Tribute: The Top 10 Steve Ditko Characters
This week we sadly lost of the true pioneers of the comic book medium and the era of superheroes in the modern world. Ditko worked with Stan Lee in creating some of the most iconic and interesting characters in the history of comics and worked alongside Jack Kirby is setting the standard and style that would be adhered to for decades.
To mark his passing we’re going to celebrate some of his best characters.
10. THE ENFORCERS
Forgive my indulgence, but theses guys are a personal favourite. Whilst hardly a household name, the Enforcers are some of the more colourful and fun villains in the Marvel canon. They appear in the pages of Spider-Man, Daredevil and X-Men and give them a run even without powers. Gun-toting Fancy Dan, whip-cracking Montana and mountain of muscle The Ox are criminal enforcers, mercenaries and extortionists. Although they later recruited contortionist Snake Marston and boxer Hammer Harrison it’s the original three who are most memorable. Can we get these guys fighting the Defenders on Netflix?
9. CAPTAIN ATOM
Created with Joe Gill for Charlton Comics in the 1960s, Captain Atom was ahead of the curve when comics started leaning into cosmic settings. Born out of the Atomic Age, literally and figuratively, the original Captain Atom was a scientist who gets trapped in an experiment and atomised. He’d then reform his body and have powers that revolved to manipulating atoms. And if that sounds familiar, Captain Atom was to be featured in Watchmen back when it was about old Charlton characters. Doctor Manhattan became his stand-in, something we’re going to revisit later in this feature.
This is an oddity. Jack Ryder is a prominent Gotham talk show host fired for his strong opinions. After being fatally wounded while working security, he was administered a serum by scientist Dr. Yatz. Now as the brightly attired Creeper he has super strength and speed and can rapidly heal any injury. His demented laugh causes pain and a device allows him to disguise his garish costume as his regular clothes. Creeper has endured through Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold simply because there’s few others like him.
7. THE LEADER
The Hulk punching equally powerful foes is a common scenario for the classic character. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko took things in a different direction with The Leader, a janitor who was mutated by gamma radiation and transformed into a green skinned, hyper-intelligent being. He’s the counterpoint to Bruce Banner, being transformed into a physically weak but highly intelligent character. With his telepathic abilities he can take control of a person through touch, capable of leading armies of brainwashed victims against the Hulk.
6. J. JONAH JAMESON
Peter Parker’s boss at the Daily Bugle is just one of the memorable ensemble who fill out Spider-Man’s world, but he’s the one we love best. He’s been a consistent source of entertainment in all of incarnations for decades.
5. THE QUESTION
This solo effort of Ditko for Charlton Comics, later acquired by DC, is one of the most distinctive figures of Silver Age vigilante comics and remains active in the DC universe to this day. A hard-nosed investigative journalist, Vic Sage, moonlights as a vigilante detective where he fights and exposes criminal networks. To protect his identity he wears a ‘Pseudodem’ mask that renders his face entirely blank. The character has gone through a number of versions over the years, but the original was noteworthy for his especially ruthless methods in dealing with criminals. Alan Moore would use The Question as the basis for Rorschach in Watchmen (and for the sake of completion, Ditko also created Blue Beetle and Nightshade – inspirations for Nite Owl and Silk Spectre).
4. SQUIRREL GIRL
Currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity following being reintroduced in her new solo run, Squirrel Girl has long been Marvel’s most optimistic and loveable superhero. Created by Ditko and Will Murray in 1991, Doreen Green surprised Iron Man in the forest with a proposal to be his side-kick. After she rescued shell-head from Doctor Doom he promised to support her entry into The Avengers when she’s older. With squirrel based powers, unbounded good will and her own squirrel sidekick, she’s the hero the world needs right now.
3. DOCTOR STRANGE
In 1963 Ditko and Lee introduced Dr. Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, to the pages of Marvel and with him opened doors to mysticism inspired themes and artwork that have never been shut. An integral part of the Marvel universe and MCU, Ditko brought the idea to Lee with the pitch of doing something completely different. This is one character who has had an immeasurable impact of Marvel.
2. THE SINISTER SIX
This is how I’m going to cheat and include all the Spider-Man villains Ditko had a hand in creating. A hero is only as interesting as his enemies and Spider-Man rates alongside Batman in this regard with some of the most famous bad guys to appear on page and screen. We’re just going to list all the ones we can get off the tops of out heads: Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Vulture, Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Jack O’Lantern, The Tinkerer, Looter…
If we missed any, pop them in the comments.
I think we can all agree on that one. Everyone loves Spider-Man.
Rest in Peace, Steve Ditko (1927-2018)