Pat: Hi, I’m Patrick S. Ditko and Steve’s my brother.
Patrick: And I’m Patrick J. Ditko, I’m Steve Ditko’s nephew.
Alex: Welcome back to Comic Book Historians. I’m Alex Grand. Go and click on that juicy red Subscribe button down below, and don’t forget to check out my book, Understanding Superhero Comic Books.
I went on a very special trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania on a special quest, a week before the Ditko Con, to interview some family members of the late Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange.
Through Patrick Ditko, his nephew, we’re able to sit and chat and interview Pat Ditko, Steve Ditko’s younger brother. Through him and Patrick, were able to get as close to a biographical interview as we could get about the late Steve Ditko. This interview includes a lot of photos and footage of Steve Ditko that no one’s ever seen, so get ready for comic history that you’ve never seen before.
So, we want to really kind of unravel who was Steve Ditko. It’s like this enigma out there that a lot of people kind of wonder about and you guys probably knew him better than anyone else as well as he probably could have been known, maybe. So first, Steve Ditko, he’s a Scorpio, born November 2nd, 1927.
You’re his younger brother by about seven years or so?
Pat: Yes, yeah.
Alex: What are your earliest memories of Steve?
Pat: I really don’t know when my earliest memories were. All I know is Steve was my brother, and my hero. He did chores around the house, and I was his first helper. He had a chores to do and I followed him around, so I would know what I had to do when he left, not knowing that he would go from the service… I mean from school, right into the service.
So when he left, I was like a sort of devastated. I said, “Holy cow! I got to do all this stuff, and I hope I get it right, and do it right.” So, there were just a lot of things to do and I don’t remember anything specific. Just what I had to do.
Alex: How old was he when he left?
Pat: He was 18.
Alex: Okay, so you were like about 11 then, that time.
Pat: Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: Your parents, your father served in the military, was that in World War I?
Alex: Steve was named after your guy’s Dad, Steve.
Pat: Yes. Yeah, I assume yes.
Alex: Yeah, and then your mother’s name is Anna.
Pat: Anna, yes.
Alex: Anna Ditko. And then, Steve Ditko was born one year into their marriage? Is
Pat: Yes. Uh-huh.
Alex: Your dad, Steve, worked at a steel mill? Is that kind of the income source?
Pat: Yeah, he was a like a troubleshooter for the mill. He went all around. On the side, he was a master carpenter. He built houses, and do remodeling, and all kinds of stuff. So he wasn’t around much. He was around, but Steve did all the tough jobs that had to be done, that he could have done and should have done. But he was out earning money.
Alex: When you say remodeling, what do you mean?
Pat: Well, he’d go to somebody’s house and they’d say, “Well, we want to put a picture window in here.”
Alex: I see.
Pat: So, he’d take the job, and do them.
Alex: Like construct…
Alex: Something that required to…
Patrick: Additions, a room addition.
Pat: And roofs.
Alex: I see… Okay.
Pat: New roofing jobs. They were crazy then, so many of them.
Alex: I see… And that kind of takes engineering. Understanding the dimensions of what you’re working with, that was kind of a everyday thing for him.
Pat: Yeah, and all I did was listen and do what he told me.
Alex: You kind of worked with him then.
Pat: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I got all the tough jobs when it comes to doing roofing. I had to, in those days you put a quarter of a shingle in the gutters, and I was the guy that had to do the gutters. I cut the shingles and did all that stuff… The hard part, I think. [chuckle]
Alex: And you’re an architect yourself,
Alex: And that was your profession.
Alex: I see from the architecture of your house there’s a lot of geometric spirals that you designed, and then I know in Patrick’s art that there’s a lot of geometric spirals in your art. And there’s a lot of geometric spirals in Steve Ditko’s art that we’ve seen in a lot of his kind of more metaphysical comics. So, that’s a geometric similarity that I just find that interesting.
Steve himself was called JR… Sometimes.
Patrick: Depending on who you ask.
Alex: And then, there is also JD as Junior Ditko, also.
Alex: So, it depends on which side of the family that was referring to him.
Pat: Yeah, and I had another name for him.
Alex: What was your name?
Pat: I called him Yun or Yunic.
Alex: What did that mean?
Pat: I don’t know. I just called him that. I don’t know why…
Alex: A friendly kind of term that…
Pat: Oh, yeah… And I called my older sister Inka, who’s Ana Marie, and then, my other sister Betty, I called her Boozzy which she hated. She chased me all over.
Alex: Are these kind of like a Eastern European kind of…?
Pat: Nah, I don’t know what they are. I just know…
Alex: Kind of pet names you have.
Pat: Yeah, exactly.
Alex: Steve senior, his father’s name was Wasil?
Alex: An immigrant from Slovakia?
Alex: From the Ukraine.
Alex: The Byzantine Catholic religion.
Alex: Basically, yeah… Was there a certain kind of hardworking ethic and not really talking about it much but just working a lot, is that correct?
Pat: I have to say yes, because I’m that way. It didn’t matter. I just worked. I did whatever I had to and my father was the same way, e was always was working. And I’m going to say Steve’s doing the same thing. He did everything around the house, so I’m sure somehow it’s inherited. But I don’t know.
Alex: It seemed like no matter what age, Steve Ditko was always working on something, always doing something with his art form. So, it just seemed like that’s a trait that you guys all kind of shared.
Pat: I guess.
Alex: World War II, he went off to the service you said, and also, you guys had some uncles that also served…
Alex: In World War II, so was this a bit of a family trait at that time? That it was a proud thing to do. Was it part of a draft or was it part of…?
Pat: I don’t know what it was, but they went in. I think my uncles were drafted but Steve wasn’t.
Alex: Yeah. So, he did that on, to do it.
Pat: Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: This was after the atom bomb dropped, right?
Alex: So, was there some relationship between the atom bomb dropping and then him serving? Was there any sort of relationship there?
Pat: No. Not that I know of.
Alex: We have different kind of themes of questions. Somewhat chronological but not necessarily. There there’s a certain sense of analysis of kind of analyzing a problem, using kind of a mixture of math and creativity to solve problems.
To me it seems, like when he was designing his characters, designing pages, I feel like he was composing those pages like the way a filmmaker would, in a very analytical kind of similar way. Did you ever kind of look at a lot of his stuff as it was kind of coming out?
Pat: First of all, when he went to the service, and then went to New York, and he come back, and the first things, and my mother told me this so I know it’s true. He says, “What happens in New York stays in New York. I don’t want to talk about it.”
So, that’s how the whole family just… That New York, we didn’t know even where it was.
Except I had a bunch of uncles that lived out there… As far as comics, my dad was a fanatic. He loved comic books.
Alex: Did he share that with Steve then, the comic stuff? Do you remember that?
Pat: Well, Steve came in and that was it. I mean he really didn’t say too much about my dad. He just he sat in that chair on a Sunday, and he read comic books all day long, and that was it. On payday, I’d meet him halfway down the street, and he give me money to go buy some more comics. So that’s what I did.
