When I walked away from both the retail and creation side of the comic book industry more than a decade ago, I swore that I never wanted anything to do again with either. I never wanted to buy or sell a comic book again, and I’d lost the urge to write them.
And for a very long time I didn’t pay more than a bare look at the medium. I didn’t go into a comic book shop, and only visited a couple of comic book conventions to visit with a friend who was still selling old comics. Of course I still had a very few friends who were comics creators, so I would see them from time to time, but avoided the subject of comic books, save for the single exception of a pal who was making his living creating an indie comic book.
But in the last few years I slowly came out of my self-exile. I visited a few comic conventions expressly to buy some comics by folk such as Chris Ware and Eddie Campbell that I couldn’t locate in comic book shops. And I recalled why I loved comics in the first place:
The works of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. These two guys created almost the whole of the mythology that we’ve come to know as the “Marvel Universe”. These two fellows, together, revitalized the commercial comic book industry and their work has gone on to become an economic engine that creates vast wealth and employment for untold numbers of craftsmen, artists, clerks, executives, lawyers, technicians, and laborers (and others).
Steve Ditko created The Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and the characters and villains and plots that moved those characters along. Kirby, of course, created everything else at Marvel in those days. Thor, and Capt. America, and The Avengers, and The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four, and Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk, and The Silver Surfer, and a world of other heroes and villains and normal folk who live in his pulp fiction pages.
And, since Ditko’s Spider-Man was my favorite comic book of my youth, I decided to begin to rebuild a set of the issues that Ditko plotted, wrote, and illustrated:
Amazing Fantasy #15 and The Amazing Spider-Man #s 1-38.
I’m moving along, assembling the set. It’s going to take a while, but I’m well on my way. I don’t want any of the issues that came along after Ditko left the book. His vision is the definitive one, since it was, and always will be, his creation. I don’t care a whit for the hundreds of issues that followed The Amazing Spider-Man #38. Ditko’s work transcends the commercial and elevated the form into true art. There is a power in those 39 issues that promote a vision and a philosophy, which is what makes his work superior to anything that anyone attempted after he left the project he solely created.
I admire that. I’d forgotten why I admired it, but now I’ve recalled it.