Steve Ditko, comic book artist and co-creator with Stan Lee of such legendary comic book characters as Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, has died. He was 90 years old.
The New York Police Department confirmed to Variety he was found dead in his apartment in Manhattan on June 29. His death only came to light on Friday.
Born in 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Ditko became exposed to newspaper comics at an early age, and found his love for comic book superheroes during the inaugural issues of the iconic Batman character as well as Will Eisner’s “The Spirit.” After graduating high school in 1945, Ditko enlisted in the Army, where he got his first job in the comic book industry drawing comic strips for Army-syndicated newspapers.
After his discharge, Ditko studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson in 1950 in New York City. Through Robinson’s tutelage, Ditko met then-editor-in-chief and future Marvel Comics CEO Stan Lee. He would join the early team of artists, including comic book art maestro Jack Kirby, in Marvel’s earliest ventures.
Ditko was instrumental in creating Spider-Man, conceiving the character’s signature attributes such as his costume, the web shooters and the red and blue color scheme after Lee was unsatisfied with Kirby’s original designs. The character debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, and proved to be so popular that, in 1963, Marvel launched “Amazing Spider-Man,” the character’s first standalone series with Ditko and Lee at the helm. To date, Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes ever conceived, generating over 360 million book sales total since his debut.
Doctor Strange debuted in 1963, but Ditko split with Marvel in the mid-60s after tangling with Lee. Among the other comics he created are Squirrel Girl, Mr. A, Captain Atom and Question. Mr. A was among the characters influences by Ditko’s appreciation of Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy.
After a short stint with Charlton Comics, Ditko moved to Marvel competitor DC Comics in 1968, where he created the Creeper, a minor Batman villain who has made several appearances in the DC continuity as recently as 2017.
Ditko bounced around different publishers for the rest of his career as an artist, sometimes doing freelance work and once returning to Marvel to work on a few issues before moving on to other ventures.
Ditko kept a private personal life, declining to conduct interviews or make public appearances. Instead, he kept to himself and his work. He is survived by his nephew.
Among his legions of fans in the book, movie and TV worlds was author Neil Gaiman, who tracked down the comic book artist at his New York office in the documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko.” Gaiman tweeted, “I know I’m a different person because he was in the world.”
Filmmaker Edgar Wright called him “beyond influential.”