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Monday, January 05, 2009

The Steve Ditko Reader, Vols. 1 and 2 - Reviewed in 2003 and 2004, Respectively


If you only know Steve Ditko from his work on The Amazing Spider-man, then you don't really know Steve Ditko.

An extremely prolific creator, the man birthed many other comics projects outside of the famous wall-crawler, and some of that work is equal to his most famous co-creation. This truth is nowhere better displayed than in the compilation, The Steve Ditko Reader, amassed by comics historian extraordinaire, Greg Theakston, and published by Pure Imagination Publishing.

The Reader begins with "The Road to Spider-man," an entertaining account of how the character ultimately came to be; it may be no small surprise to many fans that Spidey's roots go all the way back to the Golden Age of comics, and involve another phenomenal creator, Jack Kirby.

Recountings of comics work, relationships between key professionals, and workplace politics combine to create an enthralling read for any individual interested in the history of comics, and serves as a fitting introduction of sorts to some of Ditko's most awe-inspiring work from the Golden and Silver Ages.

Ditko is largely remembered so fondly because of his style of art. Apparently adaptable to nearly every genre, yet consistent in its individual style, it is as distinctive as it is conducive to great storytelling.

Science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery... they all seemed to be come naturally to Ditko, as he proved he could master each of them.

The Steve Ditko Reader is suggested for anyone who enjoys simple, straightforward comic book entertainment, as well as those interested in the history of the genre. Find it at comic shops, comic conventions, or online auctions and catalogs.

The Steve Ditko Reader published by Pure Imagination Publishing, 160 pages, $25.

Review by Mark Allen

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Last year I reviewed the first volume of The Steve Ditko Reader (you really ought to read it), and am happy to do so for volume two, redundant though it may seem. It's worth it, however, to highlight the work of one of the most prolific individuals the comics industry has ever seen. The first volume having been partially concerned with history and background, volume two focuses completely on reproducing Ditko's comic work. An eclectic collection of mystery, horror, science fiction, crime, western, and, yes, even jungle tales awaits the wise and fortunate reader who chooses to delve into this work.

Ditko's artistic style is timeless. No other artist, before or since, has surpassed his mastery for setting mood, or his knack for characterization. His creations are more than two-dimensional actors on a page; they reach, and grab, and pull the reader in. Quite impressive, especially considering most of these reprints are short stories.
The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2 is highly recommended for anyone who likes any kind of captivating reading, or original, eye-catching artwork. Believe me, there will be something in here for you.

The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2, published by Pure Imagination Publishing, 160 pages, $25.00.

Review by Mark Allen

Star-Studded Comics - A Review From 2003


On January 8th, 1989, Suspended Animation began publication. Now beginning its 14th year, it seems fitting that we look at a new way to buy comic books and strips on the Internet (E-bay) as we glance back into comics history.

Star Studded Comics is one of the earliest, most influential, and hardest to find comic book fanzines. E-bay is an auction company on the Internet, and fanzines are amateur magazines not sold on newsstands that are created for readers who avidly share the interest of the publisher.

Star Studded Comics began in the 1960s and played a major role in bringing fans together who created a loose 'society' of readers that love comics called "fandom". It also created a training field for artists and writers (some became professionals), began documenting the history of the art form, and spurred the creation of comics conventions.

When my comics collaborator Richard "Grass" Green died in 2002, and knowing that he had produced work for this fanzine as a founder of fandom, I turned to E-bay to find his early "Xal-Kor the Human Cat" and "Wildman and Rubberroy" in the 15th issue of Star Studded. Because few copies were printed, what might have taken years of searching in comics shops took minutes to find on E-bay.

In addition, this issue of Star Studded published comics by Landon Chesney, Alan Weiss, Dave Cockrum, Howard Keltner, Larry Herndon, and Mickey Schwaberow; Weiss and Cockrum became professionals. Each story has a raw energy and a large dose of talent that makes this fanzine a 'must have' for serious comics historians, collectors, and fans of Grass Green.

Star Studded Comics #15, May 1969/original price 75 cents [bought for around $20], 60pgs. from the Texas Trio/various artists and writers/found at www.ebay.com.

Review by Michael Vance