Wood led the charge with his self-published magazine witzend, where Ditko (who was reportedly friends with Wood) was finally allowed to create a character he fully owned in its third issue: Mr. A (1967). The two first joined up a year earlier as penciller and inker; Ditko the former; Wood the latter. The idea was probably initiated by Wood, who was packaging titles for Tower comics. While Wood was heavily involved in overseeing the stories and art, even with assistants he was unable to handle everything, particularly since the titles were double the size of standard comic books (Tower publisher Harry Shorten decided on publishing oversize 25 cent comics). Wood peppered T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Dynamo and Noman with many well-known and talented professionals, including artists Mike Sekowsky, George Tuska, Dick Ayers, Reed Crandall, Paul Reinman and Chic Stone. Wood soon sought out Ditko to illustrate stories, in some cases doing the complete art; others to be inked by Wood.
The combination was stunning and worthy of a thorough examination.
This post will cover every story the Ditko/Wood team produced in (as much as can be determined) chronological order.
"Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor" inking assistance by Dan Adkins. Tim Battersby worked on the script (per his work records) with Wood possibly involved. Dynamo # 1, August 1966.
Another reason I assigned this story as "first" is the serendipitous "Ditko/Wood" street sign heralding their collaboration. Ditko's signature showed up in a similar manner on a Charlton cover years earlier, so it's a distinct possibility Ditko playfully added the credits here.
Ditko's fight-scene choreography has been admired by many comic book aficionados, and with good reason, as page 8 from "Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor" illustrates.
Panels from page 8 and 9 and the entirety of page 10; "A Matter of Life and Death", T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents # 7, August 1966. In an unusual move for the time, Dan Adkins had the idea of killing one of the Thunder Agents. After receiving approval from editor Samm Schwartz Ditko was assigned to the story. Who else could convey emotions of disbelief, anger and grief with a sense of craft and authenticity? Adkins script, layouts and inking assist.
Dynamic splash page art showcasing Ditko's poses and command of anatomy combined with Wood's lush inking. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents # 12, April 1967.
Weed, a member of the Thunder Agents, was played for laughs in stories where he was the featured player. The characters likeness was based on Wood's, who likely scripted stories he starred in. Ditko had a good feel for humor, exaggerating postures and hand gestures and Wood added sex appeal with his rendering of femme fatal villain The Iron Maiden. "Once Upon a Time..", Dynamo # 4, June 1967.
Credits were occasionally hidden in backgrounds, as seen in this panel. Ditko's name appears on a billboard (as does RR for Ralph Reese); Wood's on a bus. Wood's then-wife, Tatjana's name is partially visible on the side of a building. Tatjana was a talented colorist and likely did the honors on this story.
The adventures of Dynamo were not always taken as seriously as some of his super-heroic peers, an influence imposed by Wood. Here is another example of Ditko character-types populating a story, including satirical beatniks and mobsters. "Return Engagement", T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents # 14, July 1967. Wood layouts and possible script, with inking assistance by Dan Adkins.
While this Dynamo story is drawn solely by Ditko I decided to include it because Wood may have been involved as plotter (with Roger Brand scripting) as posited on the Grand Comic Book Database. If so, its still an example of the two working together (and besides, I liked the page so much I HAD to share it!). "Dream of Doom!", T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents # 16, October 1967.
"The Wizard of Dark Mountain!", Bhob Stewart, script and layouts; Steve Ditko finished pencils; Wally Wood inks, with possible assistance from Dom Sileo and others, Bill Yoshida lettering. Jungle Jim # 22, February 1969.
On his blog Bhob Stewart explained that Jungle Jim was originally an assignment Wood produced for King Features, the newspaper syndicate who decided to start a comic book line utilizing some of their popular characters. Unimpressed with sales figures, management decided to drop the line, selling off the remaining material to Charlton. Stewart recounts that, with a deadline fast-approaching, Wood recruited a number of artists to get the stories completed, including Ditko:
Wood turned that one ("The Wizard of Dark Mountain") over to Steve Ditko, who followed my rough layouts with such precision that he carefully included every detail. I saw that he had made a few slight alterations and improvements. On page five, panel five, I had Jungle Jim holding Rima’s ass as he gave her a boost into the ventilating shaft; Ditko gave it a simple change to make it acceptable to the King editors. On page three, panel four, my rough of the trio rock climbing was awkward, and he easily solved the problem by repositioning the characters.
You can read a more detailed account of Stewart's work with Wood on Jungle Jim here: http://potrzebie.blogspot.com/2012/04/heres-another-of-jungle-jim-stories-i.html
Jungle Jim makes a brilliant observation on this page from "Reptile God of Lost Island". Issue # 27 of Jungle Jim (December, 1969) includes three stories by the Ditko-Wood combo. Charlton apparently retained some of the inventory they acquired from King Comics, since these stories appeared ten months after assigning writer Joe Gill and artist Pat Boyette to the comic (they produced most of the Jim stories in issue #'s 23-26). Go figure!
"The Beast Man and the Man Beast" is the second Jim story featured in JJ # 27. Ditko may have only contributed layouts or breakdowns, with finished art by Wood and other unknown assistants. I see less of his pronounced style on many pages, although panel four (Jim's pose) and the villain's fingers in panel five point to Ditko's input.
"Winged Fury", the final Jim tale appearing in issue # 27, has a more pronounced Ditko presence, from the characters poses to the bat-winged creature lurking above the heroes. Bill Yoshida lettering on all stories.