Alex: And what kind of comics were you grabbing for him?
Pat: I picked anything. It didn’t matter what I brought him. And I just picked them out randomly.
Alex: Then Batman, I’ve heard…
Pat: Batman was the big one.
Alex: That was the big one.
Pat: Detective Comics.
Alex: Detective Comics
Pat: The Spirit.
Alex: The Spirit, yeah.
Pat: And the Human Torch, and all. You know, all of them.
Alex: Okay, so like the Timely – Human Torch, kind of Marvel stuff too.
Patrick: And you know Alex, I just wanted to throw in too that when my dad says, he never talked about New York and that he didn’t bring the comic books home, I do want to clarify that that was true all up until Mr. A. Because when he self-produced Mr. A, I remember as a kid, Mr. A as being around the house.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool.
Patrick: And the same thing with Static. When he did Static, he brought back Static comic books for everybody. He gave signed Static to me, and my brothers, and sisters. And it seemed like when he was producing his own stuff later in the `70s and `80s, he did bring that work home.
Alex: I see. So, it’s like the stuff that he owned…
Pat: He sent a lot lot of comics to me.
Alex: Well that’s interesting because then there’s a distinction, it sounds like.
Patrick: There is.
Pat: He did stuff. He made stuff.
Patrick: And I want to make that point because…
Alex: That was work for hire versus stuff that he created that he owned the copyright to.
Pat: Yep, and he sent a lot to Ricky.
Patrick: Yeah. He shared the independently published stuff, that were his characters, with the family cause he was probably pretty proud of that.
Alex: Oh that’s interesting. Yeah, it’s almost like there was like, “Well, that was a job I did for that person…”
Patrick: That was work.
Alex: “That’s not mine”, or in a way, but then when it was his thing he brought it. That’s a really great distinction to make which I don’t think has ever been clarified.
Patrick: Because we have signed Mr. As and signed Statics as well. Like so people would say, “Oh, he never signed anything.” Well, he did sign things. “He never brought comic books home.” Well, but he did.
Alex: He signed those… I see.
Pat: He brought Mr. A and he brought Static home.
Alex: When you kind of were hanging out with him as a kid, did he show signs that he was a very analytical person? That you can remember?
Pat: He was my brother, like I said, he was he was my boss, and hero.
Alex: I had read in the book that you guys are putting together with Bob Jeschonek that he worked on airplane models.
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Alex: Which takes some midget level of engineering, from my perspective. There was story of finishing a puzzle but then there was a missing piece, so he crafted a piece to fit that.
Pat: Yeah… Uh-huh.
Alex: So to me, that’s showing me some sort of like an analyzing it, and breaking down to what’s missing, and then filling the need, right? To me, it seems that way.
Pat: Yeah. He was in that airplane club at Garfield where he made those models. I could kick myself because of all the things I should have saved, I didn’t save because he… I’ll never forget, he made that Flying Tiger.
Alex: Oh, yeah. Flying Tiger, uh-huh.
Pat: The Messerschmitt and the Japanese Zero. Those three I had, they were… And I don’t know what… I kicked myself…
Patrick: It’s always fragile.
Pat: Well, yeah, probably. But anyway… I remember those
Alex: He had a science lab in the barn of the house that you guys grew up in, it seemed. Like there was kind of a locked door. There was chemistry sets. Education seemed important. His own studio, here, as a kid.
Pat: Yeah, there was chem. Exactly.
Alex: Was he pretty private about that room then?
Pat: Yeah. It was locked. You couldn’t get in.
Alex: It was locked. Right. You couldn’t get in there.
Pat: No way.
Alex: From what I understand, there was a bunson burner in there, fingerprint analysis stuff?
Pat: Not a bunsen burner in the list. Because I don’t think we even had them then. He had a candle in there…
Patrick: That he used as a bunsen burner.
Alex: That he used to like cook chemicals around?
Pat: For that… The tubes, the test tubes.
Alex: Test tubes full of chemicals.
Pat: And then he had all kinds of slides for all bugs, hairs…
Alex: Yeah, microscope. There you go.
Pat: He had all kinds of stuff in there [chuckle]
Alex: It feels like Peter Parker experimenting with webbing and experimenting with devices and things. So, with the fingerprints and chemicals, was that like him training to be a detective, in a way? Was he thinking like a detective at that point?
Pat: But you know, when I first read Spider-Man and Peter Parker, I told everybody, “That’s Steve Ditko.”
Alex: Yeah, yeah. So, you felt that.
Pat: Immediately, soon as I read that story, I said, “That’s Steve Ditko.”
Alex: Because it seemed consistent with his behavior as a teenager.
Pat: Yeah, just about.
Alex: And it seemed like with him, there’s this kind of mixture of art and science, which I think is kind of unique.
Patrick: Interestingly enough, we have the books that he used as reference to develop what he ended up doing was fingerprinting in note cards himself, his brother…
Alex: Yeah, that’s cool.
Patrick: His sister, and a neighbor.
Alex: I see. So definitely…
Patrick: And his cousin.
Alex: Everyone’s finger prints.
Pat: Some of his cousins.
Patrick: Oh, Alex can see these.. They’re very meticulous. You’ve got the name and then the print on each page. I mean extremely thorough.
Alex: Yeah, he got a file on everyone, actually. [chuckle]
Pat: Yes. [chuckle]
Patrick: Yes. He was collecting all the pertinent information.
Alex: In the household of the `40s and the `50s, what were the politics of the household? Were they like kind of Pro FDR, Pro Truman? Were they kind of against FDR, against…
Pat: There’s no politics.
Alex: No politics in the house. So, it wasn’t really talked about like that.
Pat: No. The radio would come on or you watch TV. You either listen to The Shadow or The Lone Ranger.
Alex: Okay, that’s cool.
Pat: And the news, I don’t remember listening to the news when I was a kid.
Alex: At all, yeah. Sounds like fiction and storytelling was kind of a fun part of the household.
Alex: And then you said The Shadow and The Lone Ranger. Is that something that you guys were all listening to together?
Pat: Oh yeah, yeah.
Alex: Oh, I see.
Pat: We had a cold stove in the kitchen, and my mother would turn on the heat to heat up the oven. Then she’d open the door, and I’d get a chair, and I’d put the chair behind me, and sit with my back towards the oven, and watch.
Alex: Yeah, and listen. Yeah, because it was so cold but…
Alex: And you want to hear what’s going on too. Do you happen to recall any of Steve’s reactions to any of those storylines? Or is it just more of a family activity?
Pat: Just yeah, everybody’s just so quiet and listening.
Alex: There’s one thing about Steve that seems to come up is that he didn’t necessarily brag about his accomplishments, but he wanted the work to speak for itself.
Alex: Would you consider that somewhat of a family trait as well then?
Pat: I would. I myself, and I know Patrick’s the same way, I know that. Yeah, yes, I would.
Alex: Yeah, let the work speaks for itself.
