homeHow Steve Ditko left Patrick Ford 18 August 2016 Shortly after Wally Wood departed Steve Ditko turned in his last pages for Marvel. According to the December 1965 issue of the COMICS REPORTER Ditko quit the last week of November 1965. STEVE SKEATES: "The Last Straw tale of mine isn't entirely merely a story; part of it I actually witnessed! Back in '65, I was in and out of the Marvel offices (as I recall, merely three small rooms back in those days) quite a bit -- there were those two weeks when I was the assistant editor up there (prior to everyone finding out that I couldn't proofread, so that then Roy Thomas got called in to take my place in that position), then there were those three Two-Gun Kid yarns I wrote, plus one issue of Kid Colt, Outlaw, some Patsy and Hedy, a Spider-man letters page, and even some art corrections on an Avengers issue I got roped into doing -- that latter task actually fits in rather nicely here, seeing as it was one of Woody's art jobs I was asked to make some changes on (don't know what issue that was, but I'd easily recognize it if I ever see it again via the really shaky lines on one of the balloon pointers I drew; there was also a cop in the background of a certain scene that I was asked to add, a cop that Marie had to almost completely redraw, seeing as my cop looked more like he belonged in a funny animal comic than within a superhero saga!)! Anyway, it was during one of these frequent visits of mine to the offices that I took note of the fact (it would have been hard NOT to notice) that Stan was fuming and saying he was really gonna have it out with Ditko this time! I asked somebody what was up, and whomever I asked (Marie or Flo or maybe even Roy) explained the whole thing. As you undoubtedly know, the way the Spider-man comic was put together back in those days was that Ditko would turn in his pencils and his plot, Stan would write the dialogue and the captions and make various instructional notations in the margins of the artwork, next the story would be lettered, and then it would be given back to Ditko so he could ink it! It was the finished inks that Stan was fuming about -- in the panel I previously spoke of, even though the dialogue was obviously that of Spidey, Ditko had drawn the villain, forcing Stan to either rewrite the dialogue or have the panel redrawn (probably by either Sol or Marie) and I really can't remember which course of action he chose! I of course have no way of knowing whether Steve simply forgot he was supposed to change the figure while at the same time failing to read the dialogue and missing the notation in the margin, or if he purposely drew the villain because he (Steve) was being obstinate, but I am positive that Stan THOUGHT that the latter was the case! Needless to say, I wasn't privy to Stan "finally having it out" with Steve! Still and all, the next thing I knew, Ditko was outta there!" Stan Lee ordered Carl Hubbell to redraw a Steve Ditko figure of the Looter which appeared in panel 5 on page 13 from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39 Roy Thomas commented on the change in ALTER-EGO #50, July 2005. "..the silhouette (in layouts) of the villainous Looter looked virtually identical to Spidey's, since both wore form-fitting costumes. Accordingly, when Stan scripted the final panel on pg. 13, he had to decide: did Steve mean that to be Spidey on the ledge, hunting for the fled Looter - or was it the Looter himself, hiding thereon? With no clarifying note from Steve, Stan wrote the figure as Spider-Man, and Artie Simek lettered it. When the story came back, however, Steve had inked the figure as the Looter - apparently the character he'd intended it to be." "At this point, of course, either the balloons or the figure had to be totally changed. Thus, Roy recalls lingering at the Marvel offices well after 5:00 pm, one nigh-Christmas day in 1965 and chatting about Charlie Biro with veteran artist Carl Hubbell (then inking Rawhide Kid) while the latter painstakingly transformed Looter into Wall-Crawler in that panel." The incident described by Steve Skeates where he saw Lee "fuming" and saying he was going to "have it out" with Ditko may have promoted Lee to give John Romita a "try-out" on Spider-Man by having a two part story in DAREDEVIL co-feature Spider-Man. In some interviews Romita says he was burned out on comics and left to do storyboard work. In other interviews Romita says he was "let go" by DC in June of 1965 and sought the storyboard work? In July of 1965 Romita began accepting freelance assignments from Lee. Romita was freelance and working out of his home when he produced the DAREDEVIL issues featuring Spider-Man. Romita was hired as an employee of Marvel in Jan. 1966, the same month the New York Herald Tribune published an article by Nat Freedland where Lee sarcastically says that Ditko "thinks he's the genius of the world" and says that he will "leave him alone until sales begin to slip." In fact Lee already knew Ditko had quit and was probably planning to pull Ditko off Spider-Man even before Ditko quit. Romita joined in disparaging Ditko in a 1966 issue of THE WEB SPINNER a fanzine read by Stan Lee and which had published letters by Flo Steinberg and Roy Thomas. In fact Thomas wrote to complain about criticism of Romita's DAREDEVIL stories after the fanzine had compared them unfavorably to the issues created by Wally Wood. J David Spurlock: Nice post Patrick. Anyone have the issues of THE WEB SPINNER fanzine with the Wally Wood related comments? Patrick Ford: I've posted all the Web Spinner pages in a couple of different groups. Russ Mahares first posted them on the Ditkomania FB page. J David Spurlock: i'm only coming up with 2 results for "web spinner" in Ditkomania Patrick Ford: I just posted all of it in a new thread. J David Spurlock: i read that. don't see any Wood comments or letters from