November 2, 2009
Spider-Man and Dr. Strange co-creator STEVE DITKO (born 1927) is the third member of the triumvirate of genius that originally conceived the Marvel Universe. Yet while Stan Lee and Jack Kirby reflected aspects of the New York Jewish psyche, Ditko hailed from a small (Johnstown, PA) Czech-American community. In fact, Ditko’s work is suffused with the paranoia of a small Middle European nation forever bullied by Empires on all sides (J. Jonah Jameson’s toothbrush moustache is no coincidence.) This paranoia is shared by another Czech who wrote a famous story about an ordinary man’s troubling insectoid transformation. But while Kafka’s The Metamorphosis leaves poor Gregor powerless, the put-upon Peter Parker is empowered to explore a heroic, yet problematic, narrative as Spider-Man. In Ditko’s elegantly moody work, we also find Mitteleuropean mysticism: the frozen spectre of the shadow, the intricacies of the web, and the topography of Doctor Strange’s mystic landscapes are a language both of impossible hope and enveloping voids.
Each day, HILOBROW pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.