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Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol.1 Hardcover – November 30, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ditko is best known to comics fans as the co-creator of Spider-Man but was prolific before and well after his 1960s Marvel Comics heyday. To this day, he continues to turn out the occasional strip espousing his uncompromising Ayn Randian political philosophy. Befitting his legendary status, every aspect of his career is worth examining and preserving, which makes the launching of a series reprinting his vintage stories welcome indeed. This initial volume collects roughly three dozen of his earliest published (1954) stories, examples of the era’s most popular genre, the horror tale, for which Ditko’s idiosyncratic style was particularly suited, though he was also adept at romance, westerns, sf, and even humor. These blunt, one-dimensional tales, mostly done for the Poverty Row publisher Charlton, may lack the polish Ditko would bring to later work, but his visual approach, including his command of such storytelling basics as staging and panel composition, was fully in place. Every story here is immediately recognizable as the work of one of mainstream comics’ most distinctive artists. --Gordon Flagg


“This book is chock-full of intense faces and monsters and colors. Strong blacks, horror comics, mean revenge, strange surgery…It’s all horror comics from before Frederic Wertham illegalized good-time comic books. The cover is really thick and the hardcover is hard as hell.” (Nick Gazin - Vice)

“With the Fantagraphics logo on the sturdy spine, readers can expect―and receive―a top-quality package with crisp pages and handsome design. It's certainly attractive for some stories Ditko dismissed as 'junk,' but we all know there's treasure buried in trash.” (Rod Lott - Bookgasm)

Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A.” (Chad Derdowski -

“This just in! Steve Ditko book to be awesome: Seriously, just look at this thing. Wow!” (J. Caleb Mozzocco - Newsarama)

“[T]he tales in this tome are sheer pre-Comics Code Authority horror, complete with stabbings, decapitations, mutilations and disintegrations. ...Ditko's talent jumps off the page and one of the benefits of reading the stories in chronological order is seeing his art evolve and improve.” (Pedro Cabezuelo - Rue Morgue)

“These morality fables are seldom subtle or surprising... but it’s Ditko’s artistry that elevates these mostly standard comic book nasties. ... good value, and this is a weighty, hard-packed, deluxe package.” (Paul Gravett)

“This is a cracking collection in its own right but as an examination of one of the art-form’s greatest stylists it is also an invaluable insight into the very nature of comics. This is a book true fans would happily kill or die for.” (Wim Wiacek - Now Read This!)

“If you're interested in the history of the comics genre, this is a must-have.” (Seattle Geekly)

“One of the treasures of the year, filled with tons of the master's weird and wonky comics.” (Alan David Doane - Comic Book Galaxy)

“[F]antastic! ... [A]n amazing recap of Steve Ditko’s entire career in comics... It’s also one of the best designed books I’ve read recently... There’s a lot more to Steve Ditko than just Doctor Strange and Spider-Man.” (Marc Sobel - Comic Book Galaxy)

“If the infected, deformed teens of Black Hole inspired the reader to linger on each page of that magnificent book, Strange Suspense is worth a look. And for the Ditko-curious, this isn't a bad place to start.” (The Typing Monkey)

“It's nice to have a bunch of comics from this time period, particularly the grittier pre-Code or Fear of Code-Like Crackdown work. There are some truly repulsive pieces of throwaway pulp in this book's pages, and Ditko was more than up to the task of illustrating them.” (Tom Spurgeon - The Comics Reporter)

Strange Suspense offers page after lurid four-color page of Ditko’s weird monsters, rubber-faced crooks, and abstracted landscapes... The book is a white-knuckle trip through Ditko’s fevered imagination. [Grade] A-.” (The Onion A.V. Club)

“It's fascinating to see [Ditko's] nascent style coalescing as he tackles a variety of material, already starting to work out the design genius that would mark much of his work, including―especially!―Dr. Strange and Spider-Man, for the next 20 years.” (Steven Grant - Comic Book Resources)

“Man! are these some cool comics. ... Ditko... had no restraints, and the stories show it. This is pretty wild stuff. ... We really get a sense of a master at work in this book, even though it was so early in Ditko's career. ... It's totally worth the price!” (Greg Burgas - Comic Book Resources)

“This exhilarating collection of stories by the comic-book artist who co-created Spider-Man captures all the glorious chills and blood spills from the first two years of his career.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“[A] first-hand look at the singularly warped sensibilities of one of the artists that would go on to shape the modern superhero book as we know it. ...Strange Suspense is a treasure trove of weird excitement from one of the mavericks of mid-century comics.” (Brian Heater - The Daily Cross Hatch)

