On Friday, a spokesman for the New York Police Department said Ditko was found dead on June 29 but gave no further details. He was 90. Fans and comic book artists have since swelled the internet with remembrances, giving Ditko the acknowledgement he never quite received in his lifetime.
The acclaimed comic artist was born into the Great Depression to two working class parents. It was in part because of Ditko’s humble upbringing that he first found comics; his father would share the cartoon section of the newspaper with him for inexpensive entertainment. His real start began during his time in the U.S. Army, when he drew cartoons for the Army’s newspaper while stationed in Germany. Ditko then used the G.I. Bill to enroll in The Cartoonist and Illustrator School in New York and was eventually hired by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics.
Lee and Ditko worked together on a handful of titles before launching their most famous character, Spider-Man, in 1962. The character’s outfit, complete with a face mask, is an element many view as normal today, but when Spider-Man was first released, the outfit was seen as daring. A main way comic artists help readers understand a character’s emotions is by showing them facial expressions––so with Spider-Man in a full-length mask, Ditko was left to reimagine the visual signifiers of emotion, absent of facial gestures. One way Ditko rose above this challenge was by animating Spider-Man with the kind of nuanced, detailed hands he became noted for in all his characters. Ditko also contributed to many of Spider-Man’s famous villains such as the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and the Sandman.