Sunday, 30 August 2009

The genius of Ditko

There is no greater comic art luminary than Steve Ditko. Leaving aside the brilliance of his draughtsmanship, any page of his work is like a masterclass by the world’s greatest storyteller, director and cinematographer all in one.

Take a look at this excerpt from “The Shrieking Man”, which originally appeared in
Eerie #4. The first page introduces us the set-up, hero, villain, dramatizes the whole thing with some vibrant Ditko drawing and atmospheric Dutch tilt, and incidentally slips in quite a bit of vital exposition without us even noticing. (To be fair, writer Archie Goodwin deserves his share of the credit for that.)

Now see what Ditko pulls off on the second page. In three panels he moves us from the set-up scene to a passage-of-time montage by way of a shot explaining the nearby graveyard. Three freakin’ panels, dude! Most modern comic artists wouldn’t be able to pull that off if you gave them three whole pages.

Then look at how Ditko kicks the story action into gear. A camera prowls to the window. See those tangled trees, the contrast of light and shade, the angles he picks, the care with which he locates the asylum relative to the graveyard so that we always know where we are. Again, many of today’s artists would miss this. They’d eschew the long shot to avoid having to draw too much detail, and a string of close-ups would leave us disorientated. Ditko never needs to clutter his frame with detail. It’s all there, but he carries it off with deft economy.

Yep, I’m kind of a fan if you couldn’t tell.

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