Howdy folks, it’s Chad again.
Last week, shortly after learning of Steve Ditko’s passing, I began my in-depth investigative piece about My Favorite Steve Ditko Creations that Aren’t Spider-Man. Feel free to click the link to read part one. I’ll wait.
Since Mr. Ditko never seemed to enjoy the singing of his own praises, I thought it important to keep in the forefront his contributions that don’t have the proportionate strength and sticking ability of a spider in the public eye. Please keep in mind this list is totally subjective and could change based on what time of day you asked me, but here we go. To recap last week (you read the article, didn’t you?), here are the tail end of the top 10.
So onto the next round!
#5 on the list is a character who makes the list not because they are one of my favorite characters to read about–as a matter of fact, they usually make my head spin when I think about them too hard. They’ll show up in an issue of Silver Surfer, and I’ll know that whatever Surfer’s doing, it’s serious stuff. This character makes the list because it is the coolest, spaciest, out-there design that anyone ever dared to dream. It’s … Eternity!
For a read pile, I read the issues leading up to this image, where Dr. Strange keeps going from place to place, seeking out eternity. Stan and Steve (or Steve and Stan–I’m not looking for a fight, here) dragged out the reveal over several issues, but once Eternity showed up–it was totally worth it. Keep in mind, I already knew what the character was and looked like, but every time he appears there’s just so much grandiosity and magic and Keanu-Reeves-level Woah-ness about him.
4. Squirrel Girl
SG makes the list primarily for what she is today: a smart, funny, confident young lady that kids can look up to and aspire to be like. Ryan North and Erica Henderson (amongst others) have been creating one of the best gateway comics I’ve ever seen starring everyone’s favorite Doreen Green for years now. She earned her title of “Unbeatable” by facing down the likes of Dr. Doom, Galactus, Thanos, college computer programming courses, etc. Frequently, she solves her problems by kicking butts, but even more frequently, she solves problems by thinking creatively and coming up with compassionate solutions.
Squirrel Girl is one of my favorite modern characters, and without the genius of Steve Ditko, we wouldn’t have her to watch eat nuts and kick butts and help us learn how to solve our problems.
The Master of Illusion! That’s a cool idea for a super villain. Imagine dealing with someone who messes with your perception, who makes you see and smell and feel things that aren’t there. That’s wicked enough. That’s before we even talk about the fishbowl he’s wearing on his head! I would not pick a fight with a dude who has a giant purple cape with eye clasps and a giant fishbowl head–not to mention the almost constant swirling of that creepy smoke. It’s not happening, yet Spidey does it all the time. Mysterio’s the payoff to my Sinister Six tease from last week, but let’s be honest: Any of the original Sinister Six villains could have made this list for their power sets and costume designs. For me personally, I feel like Mysterio and Electro are the two strongest (and strangest) examples of Ditko’s design brilliance. Doc Ock’s had several design tweeks over the years to varying success, and so has Vulture, but any time Mysterio or Electro drift from the original design–the mistake is recognized and they are returned shortly thereafter. Except now that Electro’s a lady. We’ll see how that plays out.
2. Green Goblin
For my money, the Green Goblin is Spider-man’s true arch-nemesis. So much of the early storied dealt with Spider-man fighting against misguided adults. Norman Osborn has been the epitome of the misguided generation holding Peter Parker and his friends back. I know much of the work done establishing the Green Goblin was done after Ditko had left the book. I know there was friction with the reveal that Norman Osborn was the Goblin, as Ditko apparently wanted to drag out the mystery of the Goblin’s identity for much longer. Still, with no Green Goblin, there’s no Harry Osborn. There’s no years of the threat of Osborn knowing Spider-man’s identity. There’s no death of Gwen Stacy. Mary Jane doesn’t see the character development.
Gwen Stacy doesn’t inexplicably have twins that come back years later in a ridiculously convoluted storyline. Even the Dark Reign Norman Osborn was tons of fun, renaming Shield into Hammer, causing government level chaos and checking off lists across the Marvel Universe. The Dan Slott-era Goblin King and Red Goblin changes were …interesting. He’s the one bad guy who always seems to get into the head of Spider-man (except that one time Doc Ock got his head into Spidey’s body for a bit–that’s a tangent for another time). All of this stems forth from the beginnings by Ditko. That crazy stare, the creepy way he movies, the goblin glider and all the gadgets, and that green/purple color scheme wrapped around a conniving character that’s made life difficult for Spidey since his debut in Amazing Spider-Man 14 make Green Goblin a lasting and worthy arch-nemesis.
And finally, we’re down to the last one. Aside from Spidey, Ditko’s finest creation–perhaps one of the greatest characters in all of comics, if not all of fiction. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the #1 character (who isn’t Spider-Man) created by Steve Ditko…
1. J. Jonah Jameson
Talk about a misunderstood character! Too often, Jameson is dismissed as the comedic caricature of the cold, unfeeling boss. He can be that, for sure. He seemed to speak to every employee that wasn’t Robbie Robertson solely through yelling. I can hear him yelling “Miss Brant!” and “Parker!” in my mind’s eye as I type this. People dismiss him as the over the top villain that was responsible for the Spider-slayers or the Scorpion. He did those things, though. Some may point out he’s jealous of the attention Spider-man gets while the real heroes like his astronaut son (and eventual Man Wolf) John are ignored. Sure, that’s true, too. Jameson can be cold, conniving, callous, but he can also be insightful, inquisitive, and a great instigator for entertaining stories. He’s a son, father, husband, and boss who is genuinely looking out for people, although he bumbles and is sometimes misguided. Chip Zdarsky has been really hitting it out of the park with his JJJ stories recently in Spectacular Spider-man. He gets that for all of Jameson’s faults, he’s ultimately trying to do what is right in his mind. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will eventually, so go check it out. Especially the annual with the Allred art that tugs at the heartstrings at the very end. It’ll make you love and respect J. Jonah Jameson even moreso than you already do. Jameson is a character for all situations. He can cower with the best of them, and he can rise to the occasion when absolutely needed. He may not always be the character you think you want in a story, but he always is the character you need if you want to tell a great Spidey story.
Well, that’s going to do it for my list. Thank you, Steve Ditko for all of your fine work. Thank you for your hard work and your inspiration and your characters whether they made this list or not. Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby …and maybe John Romita all are carved in my personal Marvel Mount Rushmore–giants among men (and women) whose contributions should never be forgotten. Thank you, and rest in peace, Mr. Ditko.
Until next time, my friends,
My ghost noises shall have a hint of sadness and humble remembrance!
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