Heroes, Inc. presents Cannon, 1969. Story/inks by Wood; pencils by Ditko.
In 1969 Wally Wood produced a comic book for the publisher of Overseas Weekly, where he had created Sally Forth and other comic strips for Military News, a paper distributed to G.I.'s. and circulated on Army bases. Heroes, Inc. was not restricted by Comics Code regulations and included
doses of violence and sexuality. The stories and characters were all copyrighted in Wood's name, which was another incentive for the artist. Wood recruited Ditko to pencil the 12 page lead feature, Cannon, a soldier turned into an unemotional fighting machine and sent on missions by the US government. Freed from the confines of the Code Ditko and Wood turned in one of their most impressive pencil/ink jobs.
From 1970-1973 Ditko and Wood went their separate ways creatively; Ditko working primarily for Charlton while writing and drawing Mr. A, Avenging World and other independent comics appearing in fanzines and small press publications; Wood was busy inking stories for DC, drawing and occasionally writing material for Warren Publishing's black and white magazines (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirilla) and producing creator-owned tales in witzend and for overseas publications.
The impressive splash page to The Destructor # 1, February 1975. Inking assistance by Paul Kirchner; lettering by John Duffy; coloring by Bhob Stewart.
Mobsters, heroes and classic storytelling. "Deathgrip!", The Destructor # 2, April 1975. Archie Goodwin script; Paul Kirchner inking assist; Dave Hunt letterer.
From his dark glass to the metallic hands Deathgrip is reminiscent of the insane scientist Dr. Gogol as played by Peter Lorre in the 1935 thriller Mad Love. Perhaps author Goodwin suggested the visual reference to Ditko?
In late 1974 Ditko and Wood were reunited under the auspices of Atlas-Seaboard, a new comics company overseen by former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman. In an effort to get some of the top creators in the field to join, Goodman offered higher rates and a return of original art pages. Ditko penciled a few titles for the company, notably The Destructor, a teenage superhero with a hard edge. Ditko, of course, was no stranger to teen heroes, having previously crafted both Spider-Man and The Hawk and Dove. Written by Archie Goodwin (who Ditko had worked with at Warren, illustrating a brilliant assortment of horror and fantasy thrillers in breathtaking black and white wash and ink techniques), Wood inked the first two issues with his usual expertise.
"Quest for a Stolen Soul", Paul Levitz script, Stalker # 1, July 1975
"Darkling Death at World's End Sea", Stalker # 2, September 1975
"The Freezing Flames of the Burning Isle", Stalker # 3, November 1975
"Invade the Inferno", Stalker # 4, January 1976. All stories written by creator Paul Levitz, with inking assistance from Paul Kirchner, Al Sirois and Wayne Howard. Lettering by Ben Oda.
DC Editor and former Wood studio partner Joe Orlando corralled Ditko and Wood to illustrate Stalker, Paul Levitz's sword and sorcery/fantasy hero. Playing to the strength of both artists, Levitz crafted a world populated with demonic creatures, beautiful women, ornate castles and fantastic adventures. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after four issues, a victim of both the comic book glut and an overall slump in industry sales.
You can read more about the Stalker's origins and how fandom was miraculously graced with a 4th issue on Paul Levitz's blog: http://paullevitz.com/random-causality/
"Love is a Dandy!" Steve Skeates script; Milt Snapinn lettering, Paul Kirshner inking assist, Plop # 16, September 1975.
Wood, who had drawn and designed a few bizarre covers for Plop, Joe Orlando's humor title, was teamed with Ditko on Steve Skeates unusual tale of a young man who takes his love of horticulture to a whole new level!
"The Gnark is Coming! The Gnark is Coming!" Steve Skeates script; Milt Snapinn lettering, Amazing World of DC Comics # 13, November 1976
Ditko and Wood's last published work for DC appeared in Amazing World of DC Comics, a fanzine produced by the company to promote their line. The story was originally intended to appear in Plop, a title that was scheduled for cancellation. While Ditko had only drawn a few humor strips in mainstream comics, Wood was revered for his madcap parodies of comics, movies and advertising (teamed in its early years with the brilliant satirist Harvey Kurtzman) in Mad comics and its later incarnation as a magazine.
Untitled Cannon story; script by Wally Wood. Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon # 2, 1976.
The Ditko-Wood team-up ends, appropriately, on one of their final published stories, a return engagement with Wood's creation, Cannon. Published seven years after the first issue, the dimensions changed from a color comic to a magazine-sized black and white publication. Bob Layton, who became a well-known inker, artist and writer for DC, Marvel and other companies, published this issue (under his CPL/Gang Publications banner) which was sold through mail order, in comic shops and at conventions.
Ditko and Wood did not cross paths professionally after 1976. Ditko was busy with assignments at Charlton, DC (where he wrote and illustrated several "Creeper" stories in World's Finest Comics and created Shade, the Changing Man), science-fiction tales for Questar and returned to freelance for Marvel after over a decade's absence; Wood also penciled and inked various DC stories but one of his most accomplished projects, The King of The World, a book-length fantasy extravaganza, was published in 1978. Tragically, Wood died by his own hand on November 2, 1981.
For over a decade two extraordinary stylists and creative powerhouses fused their storytelling aptitude with impressive results. It is a testament to their imagination, creativity and purity of craft that the work of Steve Ditko and Wally Wood continues to be studied, analyzed and dissected. Like those who rise to the top in any field - authors, directors, musicians, actors, athletes - they invite further investigation into the creative process.
A fond farewell to the Ditko-Wood team. Final panel of Stalker # 1, July 1975