Pat: I don’t know how far it goes, but…
Alex: Okay, I got you. Religion. So, Steve Ditko was baptized in the Byzantine Catholic Church is that right?
Alex: Was religion a strong part of his…?
Pat: Well, at home, it was to a point. I don’t know when he stopped but…
Patrick: Was it after he went to the service?
Pat: Yeah, probably. And then, when he went to the service, then he come home, and went to New York, it was like… Well, I don’t think he could find a Byzantine Catholic Church out there.
But when he was living in New York, Joan and I, we had some kind of a fair down at church where they were making a trip to New York. So, we went to New York and first thing in our mind was we’re going to go check on Uncle Steve.
Yeah, so we did. We not knocked on the door. He opened it up, not full. He opened it up and of course, when he saw us he says, “Oh gee!” Closed the door right away, and he says, “Let’s go.” So, he took us to St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Alex: Oh, okay.
Pat: He said, “I’ve got to show you this”, and we went there. Then we had lunch.
Alex: But you didn’t go inside…?
Pat: The church?
Alex: No. No, but inside his place.
Pat: No, uh-uh.
Alex: He was like he carefully closed it behind him, “Hey! Let’s get out of here.”
Pat: He came right out. Yeah
Alex: Okay. I got you.
Pat: I don’t remember where his studio was at the time… But anyway, we went to St. Pat’s Cathedral and then went for lunch. We had a room at the hotel, so we invited him up. So, he’d come up and he spend a couple hours with us, yakking, and then he left.
Alex: Do you think he became atheist or more like agnostic?
Pat: I don’t think he had… No. I wouldn’t even guess.
Alex: Yeah. Cause it never really came up…
Alex: And it wasn’t really that big of a deal to him.
Pat: No, uh-uh. Only probably to my mother, that’s all. If there was anything said between him and her, I wouldn’t know.
Alex: I see. So, that it was more like a family custom of…
Alex: Hanging out, like there’s a baptism, I’m going show up.
Patrick: But he was godfather for Mark and Steve, so he went to the service and participated in the entire baptismal service.
Pat: Exactly. And you had to be in good standing to go be godfather.
Patrick: To be a godfather… So was he ever slated to be anybody else’s godfather that he wasn’t allowed?
Pat: Yes, there was one… I’m trying to think who it is. I forget…
Patrick: It would have been…
Patrick: So, I thought, I had remembered something about this.
Pat: Yeah, Helena was going to be baptized and Steve went… I went with him to Father Sabo’s and Father Sabo says, “Well, I don’t know if you’re in good standings with the church.” And he says, “I’ll have to get back to you.”
Alex: Oh, he said that to Steve?
Pat: Yeah, and he never did.
Patrick: So, that tells you what his standing was.
Alex: I see. So, what would it take to disqualify you from being in good standing?
Patrick: If you think about it in those times, without an internet, old school communications, if you were going to be baptized, and someone in your family was going to be a godfather, they were probably in the same church in another town, and you would just… All the priests knew each other, you’d call up and say, “Hey, Father Sam, this is Father Sabo from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I want to see if Steve Ditko can be godfather here.” And he’d say, “Oh yeah, Steve’s here every Sunday.” And it was a done deal.
But if it was, “I don’t know who that guy is.” It wasn’t so much a done deal.
Pat: Well, I know for fact all our godparents is… I’m talking about me, and my two sisters, and Steve, we all are from the same church, so it was no big deal.
Patrick: So, you normally kept it in that tight community anyway, you didn’t really need to verify.
Pat: Not only that, most of the time it was family.
Alex: It just means that he wasn’t really going to church, is really what that is.
Patrick: And that was enough.
Alex: That was enough to not be in good standing.
Pat: True for father Sabo, yeah.
Patrick: Do you think that left a poor taste in his mouth?
Pat: I would say.
Patrick: About the church as a whole?
Pat: I would say it did.
Alex: I see.
Pat: I know it did me, so it had to do him [chuckle].
Alex: So, there was something about restriction of freedom that he didn’t like that aspect of it, probably..
Patrick: As far as his religious views, I think he was… He explored all of the different religions, and he took into account all of those points of view. I’ve been guilty myself of trying to pigeonhole Steve Ditko in the Ayn Rand camp, and after reading Zack Cruz’s book, it kind of opened my mind up to the fact that Doctor Strange is certainly not Randian by any means. I think you have to look at Steve’s view in a broader picture.
It wasn’t that he was atheist, and that he didn’t like Catholics or did like Catholics. It’s not really one or the other that he could take it all in.
Alex: We mentioned some of the comic stuff that was around as a kid. You mentioned Batman. I know that he was trained by Jerry Robinson. So, Jerry Robinson’s Batman was kind of a big deal And then, Dick Tracy also.
Pat: Oh yeah, Dick Tracy.
Alex: Yeah, Dick Tracy was a big comic strip in the household, yeah. He was cutting out parts of the comics and keeping it? Like he was kind of collecting the material in a way, right?
Pat: Yeah. That’s the thing here.
Patrick: Show a couple of them.
Alex: So, this is interesting because you have like the 97 pound weakling Charles Atlas, and then you have Batman here.
Alex: Then this is interesting, these characters that he was kind of saving…And the Batman and Robin.
Patrick: I like the precision on like this though too. To get that… To want to be able to see just that image, you know.
Alex: Right… Oh yeah.
Patrick: Like that’s an exploration there.
Alex: It is.
Patrick: That’s not just, “I’m going to cut that out.” [laughs]
Alex: Right, right, it was. Interesting that…
Pat: Here. Here… [hands Alex some cut outs to see]
Alex: Yeah… Batman is a real big deal for him.
Alex: Which is really fascinating because that’s… Oh, that’s cool you got the Lev Gleason Claw that was part of his… So, is this is his stuff from the `40s that he cut up himself.
Pat: Well, you know what? he was known to do that a lot. He cut up his stuff.
Patrick: And then, I just look at all these little… Look at all these little corners he was saving… Gee, that doesn’t remind you of something that soon comes to be in the corner of every comic book.
Alex: Yeah, that’s right because this kind of reminds me of the Marvel letter boxes that he designed, right? Which is just fascinating to me.
Patrick: And then, he would have that many of them, because that was something that was like he was making a hard impression for himself there.
Alex: It does. Yeah, that there was like something to trademark here.
Alex: Right, and trademark and art…
Patrick: There was a value in that little piece of real estate on the cover.
Pat: See that.
Alex: Interesting… Stephen means “a crown”. That’s interesting. That it’s Stephen, the name on there, right?
Patrick: I’m sure that’s why it was there.
Pat: I want to see what this was…
Patrick: That’s a pretty…
Alex: Clancy the Cop, that’s cool. Then you have Batman back here, of course. Uh-huh. So, this great… Oh yeah, the one and only Superman.
So, Superman was an influence, but it seems like he liked Batman probably more.
Alex: Is what it’s looking like here. And look at that, you got like still kind of the comic ads, the comic advertising stuff.
You guys played out characters too? Would you play out some of these characters together?
