Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Post No. 662"

DITKO - The Evolution of A Man With A Hat

Artist Steve Ditko was a child of the 1930s and '40's. It was an era of well-dressed people, especially in city locations as I presume it was in such an enviroment where he grew up.

In those days, men wouldn't be caught dead without a hat of some sort. Mostly worn were fedoras, with fairly wide brims, and, into the 1950s and '60's, a narrower type brim. Men wore nice suits, and ties, and the average man attempted to try to appear nice and neatly dressed. It was the same type of attitude women of the time had, who wouldn't leave the house without makeup, & earrings. For one to wear something like jeans indicated they were poor. Women almost never wore such items of clothing save for some of the teenage hipster crowd.

And thus, such clothing styles highly influnced the way Steve Ditko always drew his people. When he first started drawing male type starring characters in comic books, it reflected these clothing styles, and I would say that also, he was probably influnced as well by various newspaper heroes. One that comes to mind in particular would be Will Eisner's "The Spirit", with his own wide-brimmed fedora, red tie and suit.

So probably Ditko's earliest such characters to look as this were "The Mysterious Traveler" (who appeared in his own title) and "The Green Man" (who appeared in a title called This Magazine Is Haunted.

Both characters were well-dressed with their brimmed hats, dressy-type coats and the like. Their attire set the stage for other Ditko male characters to come.

And circa 1964-1965 we ran into several characters dressed in similiar attire in the pages of The Amazing Spider-man, such as "The Big Man" and "The Crime-Master".

In fact, The Crime-Master most resembles such characters as "Mr. A" and "The Question" (although he was a villian) in the style of suit, mask and gloves.

Who was the next to appear is sort of fuzzy, as BOTH "Mr. A" AND "The Question" first appeared in 1967.

Mr. A first showed in in Bill Pearson/Wally Wood's art/fanzine, Witzend (No.3), and The Question in the first issue of the revamped Blue Beetle title (published by Charlton).

Opinion has it that Mr. A is/was Steve Ditko wanted The Question to "be", but it just wouldn't fit into that time's Comics Code Authority guidelines. Probably, Mr. A was created first, and The Question was his answer to mainstream comics.

Both characters looked very similiar in the way of suit, shorter-brimmed hats, masks covering their faces, gloves, ties, and both had "calling cards" they'd give to their foes. With Mr. A it was the half black/half white one, and with The Question it was a blank cards on which a question mark would magically appear (something to do with a chemical reaction to oxygen, I'm sure).

This suited-man appearance continued with the secret I.D. of Ditko's "The Creeper", as well as many other characters appearing in the various Charlton horror stories Ditko produced in the late 1960s and into the early 1980's, and eventually be the template for Rorschach in the Watchmen series..


At 12:10 PM , Blogger ~P~ said...

Not that it's a MAJOR instance of such hat and coat dress-ups for Ditko's characters, BUT...
when he had to have DOCTOR STRANGE out on the run (from Mordo and Dormammu) in the classic issues of STRANGE TALES vol 1 (issues 130 - 135)
Ditko dressed Strange in classic fedora, coat, scarf and sunglasses.

Some issues had him with gloves and topcoat (raincoat) as well.

If not the very BEST Dr Strange storyline, it is certainly in the top tier, and one reason for it is the realism that Ditko placed into the world that Strange found himself running through in his desperate plight, as well as the real-world clothing styles.



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