Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1979, directed by Ron Satlof)


This, the final of the three Spider-Man “feature films” that were basically edited episodes of the Spider-Man TV series, finds Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) in Hong Kong.  Spider-Man having adventures in Hong Kong sounds like it should be fun and the 2nd half of this “movie” was filmed on location but, even with all those elements (and a young Ted Danson in a small role), Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge is just dull.

Min (Benson Fong) is a rich Chinese businessman who stands to be appointed to a position in the Chinese government but only if he can prove that he didn’t sell secrets to the U.S. during World War II.  Min needs to find three Marines who can clear his name.  Because Min is an old friend, J. Jonah Jameson (Robert F. Simon) assigns photographer Peter Parker to help Min track the men down.  Why would Jameson give that responsibility to Pater Parker?  I don’t know.

Min’s granddaughter, Emily (Rosalind Chao), thinks that Peter is a coward because he always disappears whenever Min is attacked.  It’s a good thing that Spider-Man always mysteriously shows up whenever Peter isn’t around because otherwise, Min would be in a lot of trouble.  It turns out that a steel baron named Mr. Zeider (Richard Erdman) wants to stop Min from clearing his name because Min would stop Zeider from getting a big construction contract.

Eventually, Peter, Min, Emily, and a former marine who can clear Min all end up in Hong Kong, where Spider-Man gets to fight kung fu masters and hopefully save the day.

Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge has all the elements to be an enjoyably cheesy 70s adventure film but it fails because it’s not really a movie.  It’s just two episodes of a TV show that have been edited together and, with the exception of a few of the fight scenes in Hong Kong, there’s nothing cinematic about it.  As opposed to the previous two Spider-Man “films,” Nicholas Hammond just seems bored in this outing and the scenes with Rosalind Chao scolding Peter for being a coward are too much like Lois Lane complaining about Clark Kent never being in the same place as Superman.

Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge also misses the opportunity to bring in any members of Spider-Man’s gallery of wonderful villains.  How hard would it have been to replace Mr. Zeider with Wilson Fisk?  The Silver Samurai could have at least made an appearance.  Instead, Spider-Man’s just fighting another corporate villain.  It’s a wasted opportunity.

The two episodes that make up this film were also the final two episodes of the Spider-Man TV show.  Despite the fact that CBS was constantly moving the show around on the schedule and that the second season only featured 7 episodes, the series still got good ratings.  However, CBS apparently feared that, by airing not only Spider-Man but also The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman, it would run the risk of becoming known as a “comic book” network.  Since the Hulk and Wonder Woman both got good ratings and, unlike Spider-Man, had the support of the critics, they were allowed to remain while Spider-Man was given the boot and canceled in 1979.  That’s a strong contrast to today, when most exec would probably sell their first born to get a chance at some of the Marvel action.

After this, it would be another 23 years before Spider-Man again appeared on a movie screen, this time in the form of Tobey Maguire.  While Nicholas Hammond would never again play Spider-Man, one fan of his time on the show was director Quentin Tarantino, who later cast Hammond as director Sam Wanamaker in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978, directed by Ron Satlof)


When three college students decide to prove the folly of the nuclear arms race by stealing enough plutonium to make a nuclear bomb of their own, it’s up to Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond) to sort them out!  He better do it quickly, too, because the police suspect that the plutonium may have been stolen by a grad student named Peter Parker.

However, Spider-Man is not the only person who wants that bomb.  The evil Mr. White (Robert Alda) also wants the bomb, though he’s not planning on using it to make the case for world peace.  Instead, he plans to blackmail the government into giving him a fortune in gold.  Now, Parker not only has to clear his own name but he has to keep Mr. White from blowing up Los Angles while, at the same time, preventing a nosy reporter (Joanna Cameron) from figuring out that he’s really Spider-Man.

Spider-Man Strikes Back was released as a feature film in Europe and was advertised as being a sequel to Spider-Man.  Gullible audiences who paid money to see it ended up sitting through a two-part episode of the Amazing Spider-Man TV show, albeit one that was edited into a 90-minute movie and which didn’t have stop for commercial interruption.