Pat: No. That’s a little bit of a misconception. Steve peld around with Mike Matola. He lived across the street and they were good buddies. Somehow, somebody started them with their Batman and Robin because they’re so close and… But one day, I went into the drugstore up here, and there was this lady sitting on a a chair there waiting for her prescription. I says, “Mary Jane, how are you?” And she looks at me she says, “I’m fine. Who are you?” I says, “I’m Batman’s brother.”
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Pat: She says, “Oh, Patty!”
Alex: That was like his nickname, kind of Batman or…?
Pat: Well, I don’t know, but she right away acknowledged it, so…
Alex: It’s just interesting that that would be like a nickname for him, Batman.
Do you remember any of the fiction books that he was possibly reading at the time? Did he ever look at Tarzan or pulps or anything like that?
Pat: I know he was a fan of Tarzan because he’s from Windber, Weissmuller.
Patrick: Yeah, Johnny Weissmuller is from about 30 minutes away.
Alex: That’s cool.
Pat: Yeah and I know he was a big fan of his. Was there comic book on him?
Alex: Yeah, they had comic strips and then they had some comic books too on Tarzan. But that’s great because he was at the Cartoonist and Illustrator School which was kind of founded by Burne Hogarth who was a big Tarzan artist.
One of my thoughts has been that maybe the the web swinging in the jungle of New York could be related to Tarzan swinging on vines. That was my thought process, because of that, of where he trained, and Burne Hogarth, and Tarzan.
Patrick: But Johnny Weissmuller being local…
Alex: Even more, and that’s even more so.
Patrick: Tarzan would have been in the forefront if in Johnstown.
Alex: Yeah… And that’s cool. It sounds like it’s like the movie Tarzan too, that he was also watching, right?
Patrick: It is.
Pat: Oh yeah, we watched a lot of those.
Alex: So, Tarzan… What other movies did you guys kind of watched?
Pat: I don’t know, the Lone Ranger was on too.
Alex: The Lone Ranger, yeah. Flash Gordon Serial, did you watch those?
Pat: Flash Gordon, yeah.
Alex: Okay, so Flash Gordon.
Alex: Buck Rogers? Any of The Buck Rogers?
Pat: Buck Rogers, yeah.
Alex: Yeah, so okay, that’s cool. It’s nice to know because I think everyone assumes that the artists of that era watch that stuff but it’s nice to know that there’s a recognition for that.
You were mentioning that your dad would take you on construction jobs. But if Steve Ditko was like reading or studying or doing work he wouldn’t be taken to these construction jobs because there was some sort of value that education was an important thing. Did I read that correctly from that Jeschonek book?
Patrick: I just thought it was unusual that Steve would have been older, and not to degrade child youth, but like he would have been more helpful because he was older. He was bigger. He was taller. He was stronger that he could have been more helpful. But instead of taking Steve, he took you.
Alex: Why do you think that would be?
Pat: Can’t say he liked me more.
Patrick: You could say that. I don’t know if it would be true.
Pat: Well, I know one thing, I had an interest in construction.
Alex: There you go. Yeah, so you expressed an interest.
Pat: Yeah, so…
Patrick: Did Steve not really like that stuff?
Pat: You know what?…
Patrick: Do you think that Uncle Steve had a hard time working with Pop?
Pat: That could be. That could…
Alex: Okay. So, maybe not as close to his dad too.
Pat: Pop, he wanted things his way.
Alex: I see. So, even though they shared comics as a similar hobby, their personalities were quite different from each other.
Pat: I always say, a little bit, yeah.
Alex: Oh, that’s really fascinating.
Patrick: And you got along with Pop though.
Pat: Well yeah. I got along with everybody.
I mean, I didn’t know any better.
Patrick: Because that’s what the youngest in the families do.
Pat: I didn’t know any better.
Alex: Do you remember him having any high school girlfriends or anything like that?
Alex: Not really huh. Did he ever talk about having a crush on anybody?
Pat: No. Never.
Patrick: And he would have been really young for that though. He would have been 10 years old.
Alex: Seven, yeah 10 years old.
Patrick: You’re not talking to your little brother about that.
Pat: Maybe with my sisters, but I doubt it very much.
Patrick: Yeah, it would have been Auntie Annie that would have been the one, because she was a couple years older than him.
Alex: There you go. So, he could better talk to her about stuff.
Alex: Did he ever talk about dating or having girlfriends ever?
Alex: Yeah, even as an adult. What’s your impression? Why do you think that is?
Pat: I don’t know. I have no idea why.
Alex: And then, he never got married, he never had kids.
Alex: But he loved kids. I’ve seen your home videos and he’s playing with his nephews, nieces. He’s loving the kids. He’s loving these family get togethers like very regularly. That was his time away from New York, is hanging out with you guys. So, it’s interesting that he didn’t get married and have kids.
Patrick: See, I could relate to that.
Pat: I think his career meant more to him.
Patrick: That’s what I would agree to.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, the work.
Patrick: I would say that he was so dedicated to his profession.
Pat: Without a doubt, yeah.
Alex: Yeah, and he didn’t want to ever be pulled from it in any way.
Patrick: I think that’s something that separates success from greatness. It is that you can be successful, and you get married, and have kids, and have a good job. That’s success. But that’s not necessarily achieving greatness in revolutionizing and absolutely changing an industry completely.
Alex: Yeah. that’s right.
Patrick: I think that takes a kind of different level of commitment, and I think you would be hard pressed to not see the evidence that he was intentionally doing that.
Alex: Yeah, yeah.
Patrick: He dabbled in everything. Anything that he touched, he kind of had the almost a Midas touch in the comic book industry… Of changing Iron Man’s costume, of the logistics of the Hulk.
Alex: Yeah. That’s right.
Patrick: Just so many things that he revolutionized, you can’t think that it was luck.
Alex: And in my book, I write that he was the great problem solver. When these characters didn’t work, he could make them work, because he could tell what was missing. He could see in that 5fth dimension that other people couldn’t see. This has to be real for this to work.
Designs when he was younger. These wood cut blocks he made in shop class. One has webbing, which is interesting, and one almost has like a Doctor Strange almost look to it. So, can you show us those?
This one has the webbing on it, okay. And that I find interesting, especially with the candle and whatnot. But the webbing is just so distinctly Steve Ditko webbing. So, I think that’s like really fascinating. Then this character…
Pat: If you turn that…
Patrick: That’s 1946.
Alex: And this is 1946 webbing that he did. And then, this is like a sorcerer with a cloak, but then there’s also these eyes. But then this figure, with almost it looks like this Doctor Strange type cape and figure mixed with these eyes.
Patrick: You see a little bird in the in the eye there too.
Patrick: All kinds of different imagery going on there.
Alex: So, it’s like two images in one, but this almost has that Doctor Strange look. It’s interesting that a Spider-Man and Doctor Strange precursor would exist in 1946. I just find that so interesting.
