Monday, September 21, 2009

Review: DITKOMANIA #73 and #74

Rob Imes (formerly editor of TUNE IN and creator of NOZ) revived Bill Hall's long dormant DITKOMANIA fanzine last year. This alone would be good news to all us Ditko-philes, but Rob has been putting on a veritable fanzine publishing workshop.

Not only does he put out issues regularly, the quality of printing has been consistently high (solid blacks, clear typesetting, and few, if any, typos).

What makes DITKOMANIA stand out is the depth and diversity of it's content, inspired by the unique career of Mr. Ditko naturally, but fostered by Rob's editorial vision, as well.

DITKOMANIA #73 is the Dr. Strange-themed issue. It starts out with a fun Fred Hembeck cover (see top of post). Riffing on his "Petey" stories starring a young Peter Parker, Fred de-ages Dr. Strange, Clea, and Baron Mordo for a cute scene.

Artist Winston (LITTLE MISS STRANGE) Blakely's "Dr. Strange: Master of Black Magic" succintly recaps Dr. Strange's origin, accompanied by a Blakely illustration of the series main characters.

"An Examination into the Beginnings of Dr. Strange" by historian Nick Caputo is in fact a long detailed examination of the development of Dr. Strange through his creation and entire Ditko run. It is supported by copious quotes from primary sources, and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Lee/Ditko stories. Some very evocative illustrations by Larry (TALES OF FANTASY) Johnson, also.

Longtime comics reviewer/analyzer (he contributed to the first issue issue of DITKOMANIA in 1983 and the first magazine-sized issue [#37] of THE COMICS JOURNAL in 1977) Christoph Melchert compares themes such as "loneliness" "reality" "graphic inventiveness" and "intractable nature" in Steve Ditko's SPIDER-MAN and "Dr. Strange" series. This is a concisely written essay that brings up many similarities than I not only never noticed, but for which I wouldn't have even thought to look.

Michael Aushenker's regular column "Ditkotomy" has a review of DITKO ONCE MORE, one of Steve Ditko's new series of comic-book-formatted releases from Robin Snyder.

The issue is capped by an old-fashioned letters page (don't they call these "comment threads" in the 21st century. just kidding.) with letters and debate from Sam Kujava, Sam Gafford, Jason Sacks, Mike Tuz, Jim Kingman, Michael Aushenker, Batton Lash, Nick Caputo, and Nic Carcieri (chairman, United Fanzine Organization).

DITKOMANIA #74 has a "Ditko at DC" theme , it starts off with a rare Ditko "Shade the Changing Man" drawing from the cover of THE COMICS JOURNAL #33 (1977).

Editor Rob Imes leads off this issue with a review of the latest Ditko comic-sized effort from Robin Snyder, DITKO PRESENTS. Stories include: "The Madman" "The !?" "A Crime Story" and "Miss Eerie."

Ceylon Anderson contributes the timely "The Charlton Action Heroes and the Watchmen" which compares the various characters, and how Alan Moore might have reinterpreted the Charlton Action Heroes into his extreme vision of Watchmen. This is such a thorough examination right down to comparing scene to scene Watchmen and Chartlotn comics.

Brian Franczak gives us a three-page tour of all of Steve Ditko's work from 1966's STRANGE ADVENTURES #188 to TALES OF THE NEW GODS TPB in 2008. A lot of this stuff passed under my radar when I was a young comics reader, although I fondly remember his LEGION OF SUPERHEROES stint and that strident pin-up for SUPERMAN 400.

"The Story of Stalker" by Bryan Stroud is an in-depth reading of STALKER 1-4. Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko, and Wallace Wood's 1975 sword-and-sorcery series. This is a title I knew nothing about, so I learned quite a bit about this obscure (to me, at least) series.

"A Fleeting Shadow: Ditko on Batman" by Nick Caputo really suprised me as I had no idea Ditko had ever drawn the character. Or, for that matter, drawn him so well (almost completely black in the sample page printed with the article!).

Michael Aushenker's "Ditkotomy" column this issue examine's Ditko's place in mainstream comics: DC in particular and the peculiar heroes he created (or illustrated) there in general). I love the following line, "Ditko, in truth, was never truly conventional [...]." (New talent Javier Hernandez (EL MUERTO, MAN SWAMP, and podcast ), no relation to Los Bros Hernandez, turns in some nicely stylized illustrations for this article. Exceptional vision of the Creeper character.)

Greg Turner (central mailer of APA-LSH) turns in a rundown of Ditko's unjustly forgotten work (although to be fair, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen's classic "Great Darkness Saga" began several issues after Ditko's last!) on LEGION OF SUPERHEROES 1980-81. Turner has an interesting way of naming each character Ditko draws on-model and off.

Nick Caputo tracks down obscure Ditko in two unpublished DC mystery stories, and one being published in THE UNEXPECTED #221, er, unexpectedly. DITKOMANIA is best at tracking down these unpublished stories or series.

The letters page for this issue features famous Ditko-fan Dave Sim, Larry Johnson, Mike Tuz, Jason Sacks, Bryan Stroud, and Christoph Melchert.

If you like Steve Ditko's comics now, or have in the past, I recommend you check out Rob Imes' DITKOMANIA. Website: . Ordering information: .

Robin Snyder has 16 Steve Ditko comics and books in print currently, from KONGA reprints (THE LONELY ONE, $11) to Ditko's forthcoming newest self-published comic A DITKO ACT TWO. My all-time favorites are THE MOCKER ($15) and the massive collection of old and new comics and essays AVENGING WORLD ($25). Looks like Mr. A may be collected in the future, as well.


  1. Thanks for the review, Gary! Incidentally the new issue of DM (#75) will be released in a few days!

  2. Gary, I just discovered your blog. Thanks for the nice words about my art in DITKOMANIA #74. My friend Michael Aushenker suggested I contribute, as I've always been an admirer of Ditko's work. I contributed more artwork, and an essay, to the new issue, #77.

    And while I am indeed not related to Los Bros. Hernandez (as far as we know!), I'm a fan of their work as well. I've really been enjoying Gilbert's recent non-L&R graphic novels. His art has always had a Ditkoesque-feel to it, particularly how he creates textures with stippling and cross-hatched patterns.

    Kind regards,

    Javier Hernandez