Spider-Man Strikes Back highlights exactly what went wrong with the first attempt to do a live action version of Spider-Man.  There were several members of Spider-Man’s regular rogues’ gallery who could have stolen that bomb and threatened Los Angeles.  It sounds like a typical Sinister Six plot.  Even the Kingpin, on a bad day, might be tempted to get in on that action.  Instead, the villain is a bland arms dealer named Mr. White.  CBS reportedly refused to use any classic Spider-Man villains because they wanted to keep the show grounded in reality but the minute Spider-Man crawled up a skyscraper for the first time, the network should have forgotten about trying to keep it real.

To repeat what I said in my review of Spider-Man, Nicholas Hammond is miscast as everyone’s favorite webcrawler.  Hammond is likable but he doesn’t come across as being at all insecure and it’s Spider-Man’s insecurities that distinguished him from other comic book heroes.  Spider-Man Strikes Back also suffers because it’s clear that much of the Spider-Man footage was reused from the pilot film.

I still enjoyed watching Spider-Man Strikes Back, though.  When I was a kid, Spider-Man was my favorite and, even in something like this, it’s still fun to watch him climbing up buildings and webbing up crooks.  Though there’s nothing cinematic about Spider-Man Strikes Back and it’s clearly just an extended episode of a TV show, I still liked that the climax took place in an preserved old west ghost town.  That was just strange enough to work.

Though Spider-Man Strikes Back was not as successful at the European box office as Spider-Man, it still did well enough that one more feature film would be crafted from the Spider-Man TV show, Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge.

Spider-Man (1977, directed by E.W. Swackhemer)


When a college student named Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) is bitten by a radioactive spider, he’s stunned to discover that he can now do everything that a spider can.  He can climb walls.  He has super strength.  He has super senses.  And, once he invents a sticky web serum, he can shoot webs and swing around the city!  All he has to now is sew himself a red and blue costume and he’ll be ready to fight crime in New York City!

It’s not a minute too soon because New York is dealing with a crime wave that only Spider-Man can deal with.  Seemingly ordinary people are suddenly going into hypnotic trances, stealing money and committing suicide.  An extortionist sends words that, unless he’s paid a lot of money, he’s going to unleash a wave hypnotic chaos on the city.  Could it have anything to do with a sinister New Age guru and hypnotist named Edward Byron (Thayer David)?

Though it was released theatrically in Europe, Spider-Man was produced for television and it served as the pilot for a short-lived CBS television series.  Along with The Incredible Hulk, this was one of the first attempts to build a television series around one of Marvel’s characters.  Unfortunately, the series only last 14 episodes before being canceled.  Though it can be hard to believe nowadays with the nonstop hype around every single comic book movie, there was a time when television and film executives were actually weary about trying to bring super heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America to life.  According to Stan Lee (who served as a consultant on Spider-Man), CBS wanted to distance their version of Spider-Man from its comic book origins.  While both the pilot and the series features Peter Parker crawling up walls and shooting webs, there’s no Uncle Ben.  There’s no talk about how with great power comes great responsibility.  Worst of all, there are no members of Spider-Man’s famed rogue’s gallery.  No Electro, no Sandman, no Green Goblin, and certainly no Dr. Octopus.  CBS wanted the show to feature down-to-Earth villains, which is an interesting strategy for a show about a grad student who can climb walls.

The television version of Peter Parker isn’t as insecure and angsty as either the comic book version or even the movie versions.  Hammond is likable and sincere in the role but he is also almost too self-assured as Parker, proof that CBS didn’t understand that a huge part of Spider-Man’s appeal was that he was never as confident as Superman or Captain America.  Instead, much like many of the people who read his comic, Peter was frequently worried and consumed with self-doubt.  The comic book version of Spider-Man was always wracked with guilt for not stopping the thief who eventually killed Ben.  The television version was more worried about selling enough selfies to The Daily Bugle to be able to go on a date with his professor’s daughter.

At least the pilot film featured a villain who wouldn’t have felt out of place in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, though he probably would have had a cool villain name, like the Mesmerizer, if he had appeared in the comic.  Thayer David played a lot of smug villains in the 70s, not to mention the fight promoter in Rocky.  In Spider-Man, David goes all in as the villain and he’s got the perfect posh accent for delivering threats and sarcastic put-downs.  Unfortunately, this version of Peter Parker is not the wise-cracking machine that he was in the comic books and he never really gets a chance to verbally put Byron in his place.

