Creativity of Ditko, while a showcase of masterful visual storytelling, is almost completely a collection of horror/supernatural stories drawn by Steve Ditko from the 50s through the 70s. These stories are mostly from Charlton titles such as Haunted, Ghostly Haunts, Ghost Manor, and The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves. The essays discussing Ditko and some uncolored and unfinished pages serve as a breather between the tales.
It’s difficult to think of an eloquent introduction to Steve Ditko, who former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter describes as a “founding father.” Ditko gave us Spider-Man and the trippiness of Doctor Strange, for Pete’s sake! He also inked issues of the first Incredible Hulk series and created the first version of Iron Man’s familiar red-and-gold armor. Ditko is even the reason to glance WWE, then the World Wrestling Federation, Battlemania comics.
I’m going to observe what I saw in Creativity. I wouldn’t call it the most balanced or the ultimate Ditko collection. Spider-Man only appears on two pages, Mr. A, Ditko’s embodiment of Objectivism, is in one, and Ditko’s other superhero creations are only mentioned. The pages of the stories are reprinted and retain the same comics-on-cheap-paper look.
Below: a video from Masters of Comic Book Art where you can hear Dikto talk about his work.
The essays, written by comics pros such as Paul Levitz and Craig Yoe, are mostly professional gushing over Ditko. The exception is Amber Stanton’s assertion that her father, Eric, is a co-creator of Spider-Man. Ms. Stanton’s purpose is to bring her father’s contributions to comics history to light. There are also rare photos of Ditko in high school and working with Stanton. They’re interesting to see but not so candid that they’re the main reason to read this book.
These stories were made before the Hollywood blockbuster and the multi-channel TV universe so the artist had to supply imaginative wonder readers couldn’t get anywhere else.
While the storytelling formula is noticeable (bad guy gets what’s coming to him, host of story glancing on between or on edges of panels, etc.), it doesn’t mean there aren’t treats along the way. “One Way Trip,” where a man having angst over his terminal illness imagines a happier, normal life then has renewed optimism after the dream. “Prologue” from Doctor Graves #12 where Graves must send his spirit back in time after failing to stop an alien threat the first time.
“Come Back to Tlakluk” where a American fighter pilot from World War II gets stranded with a Japanese fighter pilot; both are stranded on the remote island Tlakluk but the American rejects the Japanese pilot’s many acts of kindness. The American returns home but is compelled to revisit Tlakluk where the lonely Japanese specter now wants to spend eternity with him. Creepy horror or awkward romance? You make the call.
“Werewoods,” where a boy survives an attack by living trees then returns to the forest as an adult architect to start a housing project. Guess what happens to him? It’s a highlight to see those trippy-coily tree branches.
None of the stories are a disappointment artistically. I recommend Creativity, but it isn’t the most well-rounded collection of his work. If for some really odd reason Steve or any associates read this review, I say “Thank you” for the years of art and inspiration you’ve given others. Three hooves out of four.