obituary

Steve Ditko 1927-2018

Steve Ditko was one the Silver Age’s Holy Trinity. A man who, along with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, utterly transformed the entire genre of superhero comics which in turn have become such a bedrock of the new global culture.

Born in Pennsylvania, Ditko studied his craft under legendary Batman artist Jerry Robinson, before working under Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

While his work lacked the polish, bombast and classicism of his Kirby, Ditko excelled in body language and naturalism and had a peerless skill in crafting visually memorable characters. His Spider-Man is a masterpiece of eye-catching, instantly iconic design. But Ditko’s contributions were by no means purely visual. Ditko, who made his bones in romance comics, understood that it was the man (or boy, really) behind the mask that made Peter Parker so compelling and pushed for the inclusion of the many soap-opera elements of the book, often over the wishes of Stan Lee who would berate his artist to get Peter into the costume and throwing punches as quickly as possible. To get around this, Ditko created the classic “Spider-Sense Half Face” where Peter’s Spider-Sense was visually represented by half of his face becoming his Spider-Man mask, a cheeky way of meeting Stan’s imposed quotas for number of panels where he was in costume. It is largely thanks to Ditko that Spider-Man has arguably the greatest supporting cast in all of comics, with even supporting players like J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane and Aunt May being household names, something very few superheroes can boast.

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June Foray: (1917-2017)

June Foray has died, a few months shy of her hundredth birthday and the animation pantheon has lost one of its true gods.

Pick a female cartoon character of the last century and the odds are good that June voiced her. She was the Looney Tunes’ Granny from 1955 to 2014. She was Magica De Spell. She was Cindy Lou Who. She was Rocky J. Squirrel, Natasha Fatale and Granny Fa.  In her time she was married to Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Goofy, Sylvester and Yosemite Sam. Her filmography reads like the history of American animation itself. Disney. Warner Bros. Hanna-Barbera, Simpsons, Family Guy, Powerpuff Girls.

She voiced Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in his final short.

She wrote and hosted radio shows in the nineteen thirties, and voiced video game characters in the 2010s.

She did it all, folks. She did it all.

She was often stuck with samey roles and nothing parts but listen to enough of her voicework and you will hear a performer of staggering range and versatility. Some called her “the female Mel Blanc”. No less an authority than Chuck Jones is said to have retorted “Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

Sometimes a death leaves me sad and despondent. Not this one.

I look at June Foray’s life and all I feel is amazement, and wonder, and joy.

What a life. What a life.

Brava.

Thanks for everything, June. I mean, thanks for almost literally everything. 

 

Darwyn Cooke: 1962-2016

Man, 2016 can eat a big one.

News has broken today that Darwyn Cooke, probably one of the most skilled and distinctive comic book artists of his generation lost his battle with cancer in the early hours of this morning.

He was 53.

Despite his phenomenal talent, Cooke had a hard time breaking into the comics industry. He submitted work to the major publishing houses in the early nineties because his work was simple, elegant and utterly beautiful and that’s just not what the nineties were about.

He did however, work as a storyboard artist on Batman The Animated Series, Superman the Animated series and Batman Beyond, animating the main title of the latter. He finally found success in comics in the early 21st century, with a notable run on Catwoman, creating a new visual look for the character that was instantly iconic.  He is probably most famous for New Frontier, a story featuring most of the DC comics stable set in the late fifties/early sixties which ranks with Watchmen and Kingdom Come as one of the all-time great superhero stories.

He was also, from what I hear from my friends in the comics industry, a thoroughly wonderful bloke.

I was originally planning to review The Avengers  on the 26th. However, in light of today’s news I have decided to review a movie that I’ve been meaning to for quite some time. To commemorate the life of this remarkable artist, I will be reviewing the 2008 animated adaptation of New Frontier.

Ar dheis Dé a anam. RIP, Mr Cooke.