Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Ditko Dr. Strange Cover

Looking back over my STRANGE TALES collection, I have to backtrack on the statement about the Dr. Strange covers. Ditko did finally get sole cover feature for Strange Tales for Dr. Strange with issue #146. It also was, in fact, Ditko's swan song at Marvel for his character. Just as with Spider-Man, Ditko had taken all he could stand from Marvel and he turned his back on his other major hero creation, Dr. Strange.

Poring over the credits for the first time in some years, I was struck by what I read. Stan Lee is listed merely as "Editor", which is what he was all along. He was always an accomplished editor, nudging the projects to completion, corralling talent, tweaking dialogue. But at some point Ditko had demanded that he get some of the credit that he deserved and settled for far less than what was rightfully his. However, that was Ditko's decision, and I will always assume that he was satisfied with the few concessions that Lee & Goodman begrudged him.

The "scripter" for the story in this issue is not Lee, but Dennis O'Neil, with whom Ditko was able to work from time to time over the years (notably THE CREEPER).

As with The Amazing Spider-Man #38, this was Ditko going out at Silver Age-era Marvel Comics. He'd had more than enough and was heading for greener creative pastures. With the Spider-Man story ("Just a Guy Named Joe") you have to read carefully to realize the implications of the narrative and see the imagery that is stamping "nevermore" on his greatest superhero creation. But with "The End...At Last!" Ditko is obviously walking away from the title and tying up all loose ends.

For years Ditko had delineated the adventures of the Master of the Mystic Arts, pitting him against his most tenacious foes, the Dread Dormammu and the evil Baron Mordo. Knowing that this was his chance to wrap it all up in a neat bundle, he took the opportunity and left no errant fabric to flap in the blowhard winds from Lee. In this yarn he did not leave the identity and fate of the Green Goblin hanging, a grand story arc incomplete for John Romita to write and illustrate. In this case Ditko was able to do it all himself and at least have that much satisfaction as he packed his bags at Marvel and walked his own path.

This cover seems to be by Ditko, but it could very well be something cobbled together by production staff.


MarkGelbart said...

I liked Denny O'Neil. He was a really great comic book writer.

But he made a colossal blunder when he took over the Wonder Woman series and decided to take away her superpowers. He wanted to take away all her superpowers and make her just a normal human--heroic still but nothing special.

I guess he was trying to be pro-feminist, to show how strong a real woman could be, but ironically he offended woman's libbers.

Wonder Woman is supposed to be a kinky superheroine. When he took away her golden lasso, he missed the point of what that superheroine was supposed to be.

HemlockMan said...

I remember when DC did that with Wonder Woman. This was during a period when Marvel was ascendant and DC was fading fast. Marvel was hip and DC was a joke in the eyes of the fans. They were clutching at straws and willing to do anything to grab some of the college crowd that was then pumping up Marvel's sales.

I've never read any interviews with O'Neil about that title. My suspicion is that he was handed the concept and told to come up with some stories. But it might have been his (bad) idea.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Years before I finally came to the conclusion that Stan Lee never wrote any stories himself, I'd already come to the conclusion that DR. STRANGE was a solo creation of Steve Ditko. It was just too different from anything else at Marvel to have possibly been the work of anyone else.

That said, of the entire Ditko run, the ONE story I do suspect Stan was involved in was the origin. Because Stan loved origins, usually insisted on them, and was apparently bugged that Steve hadn't started with one in the first place.

But even there, it's been pointed out to me that Doc's origin is very similar to DR. DROOM's origin. If so, Stan (rather than Steve) may have been swiping from Jack Kirby-- AGAIN. Myself, I've noticed some extreme similarities to both the origin of MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN and the movie LOST HORIZON (which starred-- who else?-- Ronald Colman!!). Therefore, my current theory (open to change if better evidence comes along) is that Stan swiped from Kirby who was paying tribute to Lee Falk AND Frank Capra.

4 different people wrote dialogue during Ditko's run. Of the 4, Stan Lee not only did some of his BEST work ever, but he totally blew the other 3-- Don Rico, Roy Thomas and Denny O'Neil-- out of the water. Oddly enough, Don Rico's single episode on dialogue reads more like a 1970's Steve Ditko solo comic than anything else in the run, which does tend to suggest he may have been fine-tuning already-existing DITKO dialogue. When I see a "writer" only do 1 or 2 episodes at Marvel, I figure they probably didn't care to be doing just dialogue. A REAL writer prefers to write HIS OWN stories-- wouldn't you think?

The credits were not consistent. In one letters page, Stan says he "asked Steve to come up with something different next time", and we got the beginning of what I've long called "The Epic" (the 17-chapter serial). Yet the credits still said Stan wrote the story! (I guess it "helps" when you're the one writing THE CREDITS.)

It annoys me no end that on EVERY story actually credited to some other writer, the EDITOR is listed first (at least, when that editor is STAN). It's no wonder I keep referring to him as "a Hollywood kinda guy".

HemlockMan said...

From what I've picked up here and there in the fan world, apparently what Lee did was insist that Ditko do an origin story from Dr. Strange.

So, it could be that Lee actually did work up some plot elements that he handed off to Ditko to work into the demanded origin tale. It's also possible that he actually did plot the story for Ditko to lay out and illustrate. And it's also possible that Ditko just took the order from the publisher's nephew and wrote and illustrated the origin to make them happy, and that the nephew then did his usual thing and took credit for something he never did.

My money's on the latter.

Kirk G said...

The odd thing is that I never paid any attention to Dr. Strange as it was coming out, except that it was the second part of a magazine that I occassionally flipped through on the comic spinner rack. And I knew that the same girls were in both Dr. Strange and in Spider-Man...cause they both had such odd hair.
But this cover was different. This supremely odd image of the universe in the shape of a man drew me in, and the double splash page of dormmamu attacking Eternity stuck with me. Unfortunately, this appears to be the last Ditko story, cause the artwork immediately takes a dive, and the next issue I remember reading was "Uma walks the Earth" or some such title. Don't know how much later in the series that was. But I recall seeing, picking up this book with this cover off the spinner rack and not buying it. Hey, my allowance was a dime a week...and that meant I had to save my cash for the FF and related titles. All else got scanned and skimmed and placed back on the spinner rack.
"Hey kid, this ain't a library... You gonna buy one of them books or not?"

Fred W. Hill said...

That cover was made from interior artwork by Ditko. Ditko had already quit Marvel when it was made (at that time, covers were drawn after the interior art was done and from what I've read Ditko dropped off his last works for Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and that was that; even that last Spider-Man cover was cribbed from interior art rather than entirely original art made specifically for the cover).
The artwork and writing did take a considerable dive after Ditko left, although the initial "new" artist, Bill Everett, did a reasonable good job. Lee, however, had a far more difficult time matching Ditko's intricate plots and Dr. Strange doesn't even seem to be the same person anymore. But then Peter Parker also underwent a significant personality change after Ditko left Spider-Man, but that was probably for the better as Peter was becoming an increasingly anti-social prig in Ditko's last few issues. We can only wonder how Ditko would have developed the then budding relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy.

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, I recall going through the last Ditko issue of Spider-Man to find the illustration of him that was used for the cover to #38.

Romita has even state that he tried to draw his first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man in a Ditko style so that the fans wouldn't pine too much for the book's creator. He failed miserably at that--his work looked nothing like Ditko's.

Apparently Goodman and Lee were actually relieved when Ditko left because they didn't like his style, despite the fact that he was a fan-favorite at Marvel.