Thursday, January 29, 2015

Steve Ditko's Static at Charlton

By Von Grimm

Like many long time comic fans, I fell in love with the medium at a young age. I learned to read from comics. Comics have been a lifetime passion of mine. One of the artists responsible for this passion was one of Charlton's (and indeed the entire industry's) shining stars, the legendary Steve Ditko. 

I first discovered Ditko's work in reprints: The Origins of Marvel Comics collection, as well as Marvel Tales, which reprinted Ditko's Spider-Man run from the beginning. Even at a young age, Ditko's work spoke to me more than most of the current books being published.

Then one day, while pouring through the spinner rack at the local K&B drugstore, I came across something that I thought was called Static, but on closer inspection, it was Charlton Action Featuring Static! What was this?

I flipped through the comic, instantly recognizing that oh so familiar art style. New Ditko! My ten year old mind boggled! I had to have it! Thus, this became my first Charlton.

I had seen some Charltons before. Some of the funny animal and war reprint books that were then on the stands. Strange books, these Charltons, with their old fashioned but cool artwork and their cheap paper. The company was in their last gasp, not that my ten year old self knew anything about that at the time.

But this was Ditko! All Ditko!

In classic comic hero fashion, Stac Rae undergoes a scientific experiment which allows him to manipulate the electrical energy of the space environment suit that he and his friend, Dr. Serch, have been working on.

Stac and Co. are soon drawn into a murder scene as Dr. Serch's colleagues are being killed off by "The Armed Man." I really liked the AM design, a classic Ditko motif that would have been at home in Spider-Man, Blue Beetle, or a number of other Ditko strips. (In fact, thinking about it, it's pretty similar to Iron Arms from Captain Atom. Hmm...!)

The second tale, Pet Monster, seems a pretty standard take on the "Creature on the loose" genre, until the last page. The half splash reveal seemed grotesque to me back then, although it's truly tame by modern standards (and those of the time, most likely).

But it's the third story which is my favorite of this trio. “The Beginning” relates the tale of Captain Brak, a space cop who becomes merged with a living universe (eat your heart out, Grant Morrison!) to become a hero. This is a story in the mold of Ditko's own Shade and the Levitz/Ditko Starman and I wish there were more of it. It remains to this day one of my favorite Ditko stories. Pure imagination unleashed! *

Along the bottom of the first few pages of “The Beginning” are examples of other concepts Ditko was working on. I eagerly scanned across all these "new" characters wondering at the story and names behind each of them. Some of them I've learned about: Mr. A, Killjoy, Missing Man. Most remain a mystery to me. Mysteries I hope to solve one day.

I long ago lost my original copy of CA #11, but thanks to my friend, Steven Butler, and the good people at www.mycomicshop.com I have replaced it and picked up many other great Charltons.

Not too long ago, I received 2oww1! and severalother Snyder-Ditko comics. New Ditko! My on-the-verge-of-turning-forty-years-old mind boggles...

Oh, and then I discovered Dr. Graves. But that's a story for another time. 
© Von Grimm

* Ditko’s Static was retitled, recolored, relettered and slightly rewritten from its original 1983 debut in Eclipse Monthly, from which Ditko pulled the serial following editorial disagreements.

1 comment:

  1. Static was good stuff. Let's see some articles about Ditko's Cracklin' Blazer!