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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...
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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,!
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This volume continues the Steve Ditko reprint bonanza that we have been lucky enough to have lived to see - I saw some of these comics when I was a seven-year-old. Yoe Books / IDW have given us The Art of Steve Ditko and The Creativity of Steve Ditko and now have started to reprint some of his comics in this and its twin - Steve Ditko's Monsters Volume 2: Konga.

Gorgo began life as a - I was going to say 'low budget' - version of Godzilla, but as the Introduction points out, the 1961 MGM film was a relatively big-budget affair for the producers. The comic book was another matter entirely, for, as most comic book readers will know, Charlton's comic line was published in order to keep their presses running full time, and so was notorious for paying the lowest rates, but letting the writers and artists do pretty well whatever they wanted. The film was also untypical in that the 'monsters' were not evil as such, but merely responding to human interference, and walk away into the sunrise at the end of the film (the Thames runs to the east, so no walking off into the sunset). This, according to the Introduction, was because the Director's daughter was unhappy that the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms died at the end of the film - which he also directed. Anyway, Charlton got in on the act as they had adapted the film Konga, which was (not) a low-budget remake of King Kong, despite Big Ben standing in for the Empire State Building, and their Konga comics were selling over 200,000 copies per issue, so they were hoping for a similar success, and indeed, got it, thanks, we all naturally believe, because Ditko drew both titles. Note that Gorgo is the smaller of the two creatures, the really big one is known as 'Gorgo's Mother'.

This volume reprints 209 pages of comics, plus some covers and an illustrated introduction by Craig Yoe.
The contents are -
P006: Introduction
P019: Cover Section - Ditko's covers for Gorgo #2-4, 11, 13-16, Return of Gorgo #2, Fantastic Giants #24 (We also get Gorgo #1, by Dick Giordano, in the Introduction, along with film posters.)
P029: 'Gorgo', Gorgo #1, 1960 - the film adaptation
P051: 'Gorgo Returns', Gorgo #2, August 1960 - the sequel's adaptation
P081: 'The Return of Gorgo', Gorgo #3, September 1961
P101: 'Gorgo's Triumph', Gorgo #11, February 1963
P118: ' Gorgo Captured', Gorgo #13, June 1963
P138: 'Deadlier than Man', Gorgo #14, August 1963
P158: 'The Land that Time Forgot', Gorgo #15, October 1963
P178: 'Menace from the Deep', Gorgo #16, December 1963
P198: 'The Creature from Corpus III', The Return of Gorgo #2, Summer 1963
P218: 'The Hidden Witness', The Return of Gorgo #3, Fall 1964

Steve Ditko, as you will recall, was the artist who created Spider-Man for Marvel comics, along with Doctor Strange, and also drew a lot of the early Hulk stories. He later created a number of characters for DC Comics, and also some memorable ones for Charlton Comics, later bought by DC Comics and turned into the Watchmen. So show some respect.

The comics reprinted here look to be high-quality scans of the originals, as they have the 'old fashioned' style of colouring, not the modernised style you see on Marvel Masterworks or DC Archives. The stories vary, from 'big monster' stories, to ensemble character-based stories with Gorgo as a backdrop to the foreground activity. These are 1960s stories, however, and many of the characters look like they have escaped from Ditko's Spider-Man. But don't be put off - most of Ditko's characters looked like that back then! These are not necessarily 'great' stories, but they are drawn by one of the great and, in his day, most popular comic book storytellers. Read them for entertainment or nostalgia, but do read them.
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on 9 October 2014
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