Thursday, 29 March 2012

Steve Ditko

(from The Blog & Mail, 25 November 2006)
I finished my review of The Ditko Package and, vaguely dissatisfied, I finally broke down and called directory assistance in Washington State to see if they had a number for Robin Snyder. It's one of those things that I tend to be ambivalent about in the comic-book field particularly when you're looking at a book that's from seven years back. What are the odds that all the playing pieces are still on the same chessboard and in the same configuration? From my experience, not very good. I'm one of the few people I know where I can say that I'm still in the same geographic location I was sixteen years ago, with a phone number that predates that by probably another seven years. And, no, they didn't have a phone number for Robin Snyder on Yew St. Rd. but they did have a number for a Robin Snyder on Canterbury. Now we are into serious ambivalence. What are the odds that it's the same Robin Snyder? So I phoned and asked "Is this Robin Snyder?" "Yes it is." "The Robin Snyder that works with Steve Ditko?" and sure enough it was. My first question was out of my mouth before I could even assess whether I wanted to ask it.

"How's Steve Ditko doing?"

Robin laughed heartily and said, "He's doing GREAT!" with just that level of emphasis which was more than reassuring: communicating the sense that there are probably people in the world where it would make sense to ask about the state of their health and overall being but Steve Ditko definitely isn't one of them.

Robin didn't have much time to talk - he and his wife were getting ready for a trip to another part of the state to "visit the kids" - but I did manage to get some basic information about how RSComics is doing and where he is in his collaboration with Steve Ditko. They've done a total of FIVE Ditko Packages (the one I have is the first) and besides that they've done roughly THIRTEEN other projects in the last seven or eight years. They did have a website at one time, but Robin closed that down and now they do strictly mail order. He said probably their best selling title is the smaller 32-page Ditko Package. I asked him if he had a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to buy everything they have and he guessed somewhere around $110 US. I asked if he sold to comic-book stores and he said they did on occasion but they don't offer stores a huge discount - he said the highest they go is maybe 15 or 20% - so that tends to limit their orders from comic-book stores (which usually need at least 40 to 50% off). He laughed again and said that it's more common for a huge Ditko fan to run across one of their books somewhere and get in touch and then order, you know, EVERYTHING. Which is why the $110 ballpark figure wasn't a real challenge for him.
It's an interesting field where someone who is that much of a comic-book household name (and apart from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby I don't think there's a name in that category in the comic-book field) can still be happily producing his own work on a regular basis and just selling it direct (or, at least, relatively direct) to his legion of fans without Diamond and without the comic-book stores. Not with any animosity, just that this way of doing things suits his purposes and so he's happy to just keeping hoeing his row in his own way on his own terms.

...After I hung up, I thought, You know? Wouldn't it be nice if just once we could have one of those great comic-book outpourings of affection BEFORE one of these legends kicks the bucket or we find out he's in hospital barely clinging to life? Wouldn't it be nice if everyone for whom Steve Ditko means the world (in many cases that isn't hyperbole if you've ever met a Ditko fan - this is a guy who had his own Ditkomania fanzine devoted to him back in the 1980s, long before the Jack Kirby Collector came out) could write to him - while he's still doing GREAT - in care of Robin Snyder and tell him so? And (not to be totally pushy) maybe send along a few bucks for Ditko's latest project (whatever that might be?). I mean, if you don't think it's a good idea, don't feel obligated. But if the idea just really bangs your gong, sit down right now and send a nice letter and a few bucks to:

Steve Ditko
c/o Robin Snyder, 3745 Canterbury Ln. #81, Bellingham, WA, USA 98225-1186
or at least send him an e-mail at
Steve Ditko is the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics and has continued to write and draw comics for over 50 years. Much of his post-Marvel work is available via Robin Snyder at RS Comics (the Ditko Blogspot lists all the Ditko books currently in print).  Fantagraphics Books are the publishers of The Steve Ditko Archives, reprinting never-before-collected horror and science-fiction stories from his early pre-Marvel career.

You can find out more about the life of Steve Ditko in a fascinating 2007 BBC documentary (now posted on Youtube) as Jonathan Ross goes In Search Of Steve Ditko.

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