Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"Strange Ways"




One of my favorite time periods of Steve Ditko's art was actually right after he left Marvel and was working for Charlton Comics. Of course, I loved his work on such characters as Captain Atom, Blue Beetle & The Question but also his horror-type art on titles such as Ghostly Tales, Space Adventures & The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves.

Dr. Graves especially. This character was started out as a bit of a second-rater in Ghostly Tales No. 55 in 1965 (a title continuation from Charlton's attempt at reviving the original: "Blue Beetle") as just a back-up feature. It wasn't long tho' until the company had given him his own title (in 1967). And, like many characters associated with horror-type comics, his part in the book was more or less to introduce the stories. Ditko took this character and improved upon him by making him into another "Dr. Strange".

Case in point was issue #12 of Dr. Graves where the good doctor was in in sanctuary located in The Village (sound familiar?) and senses the pressence of an "ultimate evil". He uses spells to release his ecto-plasmic self which grows to a gigantic size and confronts a huge evil alien in space. They battle one another with various spells and the alien cannot find a weakness in Graves, so he attacks the earth itself sending a huge firey mass towards it which literally destroys the planet!

Beside himself with guilt of not being able to save Earth, Graves sends his spirit back in time to join with his physical form some days before. His past self doesn't realize this has happened, but does have a premonition of some approaching danger, and soon discovers the evil menace he's yet now to confront.

He tries to come upon a plan that will defeat the menace by trying to weaken himself so that the alien will attack him rather than the earth, and travels into another dimension. But he fails and returns to his physical self, only to later discover how to do what he was wanting with a weakness, then the story begins anew back at the point where he leaves his physical body again to confront the menace. This time, the alien does indeed sense his weakness and attacks Graves, but expends so much energy that he grows weaker. As the alien grows weaker, Graves grows stronger and then actually fights the aliens hand-to-hand until he's defeated. His strength renewed, his grows back to a gigantic size and tosses the Ultimate Evil far from our galaxy, then returns back to his form on the Earth.

The story concludes with him wondering how he "knew" that this was all going to happen in the first place!

The story isn't as well written, dialogue-wise as a Dr. Strange tale, but Ditko didn't have Stan Lee to handle that part (and you can say a lot about ol' "Smilin' Stan", but you gotta admit he wrote some great word balloons!)
Ditko went on to do artwork in many issues of this title all the way up til it ended with #72 (in 1982).

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