Legendary comics artist Steve Ditko, co-creator of Marvel heroes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, has passed away. He was 90 years old. According to the New York Police Department, who confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter, he was found dead in his apartment on June 29th and they believe he died two days prior.
Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Ditko developed a love for comics from his father, who worked at a steel mill and had an affinity for Prince Valiant issues. After graduating from high school, he served in the army in post-war Germany by drawing for the military paper.
Upon being discharged, he moved to New York City in 1950, where he studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. By 1953, he was a professional comics artist, working at the same studio as Captain America creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
After spending a year recovering from tuberculosis, Ditko started working for Atlas Comics in 1955, a precursor to Marvel Comics, where he met writer and editor Stan Lee. Together, the two began collaborating on a range of stories for series like Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and the newly-minted Amazing Adventures.
In 1961, Atlas became Marvel, and along came Spider-Man. The assignment fell into Ditko’s lap after Lee wasn’t happy with Jack Kirby’s rendition of the infamous webslinger. Ditko nailed the design, however, and the superhero made his debut in Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which eventually spun off into The Amazing-Spiderman. Ditko would go on to create all the famous first villains for the series, including Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard, and Green Goblin, a run that would end with issue No. 38.
Two years later, Ditko went on to help create another superhero: Doctor Strange. The psychedelic icon made his debut in Strange Tales No. 110 and Ditko stuck around until Issue No. 146 in a cover dated July 1966. At this point, Ditko and Lee weren’t on speaking terms, and the artist left Marvel for reasons that remain a dispute even today.
Following Marvel, Ditko would go on to work at a number of companies, including Charlton and DC, before returning as a freelancer for the company from 1979 until the late ’90s, when he retired from mainstream comics. He would continue to publish through his former editor Robin Snyder and maintained a studio in Manhattan until his death.
Often considered a recluse by his peers, Ditko is survived by no one.