The co-creator of Spider-Man, Dr Strange and more, has died age 90
If you're a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's a fair chance that you saw Spider-Man: Homecoming when it came out in May of 2017.
After the bizarre Spider-Man 3 and the ill-conceived Amazing Spider-Man series (that seemed to be more interested in a money-making cinematic universe than it did in making a coherent, interesting story), it was a welcome return to form for the world's most popular superhero. And one scene in particular may have stuck in young fans' minds.
Determined to defeat Michael Keaton's Vulture, Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) finds himself crushed underneath tonnes of rubble, struggling to break free, and genuinely fearing for his life. It was an intense, powerful scene, but what you might not know is that it was inspired by a page from a 1962 comic book, drawn by Steve Ditko.
Having grown up on comics in the 1940s, Ditko worked under the likes of James Robinson, Joe Simon, and Jack Kirby in the pantheon of legendary comic book writers, where he caught the eye of Stan Lee, who commissioned him to work for Marvel (then Atlas) comics.
It was Ditko who designed the red and blue Spider-Man costume we have come to recognise, before creating iconic Spider-Man villains like the Green Goblin, Dr Octopus and the Lizard. He then created the psychedelic superhero Dr Strange in 1963, before a dispute with Stan Lee saw him leave Marvel in 1966.
From there, Ditko worked for DC Comics as well as small independent publishers, before returning to Marvel in the 90s. One of his last creations was 1992's Squirrel Girl, which has become a beloved cult character among ardent comic book lovers.
Ditko was a notable recluse, with Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson describing the artist as the "JD Salinger of comics". Even as his characters gained worldwide fame and his name became well-known throughout the comic book world, Ditko refused to take interviews or any other kind of publicity, most notably in the 2007 documentary In Search Of Steve Ditko. He stated that his work spoke for itself, and in a way, it really did.
“We didn’t approach him. He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger," revealed Derrickson during the promotion tour of the 2016 Marvel film Dr Strange. "I hope he goes to see the movie, wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work."
Derrickson was among several big names in Hollywood to pay tribute to Ditko following his passing, alongside noted directors Edgar Wright and Guillermo del Toro, comic book writer Neil Gaiman.
Steve Ditko's body was discovered in his New York apartment last week, after the properties he helped to create had reached the public eye and scaled to unprecedented heights. As yet, no cause of death has been announced, but Ditko's influence was keenly felt through some of comic books' most beloved heroes and villains. He was 90 years old.