“[T]he work contained in this hardcover (and kudos to Fantagraphics on the excellent and handsome production work) constantly reminds you of just how stellar an artist Ditko would prove to be.” (Chris Mautner - Robot 6 (Comic Book Resources))

“Okay, I see a lot of books and comics passing my desk every week but ye gods this stood out―pre comic code Steve Ditko. Let me just say that again: STEVE DITKO!! ... And it's a lovely looking hardback edition, the sort you give pride of place on your shelves.” (The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics (November 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606992899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606992890
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Harry Mendryk on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Steve Ditko is best known as the creator, along with Stan Lee, of the popular Spider-Man. However he had a long history as a great comic book artist before that. Blake Bell has brought together works by this prolific artist from the first of years of his career. I am not an expert on Steve Ditko but it looks like this book has all the public domain works that Ditko did that were released in 1953 and 1954 plus one piece from 1955. These are great works, not only because they were done by Ditko but also because they appeared before the devastating effect of the Comic Code. Most of the stories are from the horror genre but this volume also includes a romance, a crime story along with some science fiction and humor. Frankly romance was not Ditko's forte but he did quite well with crime. For Ditko fans, this books is a must have. For those that are not that familiar with Ditko's work, read this book and I am sure you will also become a fan.

In the spirit of disclosure, I do comic book art restoration myself (I restored the work that appeared The Best of Simon and Kirby published by Titan). Further the introduction of this book includes a page from Captain 3-D that I restored. However I neither requested nor received payment for that page and I have never worked for Fantagraphics. I do have strong beliefs about how restorations should be done. As a restorer and a customer I am interested in the actual artists who created the work. When the original art is no longer available, which is almost always the case, reprints should be done using scans from the original comics. I have little interest in books based on recreated art that some publishers, particularly Marvel, use.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Red Eyes on June 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will offer a different view from those who are raving about the book -- I didn't like all of it overall. Ditko himself (quotes included in the book's introduction) dismisses a lot of these early efforts as complete junk, done whilst he was a struggling student, running from agency to agency, hustling for any work he could find, and cranking out some pretty low grade work.

Perhaps he is right to distance himself from them.

Don't get me wrong -- the artwork is really excellent, imaginative, edgy and very representative of its time, much of it evocative of early 50's TV shows, cult movies, and avant garde styles influenced by German expressionism and cinematic styles of Fritz Lang etc. That is a very worthy aspect of the volume -- without doubt. If you are buying it for the art, you will not be disappointed. It is amongst the best of its genre, and Ditko's mastery is apparent in almost every frame. The colouring is excellent too, with beautiful shading and tones. Ditko was a visionary in that regard, predicting and foreseeing many of the aspects that would drive later art movements, such as Warhol's pop art, and the cinematic styles of the 60's and early 70's.

But, the stories, plots and narratives here are just very low grade stuff.

Comic book fanatics know very well, that there is 'bad' comic book writing -- yet it actually works, and is sought after, precisely because it is so bad, it is off-the-wall crazy in its eccentricity. Much of the pre-code comics meet that definition of 'bad.'

And then, comic book fans know equally well that there is comic book writing that is... just...well...really, really bad: and these Ditko stories are the latter.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Darcourt on December 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an awesome collection of pre-code horror comics by one of the master illustrators of the genre. The stories and artwork still hold up quite well nearly 50 years after their initial printing, and for those of us not QUITE old enough to remember This Magazine is Haunted and tales from The Thing, this volume is stuffed with colorful, exciting entertainment. It is beautifully bound together, and the illustrations brilliantly restored. I recommend for any comic book afficianado, and for any aspiring artist, Ditko is definitely a guy to emulate.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Heering on April 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reprints most of the artwork that Steve Ditko drew for comic books in 1953 and 1954. Ditko himself has described his work from this time period as "junk", but he's being too hard on himself. This art may not be quite as good as his later artwork on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but it's quite good in its own right. Most of the comics are horror stories, but there are also romance, western, crime, science fiction and humor. These horror comics are from the Pre-Code era and are sometimes quite gory. Fun times! The art seems to have been shot directly from the old comic books. Most of the comics were published by Charlton Comics, which were notorious for having the lowest production values of any comics. Some may feel that the comics should have been recolored, which no doubt would have resulted in a better looking book, but this way is more historically accurate, coloring errors and all. If you're a Steve Ditko fan, you need to get this book.
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