Jonathan Ross: In Search of Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko is one of the legends of comic book art. His unique style still resonates with readers to this day, as does his most popular creation, Spider-Man. Much has been made of who should actually get the credit for creating many of Marvel’s most popular characters, and Spider-Man is no exception. This documentary, produced by the BBC, does not shed a lot of light on the subject, but is still a fascinating overview of the career of one of comics’ most reclusive creators. Through interviews with friends, colleagues, and fans, the creator of the documentary, Jonathan Ross, looks to give us a more complete picture of this mystery of a man.
The show traces Ditko’s career from the creation of Spider-Man, to his work on Dr. Strange, his fall-out with Marvel, and his creation of more personal characters such as the Question. A large portion of the show is given to examining Mr. A, the character Ditko used to explore his personal philosophies. Finally, the show talks briefly about the work he did for DC comics, creating Hawk and Dove, and the Creeper.
For someone who has never really read much of his work (like me,) this program really shows how big an impact Ditko’s work left on many people. Professionals such as Alan Moore, Joe Quesada, Mark Millar, and Neil Gaiman all chime in with how Ditko’s work affected them, and they each have some interesting anecdotes regarding the man and his work. Information is also filled in by people he worked with, including Marvel editor Ralph Macchio and the big man himself, Stan Lee. The interview with Lee is particularly interesting, as he gives a unique breakdown of his arguments as to who created what, but still shows that he is willing to concede that Ditko had as big a hand in the creation of Spider-Man as he did.
The only thing that doesn’t really work for me about the show is the “In Search of” part, and this is largely due to Ditko’s own personality of not wanting to be photographed. The show finishes with the narrator, Ross, making a trip to Ditko’s New York offices, in the hopes of getting an interview or at least a meeting with him, which he manages to do. The only problem is they show him going into the building, and then coming out 20 minutes later. The big meeting is never filmed. Now, I can’t fault the creator for not trying to shove a camera in his hero’s face, in fact I applaud them for respecting his wishes, it just doesn’t make for very compelling television. Perhaps just dropping this section and saying that Ditko declined interview, and using that time for more interviews would have been better.
That’s just a nit pick though. This is still a wonderful look at the life of a man who has chosen to stand out of the limelight and has let his work speak for itself. His characters are still around and are enjoyed by millions of people today, and it’s kind of sad that Ditko doesn’t get credit for the work he has done. Any fan of the history of comics or of Spider-Man the character should see this.