For some time now Jonathan Ross has seemed to be turning into the 'Tony Webster' character from 'The Fall & Rise Of Reginald Perrin'. The older he gets, the younger he tries to talk. His soon-to-end B.B.C. chat-show is basically an ego trip cum smut-fest. The hoo-hah over Andrew Sachs' grand-daughter did him ( nor Russell Brand ) no favours either. Yet Ross ( I refuse to refer to him as 'Wossy'. That's for lesser mortals to do. ) has a fascinating alter-ego, one that we do not see often, namely Ross the film and comic-book buff, a guy capable of making interesting and intelligent programmes. In the early '90's, he fronted Channel 4's 'The Incredibly Strange Picture Show' in which he interviewed B-movie film directors such as H.G. Lewis, T.V. Mikels and Russ Meyer. He also did a decent James Bond tribute for I.T.V. to tie-in with the release of 'Goldeneye' in 1995. That 'other' Ross was on display in this B.B.C.-4 documentary too, a love letter to comic-book writer/artist Steve Ditko, co-creator of 'Spider-Man'. After chatting to celebrity fans such as D.J. Paul Gambacchini ( anyone out there recall that wonderful Channel 4 show he used to do about pop music - 'The Other Side Of The Tracks'? ), Ross began telling the story of Ditko's rise to fame.
Ditko's run on 'Spider-Man' was indeed extraordinary, he had a hand in creating some of the more memorable villains such as 'The Sandman', 'Mysterio', 'Kraven The Hunter', and 'The Green Goblin'. Likec Jack Kirby, he had a distinctive style, his characters seemed to jump off the page. 'Dr.Strange' was something else entirely. Though the idea was credited to Lee, it seems that it was really Ditko's. He conjured up fantastic creatures and bizarre universes that anticipated '60's psychedelia. Then he quit Marvel, hooking up with Charlton, a smaller company. No-one knows why to this day. Rumours persist of conflicts between the artist and boss Stan Lee, particularly with regards to a 'Spider-Man' story in which 'The Green Goblin' was unmasked, but I think the tension ran a bit deeper. Ditko was right wing, and this may have put him on a collision course with the more liberal-minded Lee. One of Steve's later creations was 'Mr.A.' all about a mysterious individual who acts as judge, jury and executioner when it comes to criminals. 'The Hawk & The Dove', a thinly-veiled pro-Vietnam War tract, made him unpopular with anti-war comic-book fans. Ditko felt too he was not being given enough credit for his work. Though Stan was happy to share the credit for 'Spider-Man', this did not placate the artist. I think Smilin' Stan is right on this. The 'Spider-Man' concept did start with him. As he observed, he could have hired a different artist, and, had the comic bombed, would had to shoulder the blame. The programme ended with Ross attempting to speak to Ditko at his New York office. They chatted for twenty minutes ( Ross was not permitted to film the interview ) and that was that. Ross went home happy.
This was an enjoyable insight into the workings of the Marvel Comics Group, and Ross' enthusiasm for his idol was infectious. But I was left a little bewildered by the thought processes of the enigmatic Mr.Ditko. Here was a golden opportunity for him to put the record straight concerning his involvement in the creation of one of the most iconic superheroes ever, and he chose not to take it. Pity. And shame on you Alan Moore for belittling John Romita's wonderful '60's run on 'Spider-Man'.
3 out of 3 found this helpful