If you can overlook its deviations from the comic book, the pilot isn’t a bad made-for-TV adventure.  Though miscast and playing a far different version of Peter Parker than we’re used to, Nicholas Hammond does his best to make Peter and his transformation credible.  Thayer David, as always, is a good villain and the story, with ordinary people suddenly turning into ruthless criminals, isn’t bad.  Though there are a few convincing shots of Spider-Man web-slinging, most of the special effects are lousy but they’re really not any worse than what you would expect to see in a 70s made-for-TV movie.  Though the series ultimately didn’t work, the pilot is still an enjoyable precursor to what, decades later, would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Great Moments In Comic Book History: Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker


With the Marvel Cinematic Universe about to enter it’s fourth phase and having said goodbye the majority of the Avengers, it’s time to really go through the Marvel vaults and give some consideration to some characters who may not be as well-known as Iron Man or Captain America but who still deserve their own shot at cinematic immortality.

Consider, for instance, Baron Ludwig von Shtupf, the Monster Maker!

Baron Ludwig von Shutpf made his first (and, to date, only) appearances in two issues of Marvel Team-Up.  In Marvel Team-Up #36, he kidnapped Spider-Man from New York and Frankenstein’s Monster from the antarctic.  In Marvel Team-Up #37, he summoned Man-Wolf to join them all in his castle.  Baron von Shtupf was the latest in a long line of mad scientists and he had come up with the perfect plan for world domination.  Why not take three great monsters and combine them into one big monster?  It seemed like a good plan but Spider-Man, Man-Wolf, Frankenstein’s Monster, and an Agent of SHIELD named Judith Klemmer stopped him and left him tied up in his study.

The Baron would never appear again in the pages of Marvel Comics, which is amazing when you consider that even a character like the Living Eraser made a handful of appearances over the years before being permanently erased.  Was it because Baron von Shtupf’s name sounded suspiciously like a certain Yiddish vulgarity?  Perhaps.  Not bringing back Baron von Shtupf is a waste of a perfect good character so how about, Disney?  How about a little love for the Monster Maker?  Just imagine what Christoph Waltz could do with the role.

 

 

The main reason that I remember the Monster Maker is because, when I was seven years old, I found a copy of Marvel Team-Up #36 at a garage sale and I got excited because The Frankenstein Monster was on the cover.  My mom bought it for me.  When I got home, I read the comic and I was stunned to discover that it ended with a “to be continued” right after Spider-Man and the Monster discovered the Man-Wolf waiting for them in the Baron’s laboratory.  (This was when I was still too young to understand that all comic books ended with a “to be continued” because that was the easiest way to get kids like me to spend my allowance on them.)

I spent years searching for a copy of Marvel Team-Up #37 so I could find out how the story ended.  It was not until twelve years later, when I came across it on Ebay, that I was finally able to get a copy of the second part of the Monster Maker saga!  For that reason, I have never forgotten Baron von Shtupf and I guess I never will.

 

Marvels Team-Up #36 (August, 1975) and Marvel Team-Up #37 (September 1975)

“Once Upon A Time In A Castle” and “Snow Death”

  • Writer — Gerry Conway
  • Penciler — Sal Buscema
  • Inker — Vince Colletta
  • Colourist — Al Wenzel (#36) and Phil Rache (#37)
  • Letterist — Charlotte Jetter (#36) and Karen Mantio (#37)
  • Editor — Len Wein (#36) and Marv Wolfman (#37)

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man

Great Moments In Comic Book History: The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man


As a super hero, Spider-Man never got any respect.

From the beginning of his costumed career, Spider-Man was often misunderstood.  Perhaps because of his early days as a professional wrestler, he was often dismissed as being an immature attention seeker.  Unfortunately, when you combine that with Peter Parker’s legendary lack of luck, bad things are going to happen.  Especially during the early run of Amazing Spider-Man, being close to Peter Parker meant that there was a good chance that you would end up dead and Spider-Man would somehow be blamed for your death.  Leading the charge would always be J. Jonah Jameson, the bombastic editor of The Daily Bugle.

