Those of you who have been paying attention might’ve noticed a trend in recent Comicscapes. We love talking about this “forever” concept that’s been popping up in Marvel’s mutant books and to a certain extent, has carried over to IDW’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero title. Basically, it’s the idea of a writer returning to a title they’d previously written and picking up right where they left off, ignoring any subsequent continuity.
It’s a clever idea and while we freely admit that we’re not reading any of the X-Forever books (we tried X-Men and were less than impressed, though we’ll probably pick up X-Factor in trade form), we’ll definitely be giving G.I. Joe a shot (which you probably already figured out since we dedicated an entire column to it a couple of weeks back). We even suggested that Grant Morrison should receive a Forever book of his own. While discussing this topic with some friends last weekend, we hit upon one of our most brilliant ideas yet – even more brilliant than the oversized, hardcover Spider-Hamnibus we’ve been pushing for the past decade or so. The ultimate “forever” title…
Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man.
We’ll grant you that it’s a bit outlandish. That it’ll never happen and even if it did, it might only sell a handful of copies. Hell, we don’t even know if Steve Ditko even draws anymore, let alone if he’s still any good. But none of that matters. You can critique our ideas in your own column; we’ll hang out with Uatu and come up with What If scenarios all day long. And this is our favorite one yet.
Steve Ditko hasn’t done an interview since the mid-1960’s, so there’s no official word as to why he left the title he helped create, but according to industy lore, he felt that revealing the Green Goblin to be Norman Osborn was simply too unrealistic. What’re the odds that Peter Parker’s best friend’s dad would end up being his worst enemy? Well… what’re the odds that a kid would get bit by a radioactive spider and not get cancer and die?
At any rate, Ditko allegedly had some problems with the idea of Pete graduating high school and from all accounts, Stan Lee wasn’t the easiest guy to work with back then. So maybe it was an accumulation of a lot of things and the Goblin reveal was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But no matter what the reason, Steve Ditko left the wallcrawler behind in 1966 and never looked back.
Because he’s awesome, that’s why. Because Steve Ditko is equally responsible for Spider-Man’s success due to his input in the character’s creation as well as his stunning artwork. He’s not exactly what you’d call photo-realistic, but he’s got a knack for creating a uniquely stylized world with a completely original and often psychedelic feel to it. That, and he was receiving a plotting credit as early as Amazing Spider-Man #25, something none of the other Marvel artists of the day were getting (though they certainly deserved to). Basically, Ditko was writing the book anyway, with Stan just putting the words in their mouths. Since it was his book, we’re not inviting Stan to come back for this project. Plus, Stan gets enough press; it’s time for Steve Ditko to shine! At least… in our imaginary world.
Haven’t you been paying attention? We’ve been discussing that for nearly the entire column. Of course, we know how ridiculous it all sounds. Steve Ditko left the title before much of what we now know as “classic Spider-Man” came into existence. But that’s sort of our point. If you’re talking classic Spidey, it doesn’t get any more classic than the Lee/Ditko era. The book had a drastically different feel to it back in those days, which of course, is due to the Ditko factor. All of you who’ve always wondered “What if Claremont hadn’t left the X-Men … what might he have done?” – extrapolate on that and apply it to Spider-Man. It’s almost like saying “What if Siegel & Shuster hadn’t sold Superman?” What might have happened? How different might the character and he world he inhabits have been?
For those of you who remain unconvinced, we’ll apply it to modern continuity. Steve Ditko left Amazing Spider-Man after issue #38 in July, 1966.
That was one issue before Norman Osborn was revealed as the Green Goblin. The same Norman Osborn who has been running the Marvel Universe since Secret Invasion. So if the accepted story is true and Ditko left due to a disagreement over the Goblin’s identity, then the entire state of the current Marvel Universe is in question.
That was before Mary Jane Watson’s face was shown. Back then, she was the girl Peter was trying to avoid. His Aunt May’s friend’s daughter. Who knows how the story would’ve played out had Steve Ditko not left the title? Would the two have fallen in love? Married? Would Peter have sold her out to the devil in order to save his aunt?
One last thing… it’s before Gwen Stacy died.
Of course, that was nearly 50 years ago. It’s insane to assume that Steve Ditko would remember what his plans were, or that he even had any in the first place. Those were days where comics were created by the seat of your pants and the only foresight anyone had was to try to top the previous issue. It’s a game of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” and it all amounts to a hill of beans because it’s not going to happen anyway and the truth is, we don’t really want the Steve Ditko of now to return to Spider-Man; we want the Steve Ditko of then. So it’s all a moot point.
But what if?