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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Monday, February 16, 2009


Ditkomania! Between 1983 and 1999, Bill Hall published 63 issues of a zine devoted to Steve Ditko, his favorite artist. Somewhere in my vast accumulation of stuff - think the final scene of Raiders of The Lost Ark - I have many of those issues. It was fandom's loss when Hall ceased publishing his zine.

The good news? Ditkomania is back!

With Hall's blessing, Rob Imes revived the zine this spring and has already published six issues. Each 32-page, 5-1/2" by 8-1/2" issue is filled with news and views on all things Ditko, fan art, and even a few Ditko-inspired comics stories. It's the kind of zine that makes me feel like a teen again and that bit of magic would be a challenge even for Dr. Strange.

Ditkomania articles have discussed Speedball, a hunter of helpless humans named Haag, Shade the Changing Man, Star Guider, Captain Atom, and much more. Several writers reviewed Blake Bell's Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko. Among them was Dave Sim of Cerebus fame, who somehow managed to blame liberals for the paucity of new Ditko comics in recent decades. Sim also contributed a fun pin-up of Spider-Ham wearing a Ayn Rand costume. That's something you don't see every day.

If I were forced to pick my favorite features in these six issues of the new Ditkomania, I'd probably go with the fan reminisces of their first exposures to Ditko's work; former publisher Hall's piece on Mystery Tales #40 (the 1956 comic that appeared in an episode of Lost); Rodney Schroeter's "Metaphysics and Fantasy;" and Nick Caputo's thoughtful "Ditko as Storyteller."

I also get a huge kick out of Imes' Ditko-inspired comics stories, which have included super-heroes Kick Back and the Jinxer, as well as a Haag serial. These strips may not be of professional quality, but, man, are they fun.

Ditkomania #69 sports a way keen cover by Michael T. Gilbert. You can now order the zine via PayPal - - for the afore-mentioned four issues for $10. Issues #64-68 are also available at $2.50 each or all five for $11. Prices are higher for subscribers from Canada, Mexico, and other countries other than the U.S., so you should e-mail Imes for your exact cost. The new Ditkomania earns an impressive four out of five Tonys. No Ditko fan should be without these zines.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



When I was barely into my teens, Liverpool had its "Fab Four" and Stan Lee had what I called his "Big Four," the four artists drawing my favorite Marvels: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Dick Ayers. During my career, I got to work with all of them at least a couple of times. But if Paul McCartney was the "cute one" of the Beatles, Ditko was Marvel's "enigmatic one."

Ditko was already several years gone from Marvel by the time I went to work for the company. I first met and almost worked with the "enigmatic one" during my mercifully brief time as a DC editor. Editorial Director Joe Orlando gave me an advance look at Ditko's pitch and first issue art for Shade the Changing Man. Joe wanted my thoughts on this new series and for me to sign on as its scripter. Showing more caution than usual, and ignoring my strong desire to work with Ditko no matter what, I declined.

I thought the Shade premise in general and the plot of that first issue in particular was confusing. I felt the series needed more of an origin issue. Finally, I didn't want to be just the guy who put words on Ditko's art. Were I to script the book, I'd also want to co-plot it. Turning Shade the Changing Man down was the right call for me, just as wanting solo creative control over the book was the right call for Ditko.

Over a decade later, Ditko did draw two short stories I wrote for Marvel. Editor Jim Salicrup asked me to write Ant-Man and Captain Universe tales for his 1990 Spider-Man annuals. Knowing they would be drawn by Ditko, the stories were as self-indulgent as the very generous Jim would allow. The Ant-Man adventure was my super-hero take on the five-page stories Ditko drew for Amazing Adult Fantasy and other Marvel sci-fi comics of the early 1960s while the Captain Universe tale featured guest appearances by Gorgo and Konga - who Steve had drawn for Charlton - and gave cosmic power to my then-two-year-old son Eddie. It's one of my all-time favorites.

I never received any feedback from Ditko on my two plots, just art that was a joy to script. I wanted to buy the originals to the Cap Universe story, but, enigmatic as ever, Ditko declined to sell them to me. My offer still stands.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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