I MET STEVE DITKO

Not a dream! Not an imaginary tale! Here’s what happened when I knocked on the legendary recluse’s door.

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UPDATED 11/2/17: It’s Steve Ditko’s birthday! He’s 90. Time to dust this one off because anytime people read it, they either seem to love it or hate it. Life’s rich pageant, I say.

For more Ditko celebration, click here!

Writer, blogger, journalist, whatever, most of us at one time or another have visions of grandeur. That big scoop. That big interview. The get.

We’re doing Spider-Man Week next week here at the ol’ 13th Dimension playground. So I figured, ah, screw it, I’m gonna go knock on Steve Ditko’s door in Manhattan.

A portrait of the artist as a young man.

A portrait of the artist as a young man.

His building just happens to be, amazingly, a 3-minute walk from Marvel’s publishing HQ. It’s a doorman building. I chatted the guy up and asked if Ditko was there. He was, he said. He told me it was OK to go up, but to be careful.

“Sometimes, he comes to the door with a shotgun,” he said, locking eyes.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” he replied, stone-faced.

Then he broke out laughing.

So up I go and I get off the elevator. Just to the left, there it was:

Yes, I blotted out the number.

Yes, I blotted out the number.

I was immediately struck by how big the letters were on the door. They’re the building’s house style, but still. Weird. I almost expected a neon arrow to be flashing next to it.

I hesitated, and then knocked on his door. Four quick, kind of soft raps. After all, maybe the doorman wasn’t kidding about that shotgun.

The door opened, and there he was.

Steve Ditko.

Wearing a white crewneck undershirt and a couple of flannel shirts, one of them light blue, the other darker and checked, both open. Trousers. Glasses, of course. White haired. Thin. A little stooped.

He still dresses like this!

He still dresses like this.

“Mr. Ditko?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Ditko, I write for a website and I know I’m not the first one to ask, and I won’t be the last, but could I have just three minutes of your time to ask you a couple questions?”

I either mumbled or at the age of 86, he’s lost some of his hearing.

“I’m sorry but I can’t understand what you’re saying,” he said. Not really raising his voice but annoyed.

I leaned in close. The apartment was darkened in the front but brighter in the rear. There wasn’t much I could see.

I repeated myself. And as the last words left my lips, he was already shaking his head.

No.

“No. I’ m not interested,” he said, shaking his head again for emphasis. “No.”

I wasn’t going to push it. I backed off, thanked him and he closed the door.

Not exactly Garbo Talks.

But then, as I headed out, telling the inquiring doorman that no, he wouldn’t talk, I thought, “Hell, how many people in this day and age can say they met Steve Ditko?” Even if it wasn’t exactly tea.

Outside, I turned the corner and there was a street vendor. And I noticed this immediately:

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Just like that. Right there. The Amazing Spider-Man.

Can you imagine being Steve Ditko and passing that every day? Every. Day. Can you imagine being the vendor, not even knowing that the private man with the stooped shoulders walking past was the man who co-created not just a superhero but a bona fide pop-culture phenomenon? A man who wanted nothing to do with any of it?

As I walked, I called my friend Cliff Galbraith to tell him all about it. Ditko is a believer in Objectivism and I told Cliff that I wished that I knew more about Ayn Rand, that maybe if I spouted something at this secretive legend, maybe I could have engaged him somehow.

Cliff’s response?

“Ditko Shrugged.”

MORE

For 13 COVERS: A Steve Ditko Birthday Celebration, click here.

For Steve Ditko: A Fountainhead of Creativity, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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21 Comments

    • wow! NEW YORK NEW YORK so nice we all say it twice the oozing talent from that era always wondered were there practical jokes between STAN LEE and BOB KANE in the day? HMMM….

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    • To those who think Stan Lee did not have a hand read Steve ditko or jack kirby with out Stan Lee nuff said

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    • Ditko’s alleged creative partner was never more creative than when he wrote the credits.

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  1. I’m dumbfounded by the size of the name on his door. That just doesn’t seem like any NYC building’s house style.

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      • It’s untrue that Ditko wants nothing to do with “any of it.” He has written many times about the creation of Spider-Man, and is on record about how his role has been diminished by Lee and Marvel. He has also been very clear he has no interest in giving interviews, and his wishes should be respected.

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  2. If he has requested no more interviews or the such, then you leeches that consist of what is called ” today’s media ” should just back off and leave the poor guy alone. He doesn’t owe any of you a single god damn thing at all. If you really respected the man, you all would leave him alone !

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    • Good review/interview!

      I disagree with the others here who proclaim to leave the guy alone. At least you tried. Many other artists of his time have stepped out into the convention spotlight and were no worse for it. I’ve met Gene Colan, Murphy Andersen, Dick Ayers, Stan Lee, all elderly, all great guys. Loved the moments I got to speak to them.

      Ditko could get acknowledged for his work by the fans who respect and admire him. It’s too bad he’s not gonna give his fans the chance. It’s really too bad. It’s not because he’s elderly either. He never went to one fan convention these last sixty years.

      Thanks

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      • I read somewhere, that he did attend the first NYC comic con back in july of 1964,got pissed at the fans, and never went to another.

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    • Exactly I was lucky enough to connect with and become friends. With some of the old remaining Marvel bull penners. Not too many left any more sadly like only five are still living.I got to know three of them pretty good through e-mails and several pleasant phone conversations. Sadly some have become jaded just a little toward Marvel and even some fans. Who abuse their kindness by flooding them with requests of signatures. Only to turn around and sell these items on eBay. Thanks you jerks. So I agree if anyone wants to be simply left alone anyone. Respect their wishes and do so.

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  3. What you should have said was: “Message for Stan?” That could have led to a few things.

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  4. If he had said YES to your request to chat, what would you have talked with him about that hasn’t been reported already? At his agem his desires should be respected. Stan Lee is respected and protected at cons these days since he’s increasingly frail. Ditko deserves the same treatment.
    I just wish he had written it all down abd had it published. I think it’s a book that everyone would want to read! “The True Story Behind the Creation of Spider-man or My Experiences at Marvel Comics” by S. Ditko…..In a better world he would be doing a signing at Barnes & Noble just like Mel Brooks did last week.instead of being bothered by a fan knocking at his door every few days aksing him the same old stuff.

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  5. Dan Greenfield didn’t do anything wrong. All he did was knock on Steve Ditko’s door and ask for an interview or for a few words. Everyone knows Ditko doesn’t give interviews, but so what? If Ditko really wants to be left completely alone, he wouldn’t have his name on his Apt. door, let alone the huge sign that he DOES have on his door. I mean, that was intentional, y’know?

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  6. Of course Lee contributed to the writing, with Millie the Model level dialogue.

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  7. You should have came dressed up as Spidey. When he opened the door hugged him and said DAD!! LOL And got that on video! News t 6 Steve Ditko chases Spider-Man out of his building! Maybe he would had gave you a interview then just for being creative. Or dressed as Mr.A or Dr.Strange maybe?

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  8. At least he’s nice and not like Red Foreman of That’s 70’s Show or JJJ.

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  9. So let me get me this right, article author. You went to Ditkos apartment to get a story. You didn’t get story. You went ahead and published a story anyway. Congratulations. You’re on your way to becoming an accomplished journalist.

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