Thomas Patrick Ford: The Thomas letter is in a later issue of the Web-Spinner which I don't have access to. You might ask Nick Caputo or Russ Maheras to share their copies with you. Patrick Ford: See if Russ will check for you. Patrick Ford: J David Spurlock, I have received word that the WEB-SPINNER #4 and #5 contain letters from Roy Thomas taking issue with criticisms of the Romita DAREDEVIL which were written in prior issues by Gene Simmons (yes that Gene Simmons). Dave Rawlins: Patrick, the Looter story appeared in ASM#36, not #39. ASM#36 and Daredevil #16, (the Spider-Man crossover issue) both had May 1966 cover dates. So either Lee assigned the crossover to Romita before seeing the inks on ASM #36, or Ditko turned the inked pencils in way ahead of schedule. Patrick Ford: Just a typo. Ditko was off the book by issue #39. Ditko mentioned in one of his essays that he sometimes waited very long periods of time between pencils and inks. Up to two months. Dave Rawlins: I see people saying that Ditko started back at Charlton after leaving Marvel. Not true. His return to Captain Atom appeared on the newstand in September of 1965, the same month as ASM #31. Lee surely was aware of the fact that Ditko was freelancing for Charlton again and must have known the reasons why long before Ditko quit. Patrick Ford: Yeah Dave one of the funny things about fans is they conceive of comics history as being a tidy situation where freelancers acted like employees and worked for one company at a time. I think this may be because books and articles tend to cover the work of creators by company rather than by creator. It's interesting how many fans completely don't understand that Kirby created The Fly for MLJ while he was selling most of his work to Marvel. Patrick Ford: BTW. Didn't Ditko's work on Captain Atom date back to 1959? In other words way before any super hero work he did for Marvel. Dave Rawlins: Yes, 1960, two years before Spider-Man. Patrick Ford: Note also the fact that it's documented Ditko quit Marvel in late Nov. of 1965. And Romita became part of the Marvel staff almost immediately. Jim Van Heuklon: That Spidey pose is anything but heroic in nature. Dave Rawlins: True, Jim. But Lee HAD to mess with Ditko's story because maybe he wanted to sabotage it since he knew Ditko would soon be moving on. Thoughts? Jim Van Heuklon: Since Ditko wrote the previous 15+ issues, unopposed by Lee's editorial stupidity, perhaps Steve felt like he was doing Marvel a favor by calling out the week link. Dave Rawlins: My theory, Lee had already tapped Romita to replace Ditko on Spider-Man. To make the transition more palatable Lee resolved to phone it in and generally mess with Ditko's last ASM issues. Jim Van Heuklon: Which begs the question.. Did ASM 39 hit the stands late? If not, it would bolster the theory that Stan was already poised to make the switch before Ditko left. Patrick Ford: Lee had a habit of going off script and ridiculing stories which he was forced to admit (I'm assuming he was under pressure from Wood and Ditko) he didn't plot. This was the case on DAREDEVIL and I recently found an instance from SPIDER-MAN #18 where Lee said the story was plotted by Ditko and then went on to say the story was hard to follow and he wasn't sure it made any sense. Later Lee and his sycophants used the same nonsensical attacks on Kirby's Fourth World. The official story became the Fourth World stories were "all over the place" and "hard to follow." The reality is they were by far the best written stories of their time. A time marked by horrible stories written by stoned MMMS geeks that had become the "New Wave" of writers. Dave Rawlins: I noticed his penchant for doing that long ago, back in the 60s. Once one is aware of it the pattern and intent is obvious. Jim Van Heuklon: History repeats itself as Disney pays movie critics to bash Suicide Squad. Patrick Ford: Dave, It would have been hard to miss without blinders. Lee was always not just upbeat, but hyperbolic in the extreme. So negative comments concerning an upcoming story must have set off alarm bells. Jim Van Heuklon: Sounds like an agenda all right. Dave Rawlins: Lee had a good thing going, Kirby, Ditko and Wood were coming up with the stories and Lee was getting all the credit and pay for writing. Then Ditko and Wood threatened Lee's advantageous arrangement by demanding rightful credit and pay for their work. The nerve! Patrick Ford: I firmly believe that Kirby complained as much or more. The thing is Kirby had four kids and a wife. Patrick Ford: Kirby was supporting his own parents by the time he was 18 years old. Kirby was Captain Victory. "Victory is sacrifice." Kirby burned through his allotment of clones sacrificing them in battle to achieve his primary goal. The long term security of his wife and children. Patrick Ford: Up until just three years ago Neal Kirby was teaching science at a middle school and working as a clerk in a pet store during the evening to support his wife and children. Victory is sacrifice. Dave Rawlins: Daniel Keyes said Lee told him he was happy that Keyes got married, because his familial responsibilities would basically keep him working for Lee. Dave Rawlins: Was it Alter-Ego that published Daniel Keyes' Timley/Atlas interview? It's worth reviewing for Keyes' description of Lee in the 50s and Keyes' assessment of Lee's creative prowess, or lack thereof. Dave Rawlins: Buying into the myth of Lee's creativity is akin to believing Nixon was a wild and crazy guy... Patrick Ford: Here's a good example of what a dick Lee was (and is). In reviewing some old ASM LOC pages I came across an instance where Flo Steinberg began a letters page with a personal apology to the readers. It seems there had been some minor error on the LOC page in a previous issue which several readers had spotted. And so Flo Steinberg was sent out to take the blame.