Steve Ditko, who co-created characters like Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and The Creeper, turns 87 years old today.
Born in 1927, Ditko began his work in comics in 1953 and did some of his earliest professional illustration work with the Joe Simon - Jack Kirby shop. He began a long stint at Atlas Comics, later Marvel, in 1955, and by the mid-'60s was one of the most accomplished artists of his generation.
During this time, he wasn't exclusive to Marvel, also working with Charlton; in 1960, he co-created Captain Atom. He would continue to work with Charlton intermittently for decades, including a revamp of Blue Beetle that would see the character reinvented from a magic-based superhero to a street-level avenger in the vein of Batman.
For much of his work, especially once he became famous working on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Ditko's work became known as stylized and almost psychadelic. Introducing characters like Eternity -- a cosmic entity whose design was that of a black shadow filled with images of the universe -- reinforced this sense.
He worked on the first 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man before breaking up with Marvel, and while the conventional wisdom is that Ditko left the series over a disagreement with Stan Lee (who, by then, had given Ditko a co-plotter credit) about the identity of the Green Goblin, Ditko denies that.
For years, the belief has been that the straw that broke the camel's back and led Ditko to stop working with Lee was that Lee had decided to make Norman Osborn, the father of Spider-Man's best friend, the face behind the Green Goblin's mask. Ditko, the legend goes, thought that it felt artificial and that the story would do better to reflect the real world, where it would be more likely than not that when the pulled the mask off, the man underneath would be a random stranger.
"Stan never knew what he was getting in my Spider-Man stories and covers until after [production manager] Sol Brodsky took the material from me," Ditko told Wizard magazine in 2002. "So there couldn't have been any disagreement or agreement, no exchanges ... no problems between us concerning the Green Goblin or anything else from before issue #25 to my final issues"
In the late '60s, he would create or co-create characters like the Creeper and Hawk and Dove, as well as Mr. A, a her who starred primarily in brutal, one-page comics. Mr. A reflected Ditko's Objectivist leanings and took a "hard line" with criminals. Political debate and controversy would remain present in the stories of Hawk and Dove long after Ditko had left them.
Throughout the '70s and '80s, Ditko would work fairly regularly with DC and Marvel in a freelance capacity, contributing to the creation of characters like Shade the Changing Man and Speedball. He would also draw books like Micronauts and Starman. He continued to freelance, with varying degrees of work actually seeing print, until the late '90s.
He continues to write and draw to this day, although it's mostly self-published and largely political.