Many ‘fans’ of Steve Ditko love the BBC documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko” – missed it? Check the YouTube link below. During it’s year of release, 2007, many viewers shared their thoughts on the documentary, and one from a writer on behalf of CBR had many interesting things to say (including some criticisms I agree with):
This weekend, I have mostly been watching “In Search Of Steve Ditko,” the upcoming BBC4 programme where Jonathan Ross goes in search of his comics artistic hero.
Jonathan Ross is a national institution in the UK. In the mold of David Letterman, he has created a number of chat show formats, as well as introducing Britain to Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, whose influence in British comedy would dominate the nineties. He’s a regular participant of “Comic Relief,” a weekly BBC Radio 2 show, the host of the BBC’s weekly film review show and the recipient of an £18 million deal over five years at the BBC. Which he has spent mostly on comics. He used to own a comic shop in Soho, London called Top Ten, is the biggest single customer of comics in the UK and owns a number of copies of “Amazing Fantasy” #15.
American comic geeks probably know him best for kissing Neil Gaiman at the Eisners this year.
So what better man to introduce Britain, especially the snobby arty types like me who watch BBC4, to Steve Ditko?
And he does an admirable job. With comics fan BBC Radio DJ Paul Gambaccinni and Mark Millar both enthusing over Jonathan’s collection (Mark discovering the only way to get a word past Paul is to be filmed on a separate camera), Ross plots Ditko’s career and influence, talking to Cat Yronwode, Flo Steinberg, Joe Quesada, John Romita Sr., Joseph Rubenstein and many more. Ross even shows a clip from the bloodthirsty Turkish Spider-Man TV show. And Alan Moore recited his Steve Ditko song lyrics.
And Ross paints a man of mystery of strange genius, of peculiar politics who came to Marvel, left his mark and then left, never being truly acknowledged for his influence. Annoyingly it cuts out Ditko’s return to Marvel with projects such as “Machine Man” and “Speedball,” seemingly because it spoils the narrative being painted.
But amazingly, Ross does something with Stan Lee that I’ve never seen on camera. He presses the point over Stan’s acknowledgement of Steve Ditko as co-creator of Spider-Man and for about twenty seconds, Stan drops the mask. The huckster, the showman, the face-front of Marvel is gone and you see the true man behind… before the mask comes back up again. For someone who’s been brought up on Stan Lee, hell I even interviewed him myself twelve years ago, it’s incredibly unsettling and worth the whole programme.
And then Ross, hand in hand with Neil Gaiman, goes stalking Steve Ditko across New York City, giving anyone else who wishes to do the same all the information they need. Do they succeed? Well, that’s presumably one of the reasons you’ll want to watch the show.
It’s a bizarre show, both Ditko/Comics 101 for a general audience, but also exploring some of the myths and legends that genuinely have grown up around Ditko, with an incredibly enjoyable presenter who means every word he says.
The show airs on BBC4 on September 18th at 9:30pm for 60 minutes. Odds are it’ll be on YouTube the day after. Set your Sky Plus boxes… now!
Original link: Stalking Mr. Ditko (CBR, 2007)