Chris Mills Tells It Like It Is: The Steve Ditko Archives

Heavy Years: 2000-2010 (Ernest Jenning) is the latest release from Brooklyn-by-way-of-Chicago singer/songwriter Chris Mills. The 14-track retrospective compiles songs from his last four albums, along with two new tracks recorded with DJ Oktopus (Dalek). Mills is currently on the road supporting Heavy Years, and he will also be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him.

Mills: Fantagraphics Books has put out a lot of amazing collections. Most notably, their year-by-year reprinting of the works of America’s greatest philosopher: Charles Schulz. But my new favorite project of theirs has to be the multi-volume Steve Ditko Archives.

Ditko is probably most famous as the co-creator of Spider-Man for Marvel Comics in the ’60s and his subsequent artwork on characters like Dr. Strange and DC’s The Creeper. During the ’50s and ’60s, Ditko also drew thousands of pages of horror and crime comics before the coming of the Comics Code Authority forced him and his industry into mining the less gruesome terrain of sci-fi parables and romance stories.

The Steve Ditko Archives lovingly and chronologically reproduce large swaths of both Ditko’s pre- and post-code output, highlighting his ability to draw gallons of emotion and inner turmoil in tiny sequential frames. Spider-man was famous as the first super-hero with real life problems, and it’s a commonly held belief that a lot of those aspects came straight from Ditko himself. Notoriously reclusive and staunchly committed to Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, Ditko is one of the most elusive and complex characters of comics’ golden age, but these volumes (two so far, Strange Suspense and Unexplored Worlds, both with illuminating forwards by Blake Bell) at least give a compelling glimpse into the creative development of the man behind the panels. For even more insight into the illustrative work of Ditko, try the large-format The Art Of Ditko edited by Craig Yoe or Jonathan Ross’ excellent BBC documentary, In Search Of Steve Ditko.

Video after the jump.