was announced as part of the project. Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman insisted to the artists via his intermediaries that he could not pay for the wider use of the art they’d done because he was receiving next-to-nothing for the rights to produce this series. This apparently was true.
[My emphasis]
So was the timing a coincidence or was part of Ditko’s reasons for leaving Marvel to do with royalties? In Comics Creators on Spider-Man, a wonderful book of interviews by Tom DeFalco published by Titan in 2004 (and he did similar books for the Fantastic Four and the X-Men), we get the following (pages 16-17):
Tom DeFalco: Do you have any idea why Steve Ditko quit Spider-Man?

Stan Lee: Nope. I’ve even asked him and he just said that I should know. He wanted to plot so I let him plot. He complained about the sound effects that I used to put into the stories, so I stopped putting them into his stories. So I have no idea. He has told other people that he quite because I wouldn’t talk to him. Can you believe that? I talk to everybody. Most people wish I would stop talking. Why wouldn’t I talk to him? He was one of our best artists and I loved his work. I don’t know what he means when he says I didn’t talk to him. I just remember that I was angry over the way he quit. He left in such a way that I wasn’t tempted to call him and ask him why. He just showed up one day and announced that he was quitting. He left his work and walked out. In fact he didn’t even tell me. I think he told Sol Brodsky, who was our production manager at the time. I mean, it’s a shame. Steve is about as talented as anyone in this business and he was a joy to work with. He was dependable and inventive, and he never turned in a bad job. I used to use Steve all the time. Sometimes a guy would pencil a strip and the inks were due in a day or two. I’d give it to Steve, and he just made the thing look beautiful and I’d get it out in time. I have absolutely no idea why he left. I must have done something to offend him, but I swear I don’t know what it was.

Would you have taken Steve back if he had wanted to return to Spider-Man?

Of course! I always wanted Steve to come back and do more Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, but he always refused. I spoke to him one time – either in person or over the phone – and I told him that I’d love to work with him on Spider-Man again. He told me that he would not do another Spider-Man unless Marvel started paying him a royalty on the character. It’s a funny thing, but I think Jack Kirby always felt that way too. Both Ditko and Kirby felt that I was getting royalties and they weren’t, but it wasn’t true.
So once again we get the issue of payments and royalties. And this did become a bigger issue in the industry in later years.

The same book interviews John Romita and he offers a different view on the break-up (pages 28-30):
Tom DeFalco: The first time you drew Spider-Man was in Daredevil #16. How did our friendly neighbourhood web-swinger end up in your book?

John Romita: Stan contrived that because he and Steve Ditko were not getting along. Stan and I were plotting Daredevil verbally, and we would often get into conversations about the other people he was working with. Stan told me that he was having disagreements with Steve Ditko over almost every Spider-Man plot. Ditko was plotting the stories by himself and Stan was very unhappy with the results. Ditko had a different take on storytelling than Stan. Absolutely different. Stan mentioned that they were having disagreements on the identity of the Green Goblin. Ditko wanted the Green Goblin to be just a guy that nobody knew. He felt that you shouldn’t always be able to recognise a supervillain when you unmask him. Ditko thought it was more dramatic if he turned out to be somebody you didn’t know. Stan, though, felt they had set up a mystery about the Green Goblin’s real identity and it would be cheat if he turned out to be some Joe Blow. Stan and Ditko disagreed violently on that, and Steve eventually left. Stan knew it was going to happen for months since Steve would just drop the pages off with Sol Brodsky and never talk to Stan about them. Since Stan knew that Ditko was about to take off, he decided to see if I could draw Spider-Man. That’s why he guest-starred the webhead in my book.
...
How did you feel when Stan asked you to take over Amazing Spider-Man?

I felt sure it was just going to be a temporary assignment. I believed Ditko would eventually come back. I didn’t know how deep the rift was between them. I thought it was just a minor disagreement and that Stan was calling Steve’s bluff. Why would a guy leave a book that was a success story? I really believed Ditko would come back to Spider-Man and then I could get to carry on with Daredevil.
...
You began your run on Spider-Man with Amazing #39, and that was also the issue that finally revealed the Green Goblin’s secret identity. Coincidence or planning?

I’m not sure. I could never get a straight story from Stan. I don’t know if he had me do that particular story because he was worried that sales would fall off without Ditko and he wanted a big event, or because he really wanted to cut the cord with Ditko. Stan wouldn’t have been able to stand it if Ditko did the story and didn’t reveal that the Goblin was Norman Osborn. Me, I didn’t know there was any doubt about Osborn being the Goblin. I didn’t know that Ditko had just been setting up Osborn as a straw dog. I just accepted the fact that it was going to be Norman Osborn when we plotted it. I had been following the last couple of issues and didn’t think there was really much mystery about it. Looking back, I doubt the Goblin’s identity would have been revealed in Amazing #39 if Ditko had stayed on.
It’s a rather different account of events but I wonder just how much of this Romita knew at the time and how much he has picked up in later years from Chinese whispers – he’s not too sure himself about the events leading to the Goblin reveal. There’s also no clear chronology in all this – it’s entirely possible (and likely in my humble opinion) he’s misremembering a conversation with Stan from around the time of the Goblin/Crime-Master storyline (and maybe the Crime-Master was specifically created to allow Ditko to do a “nobody seen before” reveal without applying it to the Goblin).

(Before anyone asks, no Ditko isn’t interviewed in that book.)

2 comments:

  1. My research in to Goodman, Ditko & Kirby led me to the following which i think hits the nail right on the head: http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/02/11/goodman-vs-ditko-kirby-by-robert-beerbohm/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lee's comments are really contradictory. He says:

    He told me that he would not do another Spider-Man unless Marvel started paying him a royalty on the character. It’s a funny thing, but I think Jack Kirby always felt that way too. Both Ditko and Kirby felt that I was getting royalties and they weren’t, but it wasn’t true.

    But he also says:

    Nope. I’ve even asked him and he just said that I should know.

    ReplyDelete

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