on 24 April 2013
I adore Ditko's art with a depth that defies comprehension, and this is from his early sixties prime, but I can't recommend it to anyone who doesn't already share that love. Unless that person happened to have an equally deep love for old monster movies with a cheesiness quotient that would put Stinking Bishop to shame.
The stories gathered here are Ditko's comic-book adaptation of the original "Gorgo" movie plus those follow-up issues which he also illustrated (he didn't do the whole series, which was published by Charlton Comics in the very early sixties). They're goofy, rather charming and full of incidental amusements which almost make you think that writer Joe Gill was enjoying himself, but they're so silly it's hard to imagine them satisfying any reader over the age of eight or so.
So it's that familiar theme in American comics - stories that don't really merit the lovely art by which they're told. Ditko was on fine form when he was knocking these out, as they come from the same time as he was starting up Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. The art here has all his usual strengths (rich atmosphere, excellent design work and truly accomplished story-telling), plus a sense of exuberance and fun that's less common in the more serious Marvel work. It's lovely, lovely stuff, but anyone keen to investigate Ditko should start with the sixties Marvel work, because however good the art here, even if you're not put off by the, err, basic stories, you'll certainly be put off by the Charlton lettering. Charlton were the all-expenses-spared outfit at the very bottom of the pile when even the more upmarket comics publishers were considered little more respectable than dope peddlers. Their notorious penny-pinching polices were reflected in pretty much every aspect of their output, including the lettering. Some stories here have hand-lettering, while some seem to use Letraset. Either way, it's hideous.
Ironically, the production values in the book itself are handsome, as always with Craig Yoe books. It's a large format, well-designed hardback with an informative and amusing introduction. The stories themselves are printed from scans of the original comics (the original art is almost certainly lost). As they're printed on good, heavy paper stock as opposed to Charlton's cheap pulp (which was virtually transparent), the reproduction is surprisingly clear and sharp, and the colours are vivid and lush. So they look better than the originals, but still look like the cheesy old comic books they are. Which is entirely fine - attempting to present them in a slicker manner, even if it were possible, wouldn't be appropriate.
The three stars don't reflect my own feelings about the book - I love it, because I love Ditko's work, even in embarrassing, dopey monster comics for kids, like this here - but they're an attempt to be objective and to place it in context. That context being (a) if you love Ditko, waddaya waiting for? (b) if you don't know Ditko, or have a more casual interest, you really don't want to start here, even though many of his virtues are present and correct. It sure is fun though...
on 7 June 2013
It's strange seeing a familiar art style from the height of his powers, but having no historic attachment to it, ie I didn't even know these stories existed. Loved the simplicity of the plots and loved even more the great, great Ditko art.
Can't wait for Konga,!