Steve Ditko — the Marvel Comics artist who gave the world the woven webs and soaring red-and-blue shape of Spider-Man, and the otherworldly shimmer of Doctor Strange — has died, New York police said. He was 90.
Lt. Paul Ng said Ditko was found June 29 in his Manhattan apartment and was pronounced dead at the scene. No further details were immediately available.
Ditko, along with writer Stan Lee, introduced the world to Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man, in a 1962 issue of “Amazing Fantasy.”
A year later, Ditko introduced the surgeon-turned-metaphysical superhero Doctor Strange.
Spider-Man would go on to become arguably the most indispensable and recognizable character in the Marvel universe, and Doctor Strange a member of its permanent pantheon. The adventures of both have been turned into blockbuster films, and both had essential roles in the recent “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Today, the Marvel family mourns the loss of Steve Ditko,” said Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Entertainment. “Steve transformed the industry and the Marvel universe, and his legacy will never be forgotten.”
While Lee embraced his status as a creative god among comics fans, appearing at conventions and in numerous cameos in Marvel films, Ditko was a recluse who won the worship of the most hardcore comic-book geeks.
They were quick to praise him and the massive influence he had on art, film and culture Friday.
“Thank you Steve Ditko, for making my childhood weirder,” fantasy and graphic novel author Neil Gaiman said in a series of tweets to his 2.7 million followers. “He saw things his own way, and he gave us ways of seeing that were unique. Often copied. Never equaled. I know I’m a different person because he was in the world.”
English TV and radio host and comics superfan Jonathan Martin tweeted that Ditko was “the single greatest comic book artist and creator who ever lived.”
The son of a steel-mill worker, Ditko was born in Johnstown, Pa., in 1927. He served in the Army in Europe after World War II and began working in comics in the 1950s in New York, eventually landing a drawing job with Marvel forerunner Atlas Comics.
Jack Kirby, Lee’s artist on the Fantastic Four and many other Marvel characters, took a stab at creating Spider-Man in 1961, but Lee was unsatisfied and gave the gig to Ditko, who gave Spidey the essential look he still has today.
Ditko left Marvel in 1966 but returned in 1979. One of his later creations was Squirrel Girl, who after her debut in 1992 became a cult favorite among comics fans.
He maintained a writing studio in Manhattan until his death, but he had no known surviving family members and was incredibly reclusive, turning down nearly all offers to do interviews, meet fans or appear at movie premieres.
“We didn’t approach him,” Scott Derrickson, director of the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange,” told the Hollywood Reporter. “He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight. I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work.”