Back in 1968 I was eleven years old. Blue Beetle from Charlton Comics was hitting the stands. I was still reading back issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, not really understanding that its one true creator--Steve Ditko--had left the book. I was unaware of fandom and the world of amateur magazines chronicling the world of comics. I knew that I liked Steve Ditko's art and stories and I knew that I identified him with my favorite comic book, but I had no inkling at all that he'd left the book permanently and that there were good reasons why he'd done so.
In the meantime, there were new comics from Ditko. Blue Beetle was one of these. Later, I had HAWK & DOVE and THE CREEPER to read. Along with thousands of Ditko's fans, I'm sure there was another important spectator looking on.
I have no doubt that Lee was curious about Ditko's new career turn outside of the Marvel Bullpen. I also have no doubt that Stan Lee felt some angst about the fan base turning away from Marvel Comics and toward DC or Charlton or Warren for that matter. All to follow one of Marvel's finest creators who'd jumped ship to seek his fortune elsewhere. Did the folk at Marvel look each month to their competitors' sales figures, hoping that Ditko's efforts with BLUE BEETLE and CAPT. ATOM and his projects at DC Comics would fail? If so, their hopes were borne out, as all of Ditko's efforts to repeat the success of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange failed as he moved away from his previous employer to try to strike gold again. Not to say that his intellectual property did not bear fruit. Blue Beetle went on to become something that continued to be used again and again by its corporate owners. Captain Atom is being published to this day, and he was used as the template for Dr. Manhattan who was integral in the success of THE WATCHMEN and for the wildly popular film that was fruited by that graphic novel. His character THE QUESTION is still making profits for DC and also served as part of THE WATCHMEN, as did his version of the Blue Beetle. Ditko's creations have made billions of dollars for other people, but the great mass of the reading and viewing public is hardly aware of his existence and of his contribution to comic artwork and film.
Did Stan Lee and Martin Goodman get satisfaction on seeing Ditko's initial creations be discontinued, one after the other? Did they laugh as they raked in millions from the sweat of Ditko's brow, never giving him his proper due?
I read these issues of BLUE BEETLE and wonder how those who profited most from his creations felt about these initial financial failures.
BLUE BEETLE #3. Ditko left Marvel, but continued to work his magic at Charlton.