At the start of Amazing Spider-Man #124, Spider-Man is again finding himself being blamed for two deaths.  This time, though, it’s personal.  Spider-Man is still coming to grips with the death of his first love, Gwen Stacy.  Meanwhile, both the police and Jameson suspect that Spider-Man is also to blame for the death of businessman Norman Osborne.  (What they didn’t know, however, was that Norman had actually been terrorizing the city as the Green Goblin and, as was revealed decades later, Norman wasn’t really dead.)  While Peter Parker struggles to get back into rhythm of everyday life, Jameson demands that Spider-Man be brought to justice.

However, Jonah has a bigger problem to worry about.  His son, John, has returned home.  John is an astronaut and, up until this issue, was always portrayed as being everything that Peter wasn’t.  While Peter was struggling to pay the bills and keep Aunt May from being evicted, John was going to the moon and returning a national hero.  John, however, has brought back something from his mission.  The moon rock that John wears around his neck as a necklace causes John to turn into the Man-Wolf, a werewolf who is full of rage at John’s father, J. Jonah Jameson.  Can Spider-Man save the man who has dedicated his life to making him miserable?

Spider-Man always had a rich and well-drawn supporting cast, with characters like Mary Jane Watson, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, and Harry Osborne becoming almost as well-known as the webslinger himself.  No character, though, was as beloved and hated as J. Jonah Jameson.  For all of his bluster, Jonah was frequently portrayed as being not evil but misguided.  He may have been too stubborn to admit that Spider-Man was not a menace but Jonah was often portrayed as having his own brand of integrity.  Usually, he tried to do the right thing.  The Man-Wolf saga put Jonah’s integrity to the test.  After years of accusing every super hero in New York of being a menace, how would Jonah react when the menace was his own son?

These two issues also provide a turning point in Spider-Man’s character.  Despite being haunted by Gwen’s death, Peter realizes that he cannot shut himself off from the world.  And, despite his justifiable anger at Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man still saves his life and protects his son because he know that’s what a hero does.

This saga ends with John Jameson temporarily cured and freed of the curse.  Of course, it wouldn’t last.  Man-Wolf would return, sometimes as a hero and sometimes as a menace.  And Spider-Man would be there to meet him.

Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #124 (September, 1973)

“The Mark of the Man-Wolf”

Writer:Gerry Conway
Inker:John Romita Sr., Tony Mortellaro
Colorist:Dave Hunt
Letterer:Art Simek
Penciler:Gil Kane

Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #125 (October, 1973)

“The Man-Wolf Strikes Again”

Writer:Gerry Conway
Inker:Tony Mortellaro, John Romita Sr.
Colorist:Dave Hunt
Letterer:Art Simek
Penciler:Ross Andru

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”

Halloween Scenes I Love: Spider-Man Goes To ESU’s Halloween Party in PS4’s Spider-Man


Not all good Halloween scenes have to come from a movie.  Sometimes, they can come from a video game!

One of my favorite missions in PS4’s Spider-Man is Back To School.  That’s where you, as Spider-Man, have to search the Empire State University Halloween Party for an Oscorp scientist named Dr. Delaney and rescue him from Mister Negative and the Demons.  Because it’s a Halloween party, you should be able to search for Delaney without anyone realizing that you’re the Spider-Man.  The bad news is that, again because it’s a Halloween party, almost every party goer is dressed up like one of your enemies.  And when Mister Negative does attack, it turns out that a drunk college student dressed up like the Rhino can be almost as dangerous as the actual Rhino!

A Late Review of PS4’s Spider-Man


It took me a little over a month to make my way through PS4’s Spider-Man.

I started playing around the middle of December and I finally completed the game on January 30th.  I didn’t play every day, of course.  There was one week when I was so busy with the real world that I didn’t play at all.  Most days, when I did play, I would spend maybe 60 to 90 minutes on the game, sometimes more and sometimes less.  All told, I’d estimate that it took about a total of 25 hours for me to finish the game’s story.  That’s not counting the time that I spent on side quests or the times when I would just swing through New York and appreciate the massive amount of work and detail that went into recreating Manhattan Island.

