Dead at the age of 90. Creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, The Question, Squirrel Girl, and a hell of a lot of other characters that made everybody but him a ton of money.
Always loved his work, even his later stuff with characters like Mr. A that reflected a philosophical and political worldview that I fundamentally disagreed with. His best work is some of the greatest comics of all time.
CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates his net worth at $5 million. That sounds suspiciously high, but would make him among the higher-compensated comic book artists ever.(Less than Todd MacFarlane or Bob Kane, but more than John Byrne or John Buscema). I’m guessing there were some payouts to clear title for the Spider-Man movies or something.
RIP, Steve. You created one of the most famous and popular comic book characters all time. And Peter Parker was the character as much as his web-slinging alter-ego. He started as a nerdy angst-ridden teenager with troubles the readers could relate to. He was part of the move to make superheroes real people with problems in life.
The thing is, in comics the work was (and probably largely still is) “work for hire”. You’re hired to do the work, but retain no copyright because the character is owned by the company. You know this going in, it’s not a surprise. You’re literally a hired hand, not an owner.
Of course, no one back then ever expected comics to turn into a multi-billion dollar industry what with movies and licensed merchandise and so forth.
I was always kind of amused at his wavery thin-lined drawing style. Jack Kirby was so…muscular, bulging muscles of grimacing body-builders. Steve Ditko seemed to draw his creatures with a very fine point pen with shaky hands.
Never a big fan of Mr. Ditko’s artwork, though his style was unique and instantly recognizable as his. I recall liking some of his weird, mysterious stories published by Atlas and early Marvel; they would typically revolve around obsessed protagonists who went “too far.” While credit must be given to Mr. Ditko for co-creating Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, I think other artists did a better job on them.
That said, his Objectivist zealotry overtook his talent, resulting in comics that were both hilarious(ly bad) and nearly unreadable. There is perhaps no greater example of this than Blue Beetle#5 (Charlton, 1968), probably the most Objectivist comic ever printed by a mainstream comic book publisher.
It might have been interesting to see a Mr. A movie starring Clint Eastwood in the title role. Then again, the monotony of the character and concept probably would not have been endurable after more than 20 minutes.
"Ditko attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where he made friends with another budding cartoonist, Eric Stanton (1926– 1999). He and Ditko shared a studio on 8th Avenue from 1958 to 1966. Stanton had a specialty, though — kinky sado-maso bondage comics… The two cartoonists had superficially similar styles, and were given to helping each other out with deadlines… When asked by Greg Theakston about the extent of his contribution to Spider-Man, Stanton replied:
'Almost nil…. I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands.'"
Ditko and Kirby were two people who had to be dealt with before they could exploit the universe fully in films. They had created famous characters but only under contract, as we know. I’m glad he was wealthy at the end. Before the movies it looked very grim for the creators like Kirby and Ditko. But when it became a matter of little kids going to movies, Marvel wanted the “look” to be better and more humane, naturally.
There was also the matter of there being more money when the movies got big - when Marvel was just publishing comic books there really wasn’t that much profit, not for decades.
When a generous payout of a couple million becomes a rounding error compared to the billions of dollars generated it becomes a lot easier to hand that sort of money out to people as a way of settling potential or ongoing lawsuits.
What? No love for Speedball? Shame what marvel eventually wound up doing to the character, no matter how outdated and out of time he seemed for when he was created… But marvel’s pretty much ruined everything the last decade or so…