So, after high school and he served in World War II, this was after the atom bomb, and this was three years he served, from what I understand; from 1945 to 1948. He signed up for it, so it sounds like there’s a certain patriotism in him serving. Was that right? Is patriotism the right word for that?
Pat: That’s… Yes.
Alex: When World War II ended though, he traveled all through post-war Germany, and kind of looked at Europe. After World War II, he was out there for a few years, and he sent a lot of letters, and there’s a lot of photos from that era. Is that correct?
Pat: Albums. That was all when he was in the service. I tell you, he has… I can’t believe how many photos he has and then how he has them…
Pat: Yeah. The organization of them is a mammoth…
Patrick: And the organization too, a lot of the pictures have different vantage points, and different angles, and the way he lays them out on the page and details. It is very comic book like in its structure. It’s almost like he’s exploring the way of documenting a story or documenting something, and how to convey ideas. You could see all of that storytelling starting to form at that very early age when he was in the service.
Alex: Patrick, you mentioned something interesting – that he never flew on a plane, like not even once.
Patrick: Bob Jeschonek did some research for us. His squadron for the constabulary was shipped. They took a ship over there.
Alex: Yeah, he was shipped out.
Patrick: Yeah, he was literally shipped out and shipped back so…
Alex: And so he never got on a plane and…
Patrick: He never set foot on a plane. And as we had mentioned, for someone that did science fiction and stories about spacecraft, to never actually traveled in the air is pretty interesting.
Alex: That is interesting, yes. And he didn’t drive either.
Patrick: No, he did not have a driver’s license. He had a State ID, and when he came to Johnstown, he came by train.
Alex: Yeah, it was train and then maybe subway in New York. So, he never went abroad to Europe again, that was those three years. But it also sounds like it was a lot of visual inspiration for him from those photographs.
Alex: That I was looking at, that he was playing with photography, and angles, and things, while soaking in a lot of the interesting experiences and culture there.
Patrick: Well, and then also, with the photography too – it was interesting even having that camera and having all those pictures. He never took another picture after that. He never used that camera anymore. There was never any other…
Alex: It was like he was done.
Patrick: He did it. He had his experience with photography and that was it.
Alex: And that was it after that.
Pat: Maybe it was because I had his camera.
Alex: You have that camera here?
Pat: We do. Yeah.
Patrick: We know this has something to do with…
Pat: There it is.
Alex: So, this is the camera he was using.
Patrick: Yeah… And it’s a Kodak. It’s got a great… Look at that logo.
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Patrick: That’s not the Kodak logo that we’re familiar with.
Pat: What’s this? That’s the cover part.
Alex: And then, this is the front and it comes out.
After the service, he was in the Veterans Trade School here in Johnstown.
Alex: From 1948 to 1950 and so, were you hanging out with him during that period of time?
Pat: Not other than familywise.
Alex: Did he ever bring any of the stuff he was drawing home?
Alex: Not really, right? Then I guess, from what I understand the GI Bill gave him money to do these kind of schools. Is that right?
Pat: That’s what I understand too.
Alex: Now, this is the period of time where he was dressed like Ahab and Dracula, was during the Veterans Trade School?
Patrick: We believe that’s right, right? It wasn’t before that… It couldn’t have been after.
Pat: No. Yeah. That’s about it.
Patrick: It had to be at that time.
Alex: Yeah. So then, when he was experimenting with like different genres of characters, he was taking photos of himself dressed like an arab and dressed like these different figures a little bit.
Alex: That might have been when he was exercising that artistically.
Patrick: Well, he had done Europe in the service, and if he’s broadening his world view, that would be the next step would be the Middle East, right?
Alex: Yes. That’s right. Yeah, totally.
Patrick: So, it seemed like a logical progression.
Alex: It seemed like a logical progression, but not enough to get on an airplane though.
Patrick: Not enough.
Alex: No PanAm tickets for that one… Now, weren’t there also interesting photos of him like climbing walls and stuff?
Patrick: That one was from the service, yeah.
Alex: That was from the service.
Patrick: They were playing baseball, and the ball got stuck up on the balcony, and he was the one that climbed up in the drain bits.
Alex: And he was doing the wall crawling in that. Because it just looked like a wall crawling, that he would draw later. That’s what was funny about that.
Patrick: And it’s him though, so he didn’t take the picture either. He was doing the crawling.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. He actually was the crawler.
Patrick: That was the only way he was going to get that shot. He couldn’t explain it to someone.
Alex: And it seemed like there’s a lot of learning angles, and visual angles which I think he implements later on. Cartoonist and Illustrator School from 1950 to `53, he trained under… Well, Jerry Robinson was one of his teachers there and he’s kind of learning how to tell stories.
But he came back and visited here even though, during that period, right? They weren’t in session all the time. He’d come back and visit.
Pat: For the holiday.
Alex: The holidays, yeah.
Pat: That’s all he’d come back for. I mean he never talked about…
Alex: And he never talked about the Cartoonist and Illustrator School, right? Or the people he saw there or any of that stuff.
Pat: My mother might have known but nobody else did.
Alex: After that, then it’s 1953, I think he’s starting to work at Charlton at this point. Charlton, they were based out in Connecticut. So, he would drive there, turns out I’d read in the Jeschonek book, he’d hang out there for a whole weekend, sometimes. But he didn’t drive there.
Pat: No. No.
Alex: He took a train.
Pat: Took the train.
Alex: So, he took the train to Connecticut and back, and then he’d take the train here. So, these were kind of like these different… And it almost seemed it’s like another life he was having when he was going. Like hanging out there for a weekend, and talking to different people, and being regular at the Charlton Place. He would have his own experiences there and not necessarily connect it with the experiences here, right?
Patrick: For sure.
Pat: I would say, yes.
Alex: Creative freedom. It seems like one of the things that Charlton, when he was making a lot of stories with Joe Gill is they didn’t have too much editorial interference. So, he was free to do a lot of what he wanted to do, visual experimentation, telling different stories he felt like telling. Is creative freedom, is that just an overall theme in his life? Is that something that you feel was important to him just in general?
Pat: Well yes, absolutely.
Alex: Tell me about that like why is that so absolutely true?
Patrick: Well, this guy did it himself in the architecture practice. He worked as a draftsman. He studied, the apprentice. He took his test. He was working with some partners, and then he decided to go out on his own, so he could do his own thing.
Pat: Because I didn’t like what they were doing. I worked for 16 years under architects, and I’ve never found one that I liked to be a partner or something. I had no aspirations to ever becoming an architect, but when I did I just did a lot of different things that I always wanted to do to make the job better, basically. And I loved solving puzzles and every job was a puzzle.
When you meet the client, they’d say, “I want this, I want this, I want that.” And I would say, “Well, it all depends, #1 on the code, and #2 it might not work, so…
Alex: So then, this sounds like there’s similar… Although you guys had different jobs, it seems like there is a similar mindset that that creative freedom enabled you to solve problems.