The first half of the game is probably one of the best advertisements for New York City that’s ever been put together.  Whether you’re swinging through Central Park or taking in the sights in Times Square, it’s hard not to get drawn into the game’s depiction of New York as being the most exciting city in the world.  Both Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson get scenes in which they talk about how much they love New York.  At the start of the game’s third act, a major disaster happens and New York is suddenly trashed and no longer as friendly a place.  While the streets are controlled by the paramilitary mercenaries of Sable International, the rooftops are populated by snipers who think nothing of trying to shoot you while you’re trying to swing from mission to mission.  And yet, even when things are at their worst, the indomitable spirit of New York survives.  Even though a biological weapon has been detonated and there’s been a massive prison break, you can still find people taking a stroll through Central Park.  (Of course, now they’re wearing surgical masks and some of them are stopping to cough.)  Even after martial law is declared, you can still drop in on the quad at Empire U and find students hanging out.  J. Jonah Jameson (who, in this game, hosts Spider-Man’s favorite podcast) may be a braying fool most of the time but he’s right when he says that New York will never surrender.

(The game’s action is limited to Manhattan.  As much as I would have loved to have visited the Bronx, I understand that there’s only so much that one game can do.  When I tried to swim to Staten Island, I discovered that swimming is the one thing that Spider-Man does not do well.  When I tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, I got a warning telling me that I was “leaving the game.”  Maybe the sequel will take Spider-Man into the outer boroughs.)

Spider-Man is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal and, after playing this game, it’ll be impossible for me to ever think of Spider-Man as sounding like anyone else.  Whether he’s telling a bad joke or, when the game takes a detour into Spider-Man’s subconscious, battling his own demons, Lowenthal simply is Spider-Man.

The game features many of the members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, with Yuri Watanabe, Mary Jane, Miles Morales, and Aunt May all making welcome appearances.  (Four of the story’s missions require the player to take on the roles of either MJ or Miles.)  As for the game’s villains, Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, Tombstone, Taskmaster, Norman Osborne, Mr. Negative, Electro, Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, Screwball, and Shocker all play roles of varying importance.  Doctor Octopus is reimagined as being, before he goes bad, almost a surrogate father to Peter.  When Spider-Man battles him, he’s not only fighting Doctor Octopus but he’s also battling his own guilt.  We all know the old saying: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  PS4’s Spider-Man is one of the few adaptations of the character that actually understands what that means.

While I liked the way that the villains were depicted and I think that this is one of the few Spider-Man adaptations to actually capture what makes Electro such an *ahem* electrifying character, I do wish that some of the boss battles had been more difficult.  While they do provide some challenge, they can also often be won just by pushing the dodge button until your opponents eventually tire themselves out.  For one battle, Spider-Man debuts a new suit designed to give him an advantage.  I won the battle without ever using the advantage.  Another battle can be won by finding a high place to perch on while your two opponents defeat themselves with friendly fire.

To anyone playing the game for the first time, my main warning would be to hold off on talking to a homeless man named Howard.  It’s tempting to go over and speak with him because his sidequest is located right next to the building where you go to visit Aunt May.  When you see the little blue diamond inviting you to visit with Howard, it’s hard to resist.  However, when you talk to Howard, you eventually end up agreeing to help him find all of his pet pigeons.  Those pigeons are located across the city and, as soon as you find yourself near any of them them, they’ll take off flying and, regardless of whatever else you may have going on, you’ll be expected to chase after them.  When it comes to Howard, hold off on talking to him until after you’ve taken care of the game’s main story.

Flaws aside, Spider-Man captures the spirit of its main character.  It’s not just about fighting crime, though there is a lot of that to do.  It’s also about making sure that Aunt May isn’t wearing herself out with her volunteer work.  It’s about trying to find time to cook dinner for MJ without neglecting the demands of being a super hero.  It’s about the sidequest where you rescue a civilian who, because he’s wandering around New York dressed like you, has attracted the wrong type of attention.  It’s about checking in on the research stations that Harry Osborne set up around the city before he mysteriously disappeared.  Sometimes, it’s just about taking the time to stop and take a selfie with a fan.  There’s plenty of action but, for me, the game was at its best when it was simply about Spider-Man swinging across Manhattan, looking for old backpacks and sometimes taking pictures of landmarks.

