Steve Ditko Omnibus: A Review
When reviewing a reprint volume, I like to describe the product first. That is, we are writing for Ditkomania, for fans of Ditko and many may have some of the originals and may wonder is this worth getting as their “reading copy”. The Omnibus list at $60, but as low as $35 on line. Good used copies are selling for $25. Its 480 pages on plain white paper. It the size of the DC archives and Marvel Masterworks, not the larger size of the Marvel Omnibuses. I prefer the larger size because you can see a lot more details. It’s not totally in color; the last Shade story and the Odd Man story are in black and white. This is a disappointment because they were created to be in color and in this volume looks a bit pale. The art reproduction and coloring throughout is fine. I took out my originals of Shade and Stalker and found the volume’s colors nicely followed the original, but were, of course were far more vibrant. In fact, the originals were printed so badly back in 1977, this volume shines in comparison. The complete run of Shade and Stalker are here as well as about 35 stories, from the DC Anthology titles, such as House of Mystery and Weird War Tales.
The problem I have with Steve Ditko is that I keep comparing him to Steve Ditko. My favorite era of his was the 1960s, both for super-heroes and for his great suspense and sci fi stories at Marvel. With that in mind, Rac Shade follows many of Ditko’s patterns for a hero. He is wanted by the good guys for crimes he did not commit, but the bad guys are after him also. He has a girlfriend, (sort of) who in ambiguous about her feelings because she doesn’t know everything about him. Because much of the action takes place in other dimensions, there is a Dr. Strange feel to much of the art, including familiar looking “faceless ones” and, I swear, Kraven the Hunter.
While most other creators look to external items to give his characters powers, Ditko, often looks inside. Sure, it’s a “super” vest that gives Shade the ability to appear differently to every individual it is the individual’s own emotions and fears that creates Shade’s form for them. So it is what’s inside the person that makes Shade a scary opponent. A very Ditko idea.
These stories are fun, but a bit dense. Comics were only 17 pages at the time and while Ditko had a large foundation to create for his new characters and new Universe, but each issue had to tell a story. I am disappointed that the series did not last longer because the stories get better, starting with issue #6 and Ditko knew how to develop his characters.
The most fun about the Hal Foster looking Stalker was that it was inked by Wally Wood. In his early years, I saw a lot of Wood’s influnce in Ditko’s work, especially in his women. Wood also pops up as one of the inkers in the suspense stories. Other inkers include Royer, Trapani, Colletta, Chan, and Howard. While my favorite Ditko inker is, of course, Ditko, it is fun to see what others do with his work. I liked Wood and Royer inks very much.
The anthology stories are interesting, of course, some are better than others. The 1960’s Marvel stories were darker, with a greater sense of morality. Ditko pacing on these stories are very different from the ones he did in the 1960s, perhaps because he wasn’t working in the Marvel Method, or because thee were so many new writers giving full scripts. I would like to know which stories Ditko helped in the plotting. These stories were created after the Comic Code was updated in the early 1970s so they are certainly more violent. There is a lot of death here and a tad more sex. I enjoyed “The Mating Game” for its take on spiders, something I associate with Ditko for some reason. And for the Crimson Beetle fans, see “The Game of Death.”
I give the book a grade of B!