Steve Ditko, legendary comic book artist and co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died at the age of 90.
The New York Police Department confirmed Ditko’s death to Variety, adding that the artist died in his apartment in late June. No cause of death was provided.
“Today, the Marvel family mourns the loss of Steve Ditko,” Marvel Comics said in a statement. “Steve transformed the industry and the Marvel Universe, and his legacy will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, and fans during this sad time.”
“Steve Ditko was one of the most amazing creators in the history of comics, and showed us there is a hero in all of us. Our hearts go out to his loved ones, and everyone who knew him,” DC Comics tweeted Friday.
While working at Marvel in 1962, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Lee approached Ditko with an idea for Spider-Man; it was Ditko who gave the superhero his iconic suit, red-and-blue colors and web shooters.
Following its debut in Amazing Fantasy, Spider-Man splintered off into its own comic series, with Ditko responsible for imagining the visual look for Spider-Man’s villains like Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and the Lizard. Ditko remained an artist on Spider-Man for the first 38 issues of the comic’s run.
A year after Spider-Man, Lee and Ditko reteamed to create Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme that provided Marvel with some of its most surreal storylines and psychedelic artwork. However, Ditko would leave Marvel in 1966 due to creative differences and credit disagreements with Lee.
Following his tenure at Marvel, Ditko would bounce around the comic book industry, including a stint at DC Comics that resulted in his creation of Creeper, a superhero of sorts that would later become part of the Batman universe. Ditko also worked on Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and Hawk and Dove, and briefly returned to Marvel in the early Nineties to co-create the cult favorite Squirrel Girl.
Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada said in a statement, “Only a small group of individuals can claim that they have effected and redefined not just an industry, but popular culture worldwide. Steve Ditko was one of those few who dared to break molds every time his pencil and pen hit a blank sheet of paper. In his lifetime he blessed us with gorgeous art, fantastical stories, heroic characters and a mystical persona worthy of some of his greatest creations. And much like his greatest co-creation, Steve Ditko’s legend and influence will outlive us all.”
“Without Steve Ditko there would have been no Spider-Man, no Doctor Strange, no Creeper, no Hawk and Dove, none of the black and white reprint comics I read in seaside resorts as a boy. No The Question (which means no Rorschach). No Mister A. No mystery,” Neil Gaiman tweeted Friday.
“Steve Ditko was true to his own ideals. 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.”
In later years, the reclusive Ditko refused interviews, even as his co-creations like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange become big screen sensations and pop culture phenomenons. In 2016, Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson likened Ditko to J.D. Salinger. “He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger,” Derrickson told The Hollywood Reporter. “I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work.”
Edgar Wright tweeted Friday, “RIP to comic book legend Steve Ditko, influential on countless planes of existence. He sadly never profited from his comic creations that have lasted for decades, but his work will never be not forgotten.”
In 2007, British talk show host and comic book fan Jonathan Ross tracked down Ditko for an hour-long BBC special. “I am beyond sad,” Ross tweeted Friday. “For me, the single greatest comic book artist and creator who ever lived, Steve Ditko, is gone. Thank you for your tireless brilliance and boundless imagination, Steve, you uncompromising genius.”