Spider-Man is one of the most enjoyable games that I’ve played in a while and I look forward to replaying it.  Next time, though, I’m telling Howard to collect his own pigeons…

Face Front, Marvelites!: RIP Stan “The Man” Lee


cracked rear viewer

I know it’s popular these days among a certain coterie of Comic Book Buffs to bash Stan Lee’s contributions to the medium in favor of artist/collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko . You’ll never find me in that crowd. Not ever. I learned to read (with the help of my dad) at the tender age of three through comics… simple stuff at first, funny books like YOGI BEAR and BEETLE BAILEY. As I progressed into the realm of superheroes, my vocabulary improved thanks to writers like Gardner Fox, John Broome, and especially Stan Lee, who took me to Asgard and Outer Space with Shakespearean-styled dialog and college-level words that made me keep a dictionary always at the ready. Screw you, Dr. Frederic Wertham!!

The Titanic Trio: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko

Stanley Martin Lieber was born December 28, 1922, the eldest son of immigrant parents (his younger sibling Larry…

View original post 914 more words

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday, Spider-Man!


It was 56 years ago today that The Amazing Spider-Man made his first appearance in the 15th issue of Amazing Fantasy.  After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker developed super power but it was not until his uncle was murdered that Parker learned what it meant to be a hero.

With great power comes great responsibility and, as these four shots from four films demonstrate, movie stardom!  Over the years, Nicholas Hammond, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland have all played America’s favorite web-spinning super hero.

In honor of Spider-Man’s birthday, here they are

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Amazing Spider-Man: The Chinese Web (1979, directed by Don McDougall)

Spider-Man (2002, directed by Sam Raimi)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014, directed by Marc Webb)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, directed by Jon Watts)

 

In Memory Of Steve Ditko


Self-Portrait of Steve Ditko

To many of us longtime comic book fans, Steve Ditko was an enigma.

We knew that, as the original artist on The Amazing Spider-Man and as the creator of Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko was responsible for much of Marvel’s early success.  Though he would never make a cameo appearance in an MCU film and the mainstream media will probably always continue to act as if Stan Lee is solely responsible for every character in the Marvel Universe, true fans know that, without Steve Ditko, Benedict Cumberbatch would never have cast as spells as Doctor Strange and Tom Holland would never have swung through New York as everyone’s favorite web slinger.

We all knew of Steve Ditko’s talent but the man himself remained a mystery.  He rarely gave interviews or made public appearances, saying that he preferred to let his work speak for itself.  And what work it was!  With Spider-Man, Ditko’s art captured not just the excitement of fighting criminals and saving the world but also the angst and anxiety of being young and overburdened.  With Doctor Strange, Ditko brought magic, both literally and figuratively, to the Marvel Universe.  Filling the pages with surrealistic images and out-of-this-world creations, Ditko kept Marvel relevant even as youth culture made the transition from the optimism of the Kennedy era to the drug-influenced psychedelia of the late 1960s.

Ditko left Marvel in 1966.  The exact story of his departure are unknown.  Perhaps, as a committed and outspoken Objectivist, Ditko chafed at the editorial restrictions that Marvel put on his work.  While Stan Lee wanted to sell comics, Steve Ditko wanted to reach minds.  After leaving Marvel, Ditko worked for several different companies, including Charlton and DC.  (He even returned to Marvel in 1979 and regularly contributed freelance work to the company.)  The best-known of his later creations was Mr. A, a reporter-turned-masked-vigilante who dispensed of criminals with uncompromising justice.

Despite his reputation for eccentricity, most people who worked with him described Ditko as being personable and cheerful.  According to Charlton’s Frank McLaughlin, “He was a very happy-go-lucky guy with a great sense of humor at that time, and always supplied the [female] color separators with candy and other little gifts.”

On June 29th, Steve Ditko was found dead in his New York apartment.  Rest in peace, Mr. Ditko.  Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.

From The Amazing Spider-Man #33:

In Strange Tales, Ditko introduced my favorite of all of Marvel’s “cosmic” entities, Eternity:

And finally, the character who may have been closest to Ditko’s worldview, Mr. A: