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.|