In this, the last week of ‘Stevecember’, it is with great pleasure that I’m spotlighting another chapter from this beautiful archive of horror/fantasy stories by Steve Ditko. Last I looked, this awesome hardcover was still available on places like Amazon, so definitely look for it ASAP, as I’m sure it wont last long! Now, I present, “Room with a View.”
A man walks into a hotel on a rainy night. The clerk tells him there is no room, but the man notices one key still on its hook. The clerk tells him he was told to never give out that room key for some ominous reasons, but the man insists, and the clerk eventually relents. Once in the room, the man fires up a heater, but then glances toward the mirror. He jumps back in surprise, as he sees a frightening looking man behind him. As he turns around, the man is gone. He thinks to himself that the clerk’s story and the long day are getting to him, so decides to go to bed. His dreams become nightmares, though, and as he passes by the mirror, he sees a host of horrors, and he freaks out. He calls the front desk in a panic, but decides to play it cool and just asks for a wake up call. He heads back to bed, but the paranoia is getting to him. He creeps back over to the mirror, and he sees he’s surrounded by a crowd of monsters! Downstairs, the clerk hears a horrific scream coming from the room. He darts upstairs to investigate, but the room appears empty…until he looks in the mirror and sees the man dead, lying on the bed!
While I haven’t read everything Steve Ditko (art) and Archie Goodwin (writer) have done together, this one is probably my favorite. There’s a level of anxiety to the story that is perfect for this medium, but akin to what you’d get in a film or novella. The story reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and that is a good thing.
After hearing about this hardcover on a podcast (The Longbox of Darkness), I made a note to seek it out before too long! It finally arrived a few short week’s ago, and I can’t be happier about the purchase. The only work I’d previously seen from Steve Ditko was 90% Marvel, and the rest from Charlton. All good material in its own right, but when you see the work by Ditko in this format (black and white anthology stories), you’ll come to appreciate his brilliance even more. Huge thanks to Dark Horse Comics for putting out this material!
The story begins in Europe during the Dark Ages. A sorcerer named Valdar is showing off his skills to the kings court. There is one soldier that doesn’t seem impressed, and Valdar conjures up a wraith that strangles the man, and shows him the error of his ways! He then leaves to summon his minion and descend to the catacombs and perform a spell, but before he can reach the tomb in which he seeks, he’s confrontred by his former master! They have a brief duel, but the former student scurries away and ultimately finds his prize! Script by Archie Goodwin, art by Steve Ditko!
Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that this story is very entertaining. It does bear a strong resemblance to the Doctor Strange stories you got from Ditko and Lee in Strange Tales, but it doesn’t really detract from the fun. The evil sorcerer is very similar to Baron Mordo, but other than that, it’s all good.
The name Steve Ditko is known for his co-creations Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and rightly so, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find an entire separate world of work by this man. One of the biggest contributions he made, is his work for Charlton comics. In the past, I’d been dismissive of this company simply because their books don’t have the shine and attractiveness Marvel and DC had during this time period. Well, after finally giving them a try, I was astounded to find the awesome artwork of Pat Boyette, Tom Sutton, and Steve Ditko, to name a few.
In this issue, there are three stories that all have something to offer. The first, “Hocus Pocus,” shows a stage magician named Zarko, as he obtains an ancient book of spells and incantations that will make him the real deal! He finds out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be though! Written by Steve Morisi, art by Pete Morisi.
“The Man Who was Twins,” is the second story. This one is centered around a devious man that had a twin brother, but now he lives the lives of himself and the dead brother! He even marries his brother’s fiancee’! This scoundrel knows no limits! Written (possibly) by Joe Gill (unconfirmed), with art by Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia.
Lastly, we have the gem of the book. “The 3RD Victim” shows one of the most creepy things ever in horror comics or cinema – a ventriloquist dummy! The puppet maker gets killed by a greedy man, and at first, it seems as if the dummy is helping this murderer. But as the story moves along, it is the murderer who will pay for his crimes! Writer (again, unconfirmed) Joe Gill, art by Steve Ditko (cover art as well), and letters by Charlotte Jetter. The fantastic cover is also by Ditko, and is really something else!
After a few weeks of superheroes, it’s time for more monsters! Not the usual Bronze Age fare (well technically not even though this is a reprint from 1970), but material from the preceding Silver or “Atlas Age” at Marvel comics. During this time, you had Stan Lee writing and editing just about everything (some work by Larry Lieber and a few others, but the overwhelming majority was Lee), and two giants of the industry penciling. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are undoubtedly two of the most influential creators of the medium, but not for this material, as most know. But, don’t sleep on these comics, because they do offer some really good artwork, and some interesting stories as well.
The four stories in this reprint book are all very different, as one features a giant monster (The Return of Taboo, Strange Tales 77, 1960), a sorcerer (The Strange Magic of Master Khan, Strange Tales 77 as well), aliens (We Met in the Swamp, Tales to Astonish 7, 1960), and a ghost (I Lived a Ghost Story, ST 7 as well)! Credits include – Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Paul Reinman, Dick Ayers, and Artie Simek (with possible alterations by Marie Severin).
The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.
Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with art by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” and has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!
The giants are leaving us. There is no two ways about it, and a small part of me gets angry about that fact for a couple of reasons. First, because I didn’t get to meet most of them, and secondly because not enough attention is given to these brilliant creators until they pass away (except in the small community of hardcore comic book fans). A great bit of sadness fell over me when I hard of the passing of Steve Ditko.
Whether you believe it or not, the man created Spider-Man (with a bit of direction from Stan Lee), and all the classic villains that were a huge part of making the hero what he was in the comic books. He also created (co-created, depending on your opinion) my personal favorite character Dr. Strange. Not to mention The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Speedball, The Question, Mr. A., and so on. To call him a genius is no overstatement, and just a glance at his creativity on paper is all the proof you’ll need. Monsters, Superheroes, Science fiction, horror, humor, etc., he did it all.
Why he left comics doesn’t matter, nor his personal beliefs. He was a kind man, that kept to himself and hurt no one. He gave us his imagination for a long time and we should all be grateful for that! Godspeed, Sturdy Steve!
The Silver Age is when it all turned around for Marvel comics. The company went from vanilla books starring monsters, western heroes, and cheesy romance characters, to exciting titles like the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, etc. After just a few short years, Marvel had bona-fide hits on their hands, so they began to issue reprints of these stories (just 4 years after they were first printed!). These books are great, and you get four stories in each one! Classics starring the Fantastic Four, Iron Man (Tales of Suspense), The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Strange (Strange Tales)! You get the best from Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Stan Lee, and more! Rather than droning on about how great these books are, I’ll just let the images do the talking for me!
In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!
A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!
Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!
All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!
The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!
The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.
The title “Machine Man,” was from the incredible mind of Jack “King” Kirby. As with virtually everything he touched, the book was great, but his run only lasted for the first nine issues. After that, it took a strange turn when Steve Ditko took over the artistic duties. This story brings in a techno-villain that seems to have what it takes to not only commit daring crimes, but also to stop Machine Man as well! A wild story with a tragic ending, as only Marvel in the Bronze Age can supply!
The man named Marv Wolfman (writer/editor), must have lived in the studio during the Bronze Age. Between the writing, plotting, and editing, his resumé is ridiculous. He’ll always be a legend for his collaboration with Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula), but he was always a consistently good writer no matter what title. Steve Ditko (interior art and cover) needs no introduction or hyperbole thrown his way. If not for him, Spider-Man wouldn’t be the iconic character he is today, period. Michele Wolfman (colors) and John Costanza (letters), round out the creative team!