While this is a good problem to have, to be sure, it is interesting to note that before Steve Ditko ever created Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, he was one of the more popular comic book artists working in the industry, it was just that his popularity came about due to a style of comic books that were inherently fleeting. Marvel’s horror, fantasy and monster comic books were the centerpiece of the company’s output (while continuing to be bolstered by their stalwarts, like Patsy Walker and westerns) but the set-up of the comic book involved a series of one-off stories. Therefore, while these stories were quite memorable for their time, they were not regular features and thus the only ones that managed to stick into the collective memory were the monster comics that were later adapted into the Marvel Universe, like Groot and Fin Fang Foom.
The issue with that is that the most notable Marvel monsters of this period were Jack Kirby creations. The set-up of most Marvel monster books was that Kirby would come up with a monster for the lead story, which would also be the cover of the comic book. Then, after a couple of other lesser monster stories by Don Heck or Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko would end the comic with an offbeat tale.
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Ditko’s debut at Marvel was in late 1955’s Journey Into Mystery #33, where he drew “There’ll Be Some Change Made,” a twisted little tale about an inventor who is irritated that his ancestors wasted their fortune. So he invented a time machine that allowed him to actually KILL the ancestor who wasted the family’s fortune! The end result is not what he expected…
That’s a pretty dark ending, huh? Dude just killed his ancestor and his wife’s like, “Yeah, don’t do that again.”
Of course, a problem with stories like that is that the Comics Code made it difficult to really go TOO dark with many stories. Here’s a perfect example, the classic Ditko/Lee “Masquerade Party,” where the ending had to be re-drawn by a different artist to, essentially, ruin Ditko’s original planned ending of the jerk woman falling for the literal devil…
Around 1959 is when Marvel began to really lock into the aforementioned Marvel Monster set-up of a lead feature by Kirby, two mid-features by different artists (typically Don Heck and Dick Ayers) and then a Ditko story. As noted, the major monsters were by Kirby, while Ditko tended towards more surreal monsters, but that doesn’t mean that Ditko didn’t do ANY!
From Tales of Suspense #23, here’s the Creature of the Black Bog!
The Totem in Strange Tales #74 was notable enough that they brought him back in the very next issue!
Still, generally speaking, Ditko was best known for his short “twist” stories that would rarely be featured stories in any given magazine, but would still definitely stand out among the stories in these comics. They were so good that Stan Lee decided to just, in effect, give Ditko his own magazine for these sort of stories.
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