Saturday, May 24, 2008

IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO by Jonathan Ross


I had Jonathan Ross's BBC documentary IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO sitting on my hard drive for a few months now, but didn't get around to watching it until after I read Ditko's new THE AVENGING MIND. It actually turned out to be quite enjoyable, for the most part. I'm not familiar with Ross, but he was obviously quite enthusiastic about the subject, and it was good to see a lengthy mainstream airing of the issues regarding credit for the creation of Spider-Man. I could quibble a bit with some of the details and chronology as presented, and the whole thing was, understandably but to my mind regrettably, too focused on the Marvel years with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange (Charlton is pretty much only mentioned with regards to the Question, for example, that mostly to lead up to Mr. A, so no mention of Blue Beetle or Captain Atom). Worth watching, to be sure.

A few other quick notes.

It was good to see Jerry Robinson, who taught Ditko in the early 1950s. Flo Steinberg's remembrances about the 1960s "Bullpen" were also a treat. Romita's thoughts on taking over Spider-Man and the changes he brought to the series are interesting.

The interview with Stan Lee was good in that Ross didn't just accept Lee's initial statement about Spider-Man being co-created by Ditko, with its qualifications, but pressed on to find out what Lee's actual view is, which goes a long way to explaining Ditko's recent comments on Lee's tone (not being sure if Ditko actually saw this, since I don't believe he references it directly).

Alan Moore had a few nice bits in here, and definitely the best camera presence of any of the comic creators interviewed. I liked his amusement at the reported reaction of Ditko to Rorschach ("he's like Mr. A, except he's insane"), and his recitation of the chorus to his song "Mr. A" (to the tune of "Sister Ray") is just brilliantly insane. Seriously, I've listened to it a few dozen times.

The perhaps misguided, but again understandable, visit by Ross and Neil Gaiman to Ditko's office (with the camera crew left outside) was a lot less awkward than I expected. Certainly worth it for the reference to Etta Candy and Fight Club.

So, recommended with reservations. Don't take anything in it as gospel, but an appreciated glimpse into a strange tale.

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