Pat: I had a problem one day when he came here, and he says, we were talking, I said, “I got a problem. I can’t make this thing to work.” Something to work, and I don’t even remember what it was but he wrote me a letter and he says, “If something’s not working,” he says, “Flop it. Turn it around, and keep moving it around, and doing different things to it, and you’ll find a solution.”
And that’s what I did. That’s what I always do. I got to figure out… What do we do?
Patrick: You do that all the time.
Pat: That’s all we do.
Patrick: That’s the thing about, when you’re a creative person, and you work through a creative process, I think one of the problems that creative people have with criticism is that oftentimes the critic hasn’t worked through the process, and hasn’t seen the other variations.
I’ve done some design work and I’ve done creative positions where I’ve had to work with a client and work through their feedback. It’s like, “Your feedback is sometimes often from the guts and it’s based on a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve already passed that. Like what you’re thinking that you need to see, I’ve already seen it. I’m five or six or seven or eight iterations later than that, and I got here by doing those iterations.”
So, for you to come in and say, “Well why don’t you do this?” “Well I did that and I found out why that doesn’t work and I found out why this doesn’t work. Now, that’s how I got to the solution.”
Alex: Yeah, right.
Patrick: When he talked about solving problems… When you come up with a solution to a problem, you usually had to go through a certain amount of means, and tests, and trials, and errors to get there. So, when somebody comes and says, “Well, why did you do it? Why didn’t you do this?” There usually a reason for it that they’re not.
Alex: So then, and that’s great because the fact that he relayed that advice means that he consciously knew that. He was doing those things and solving those problems in the comic world because when things didn’t work he made them work or he would create something and that would work. That’s great that that became advice for you and your work, and that you guys share that. So, you can kind of relate to that. That creator freedom seems to be the necessary ingredient.
Patrick: For that thing.
Alex: For that to be able to happen unimpeded, right?
Tuberculosis. Yeah, so he had I guess, two bouts of it. Were you there during the bouts of tuberculosis he had?
Alex: So, during the first one, that was in kind of later `50s I mean. What do you remember of that period of time?
Pat: Only thing I remember is I never knew he had tuberculosis. That’s all I can tell you. Because my mother went to New York to get him I think for the first time or whatever. He came back and he lived a normal life at home, and I never saw any difference in him.
Alex: Okay, that’s what I wanted to…
Pat: I was not aware of…
Alex: That’s what I wanted to find out, was he in bed, and just sick, and feverish, for like a year?
Alex: Was he scarred by this culturally? His whole body language changing after? Did he get scarred personally?
Pat: I didn’t recognize any change in him from what I knew.
Alex: Okay, that’s cool. I like that. Because some people erroneously say that that’s why he became isolated. It’s just like so silly. So, it’s nice to get that.
Patrick: Yeah, no. That doesn’t even jive because even when I did the publishing schedule, you could see there was nothing published in 1956. So, he was here in `56, that was the year he (Pat) was married.
Patrick: So, that’s another reason it wasn’t… He was planning his wedding. He was definitely at a different point in his life… We’ve talked about this, because people keep wanting to dig into this. So, I’ll dig into it too.
Alex: They just want to make something out of it.
Patrick: Further with him and I’ll say, “So, Dad you really don’t remember that. You don’t, so it wasn’t… This big deal.”
Alex: It was this big catastrophic thing.
Patrick: But it wasn’t like he came home and his mom said, “Steve’s home with tuberculosis!” It wasn’t a family announcement. It was probably kept pretty quiet.
Pat: I would say…
Patrick: And especially with him getting married that year. So, “Oh, we not going to bring everybody down with…”
Alex: Didn’t want to create a panic either. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patrick: When there should be a happiness. This should be a happy occasion.
Alex: Yeah, that’s good. That’s a selflessness on his part.
Alex: Like it’s not about him being sick.
Pat: He was at my wedding with a neighbor, Freddy Coleman. Freddy Coleman and Steve come up to me and says, “Come on with us, Pat.” So this was at the reception, down at St. Mary’s. So, I said, “Oh okay.” So, I went, and they took me over to the bar, and they said, “Well, you got to have a drink. You’re married. You’re this and that.”
So, I had a drink. First and the last drink I had. And my brother had a drink, and he didn’t drink either. But that was it [chuckle].
Alex: Yeah, cause your brother didn’t drink, right?
Alex: Yeah. Steve never drank alcohol.
Alex: Did he ever discuss his discovery of Ayn Rand with you at all? Any of the Ayn Randianism?
Alex: That never really came up.
Pat: No. The only thing that we have in common there is I watch that… What’s the name of that?
Patrick: The Fountainhead.
Pat: Fountainhead, all the time.
Alex: Oh, you do? That’s cool.
Pat: Every time it’s on, I watch it.
Alex: Oh, okay. Yeah, he has a VHS of The Fountainhead that you guys found in his place. So, you guys both liked it. What is it about The Fountainhead that you like?
Pat: I like the whole story. I just like the whole thing. I thought it was really good.
Alex: The whole concept of it.
Alex: Did he ever talk about The Fountainhead with you?
Alex: But you both like it kind of in this interesting…
Pat: Separately, yeah.
Alex: Separately, though. You guys liked it.
So, you don’t feel like when he started getting into the Ayn Rand kind of thought process, that he changed familywise. Like when he came, he was still the same jovial brother and uncle.
Pat: No, I didn’t notice anything if he did.
Alex: Do you know if he voted? Did he ever vote?
Pat: I’m sure he did.
Alex: Okay. Would he ever talk about politics at all with you?
Pat: No, but I’m sure he did because that, and he, when there’s any kind of veterans or anything else, he has supported all of them.
Alex: Okay, so he was all about the pro-veteran.
Pat: Yeah. He’d send them contributions all the time.
Patrick: My brother, Mark, did write him about voting, and he actually said, “No”.
Alex: Yeah, that’s what Mark had mentioned.
Alex: But I was wondering if he had ever talked about that in the house.
Patrick: No. I think politics were, in a similar way that New York was off the table, politics were generally off the table.
Alex: It’s not really discussed in the family table.
Patrick: We did not grow up in a heated political environment. It was not…
Alex: It was more about family than that. You guys found… What I thought was really cool… Were like movies that he watched. Can you show us some of those? Like we got…
Patrick: The Tall Men.
Alex: Like a Clark Gable western. Yeah, and then what else was he watching? From Russia with Love, so James… so it looks like Sean Connory was his preferred James Bond.
Patrick: Based on our current evidence.
Alex: Based on this…
Patrick: Another Clark Gable.
Alex: Yeah, another Clark Gable film Betrayed. So, he liked Clark Gable. It’s interesting to see the characters, the people he liked.
Patrick: And then, especially always reinforcing the fact that Steve Ditko was funny…
Alex: Yeah, Abbott and Costello.
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Patrick: He did love his Abbott and Costello.
Alex: He had a couple of Abbott and Costello movies. This is his own movie collection, VHS collection.
Patrick: And I personally like Abbott and Costello better than The Three Stooges.
Pat: Same here.
Patrick: So, I thought they were the…
Pat: What’s that, first?
Patrick: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Where Eagles Dare.
Alex: Yeah, so he watched Clint Eastwood. That’s cool.
Patrick: Charles Bronson.
Alex: Charles Bronson who was also born in Pennsylvania. Like 30 or 40 miles or so from here.
Patrick: About half an hour away.
Pat: South Fork, up South Fork.
Alex: Like Johnny Weissmuller was from here. Charles Bronson, also from here. So, he found those guys is interesting, that’s great.
And then, The Mark of Zorro with Douglas Fairbanks, which is a big deal because so many comic creators watched that back then. That’s cool that he had that. Then The Big Sleep so he was a fan…
Alex: Of detective noir films.
Patrick: Another Bogart.
Alex: Yeah, another Bogart, Dead Reckoning.
Patrick: Big Country.
Alex: Yeah, Big Country which is a…
Pat: Oh, that’s something.
Alex: A western with Gregory Peck.
Patrick: Bert Lancaster, Vengeance.
Alex: Yeah, Bert Lancaster.
Pat: Oh,that. He’s my guy.
Alex: Oh, yeah? That’s cool.
Patrick: Magnificent Seven, of course.
Alex: The Magnificent Seven. So, he had his VHS, The Magnificent Seven.
Patrick: And then, as previously…
Alex: That’s right. That’s The Fountainhead and that’s his kind of bootleg copy of the of it on VHS.
Patrick: I wonder if somebody burned it or recorded it for him.
Alex: .Copied… I think they did record them both. I feel like maybe more Todd maybe mentioned that when I interviewed him. That they were watching Fountainhead together.
Patrick: There’s an entire Great Courses DVD and books.
Alex: The Nature of Earth, a geology book. So, it’s like a self-taught guy that just kind of read a lot of his own stuff.
Alex: Psycho- Epistlemology, right. And this is like an Ayn Rand Revolutionary Theory, the science of psycho-epistemology.
Patrick: He had many magazine subscriptions. He’d have National Geographic.
Patrick: Time, he even had two subscriptions to Time, and we think that the reason being is that if he was pulling out an article for reference, and they were back to back, and he needed two copies so that each file could have its complete pages. Really bizarre.
So of course, he’d have some Egypt going on there. Props out to Ancient Aliens.
Alex: Ancient Aliens, alright. And he drew Ancient Aliens in Charlton Science Fiction Comics too.
Patrick: And what collection would not be complete without his Classicism.
Alex: Greek Gods, Mythology and Monsters. Yeah, Greek myth… Classicism, yeah.
Patrick: And then…
Alex: Yeah, because he was talking a lot about the Aristotle kind of stuff too.
Patrick: Little Angela Lansbury… Well, I’m sure.
Alex: Little Lansbury, who knew that Steve Ditko was a fan of Angela, but who isn’t? Who isn’t a the fan of Angela Lansbury.
Patrick: She was a hot in her day.
Alex: Yeah. She was. She was.
Patrick: And then music for those that have all been curious. You could tell that he liked some Dean Martin.
Alex: He was a Dean Martin fan.
Pat: Yeah, I like him.
Patrick: And Glenn Miller.
Alex: Glenn Miller, yeah… So, this was his DVD player.
Patrick: Even though it looks like an old radio, it is a DVD but it definitely gives a good likens to his tastes and his nostalgia.
Alex: Yeah, because he really liked… Yeah, the nostalgia for the `50s in this DVD player. But what’s really fun about the way this shot is framed to this, it looks like it’s a QBC. Like little commercial like going for 50 bucks, 1-1800-STEVE-DITKO. Call right away…
Patrick: And then music, not only did he listen to music…
Alex: That he sang and these are like the songs that he would sing and…
Patrick: And this is the booklet.
Alex: And this is the booklet, right. This is like the Christmas songs and what not.
Pat: Yeah, we still have a couple of copies. Do you want one? [chuckle]
Patrick: Yeah, I already gave him one.
Alex: Yeah! No, yeah, I think. Yeah, he gave me one. Yeah.
Patrick: Gave him one already.
Alex: And yeah, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jingle… So, you guys would all sing this together as a family then.
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Patrick: Sit around the table and sing.
Alex: Oh, that’s great.
Patrick: All the nieces and nephews would run away.
That’s how they got rid of us.
Pat: And then, when your voice got bad, we’d play pinochle if we’re still able.
Alex: Okay, there you go.
Patrick: And we talked about, my dad and I were talking about this stuff, getting ready… When he’d come in for Christmas, and he had a set holiday schedule of what house was going to host him, what day, kind of. And his sister Betty hosted Christmas day every year, so that’s when the songs would have been sung.
Alex: So, Patrick was showing me his diagrams of human behavior and group thinking. He had diagrams of the different like what patriotism means, communism, socialism, anarchism and so…
These are his folders but he would have these diagrams that a lot of it, some of it would make it into his Mr. A Comics. But it was also like his own interesting way – property, intellectual property, intangible property. This is all his…
Patrick: Power of moral idealism.
Alex: Yeah, the power of moral idealism. And the way he has these lines and circles around the words, like it makes it come alive in this really interesting sort of way. And then, just show them of just the folder even. Like he would have folders that he would label.
This was as Patrick said earlier, his hard drive.
Was that this is his, the aspects of man…
Pat: We had four boxes of that.
Alex: The Models of Man, and then Political Context, and they would have magazine articles ripped out. Just really interesting, just politics, politics, politics. It was like theory. It was like political theory that he was… It wasn’t necessarily like, “Oh, I’m going to vote this mayor out because there is urine on the ground.” It was more theoretical kind of things and that’s just so interesting.
Patrick: A shout out to Joe Frank for providing all these wonderful envelopes. These letters came from Joe Frank.
Alex: That’s right.
Patrick: Hundreds of manila envelopes courtesy of Joe.
Pat: They didn’t go to waste.
Alex: They didn’t go to waste.
Patrick: They didn’t. He didn’t waste anything.
Alex: Didn’t go to waste.
Patrick: There were also notes on the back of McDonald’s placemats.
Alex: One of the editors at Marvel mentioned in the Jeschonek book that Ditko would mention the evils of the United Nations. Now, did he ever talk about that with you at all?
Pat: [shakes his head no]
Alex: Okay, that’s interesting. I just find these random quotes just fascinating.
For the auction that you guys did, there’s that video of Steve Ditko being funny, and theatrical, and acting in front of the camera. When we were looking at that footage earlier, you were saying that he was kind of a nut, real spontaneous. Was he like that? Was he playful? Creatively playful like that?
Pat: Oh, yeah. All the time.
Alex: All the time.
Pat: Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: He was very animated with his body too. It wasn’t just…
Alex: It wasn’t just when he drew, he was animated himself.
Patrick: He lived the part.
Alex: He lived the part, yeah. So, is that a sign of him like really feeling what he’s trying to express, and making it more life for him? What do you think he was doing there?
Pat: Boy, I wouldn’t know with him.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, and so there was a certain spontaneity that he had that was almost, like in your case, you feel like it was almost like that was him, that was very uniquely Steve Ditko there.
Pat: Yeah… Oh, Steve.
Patrick: When he would stage these kind of events, he would come in, and there would be… We’d have these photographs.
Alex: And this is interesting because especially, where he has the eyes, and he’s posing on his shirt, and then the different like four hands doing these optical kind of illusion with other people, four-handed kind of imagery. This is all kind of very Doctor Strange kind of visuals.
Pat: Yeah. That’s him.
Patrick: When he would come and visit, how did he pull something like this off? How did you get from, “Hey! Uncle Steve’s here” to “Let’s stand, and put our arms around each other, and hold skulls, and take pictures”? Like I’ve always wondered how did you get to that point? How did he initiate that kind of stuff?
Pat: You know, there was so much crazy stuff going on, and I think… No, I don’t know… And we took pictures of it. That’s what you mentioned…
Patrick: Yeah, it was very staged. I mean you didn’t… This isn’t spontaneous.
Pat: I know.
Patrick: This isn’t like…
Alex: Yeah, he thought about it.
Patrick: This is organized.
Alex: Yeah, he wanted to compose something there.
Patrick: And he involved everybody. He was involving his sister. He was involving my mom. He wanted everybody to participate. He wanted everybody to have a good time, and laugh, and enjoy the experience. So, it was much more than just an exploration for his next comic book too, because it was a way of involving people, and having fun.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, having fun. That’s right. Having a good time, and doing unique stuff too. It’s not like the neighbors are doing that stuff.
Alex: Of course, there was a video you showed me of him kind of dressed as a baby in the baby’s crib. His humor work from here to Insanity to cracked. It seemed like he was a funny guy.
Patrick: He was.
Alex: He made a lot of jokes. What were kind of impersonations… What were some of the funny things he was doing?
Pat: He’d do things, like when he’s making Bobáľky. He would count them. I mean that wasn’t funny, but to us it was funny. Why would anybody want to count all the Bobáľky anyway?
Patrick: It’s a traditional Slovak dish. It’s made with tiny bread balls. Each one is rolled and placed into a pan and then baked and broken apart.
Alex: I see.
Patrick: So, there’s probably, 120 balls on a sheet, and he had notes. My cousin found a notebook, didn’t keep it, fortunately. This year the dough didn’t rise very well. We only yielded 896 Bobáľky balls.
Alex: Oh, I see. Yeah, yeah, yeah..
Patrick: Like he was counting each.
Alex: But there was also a sarcasm too. There’s a humor there though.
Pat: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Alex: There’s a humor that’s kind of unique.
Pat: I mean I know we had a ball when he did that.
Patrick: So, we do have the pictures of him baking.
Alex: Oh, yeah. There we go. Yeah, and that’s Steve baking there…
Patrick: So, the takeaway clip from that whole segment would be, he would come back and bake.
Alex: Yeah… He’s a family dude.
Patrick: People don’t think of this inaccurate portrayal of him as a recluse… He was a pretty regular guy. He liked regular things. He liked hanging out with family. He liked bacon. He worked the grill.
It wasn’t like he was above anything, that he came from New York, and everybody was like, “Oh, Steve’s here.” Yeah, we rolled out the red carpet, and yeah everybody was glad to see him, and they enjoyed that time, but it was because he was up fun guy, and that he participated.
Alex: Yeah, you mentioned it earlier that there would be a lot of joking around with him, but there was always a sense of being careful with pushing it too far with him, is that right? You didn’t want to unnerve him or insult him?
Pat: I would say you watched yourself, yeah.
Alex: Why is that, you think?
Pat: Well, just because I don’t think you’d want to say anything that we get into confrontation about something. That wasn’t, any one of my family is not like that, and I don’t think he was.
Patrick: Nobody was pushing buttons, trying to get a reaction.
Pat: All it was, we were all together, and we were having a good time. That’s all the comedy.
Alex: That’s what it was about.
Patrick: Nobody was going to come and say, “Hey, Steve! How’s Stan doing these days?”
Pat: Yeah boy, that would be it…
Patrick: That was like not going to happen in this household.
Alex: Yeah, right. That makes sense. And there’d be no reason to do that. Did you ever talk about Eric Stanton or did you ever meet him?
Alex: No, but you know about Eric Stanton though.
Pat: Well, yeah. After a while, you learned.
Alex: You learned about him after.
Patrick: Even the both of us, just over the last few years.
Alex: Over the last few years. Yeah, because Eric Stanton had some Eastern European background too of some kind.
Pat: Okay, yes.
Alex: So, is it possible that although they both shared a studio for like 10 years, possibly dated together, is it possible that there could have been also just a shared Eastern European feeling toward with one another?
Patrick: I wouldn’t be surprised…
Pat: Yeah, I wouldn’t either..
Patrick: Because I believe that after Stanton he went solo, right? His studio after, he didn’t want to share a studio with anybody else after that.
Alex: Yeah, and I think after Stanton got married, and eased out, that was kind of it as far as two wild and crazy guys.
Patrick: I also think that when my mom and dad went to visit him, and he opened the door, and then…
Alex: He’s closing it behind him.
Patrick: I think that would have been Stanton in the studio.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right.
Patrick: The Stanton Studio.
Alex: Oh, what year was that, when you did that?
Alex: Oh, okay.
Patrick: `67, `68…
Alex: Was in the late `50s when you did that?
Patrick: Or was it later?
Pat: It was later than that.
Patrick: Oh, not much though.
Pat: We were in the apartment… No. It wasn’t much later.
Alex: So, it was like late `50s, early `60s.
Patrick: It would have been the Stanton Studio, for sure, 100%.
Alex: Yeah. That’s right, yeah. Because Stanton was in there.
Patrick: So, that was, “Oh! My brother’s here.”
Patrick: “Let’s go out and have some coffee.” [chuckle]
Pat: Yeah. I mean…
Alex: So, who knows what was going on.
Pat: I thought it was funny, and Joan always says, “We should have asked him if we can go in there.” And my wife would say that.
Patrick: Yeah, no, you should’ve though.[laughs]
Alex: Yeah. Right, right.
Alex: Because there was some interesting art during that Stanton period that you guys have probably seen.
Alex: So then, when did you first find out that Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were his?
Pat: Well that’s a good question.
Patrick: Well, I’ve never heard you’ve asked that. You’ve never been asked that question.
Pat: Yeah, I never have been.
Alex: Was that in the `60s like while he was doing it or was it more when he was done with it?
Pat: Well he sent me comics of it.
Alex: Okay. So, he sent you comics of it.
Pat: Yeah, yeah.
Patrick: You don’t remember one or two or three or four or what story it was? Do you remember if the Green Goblin was in it? Do you have any any recollection of what the story might have been?
Pat: No, I don’t.
Alex: And so, this was possibly in the early `60s while he was doing it.
Alex: Was he also sending you the other stuff like Konga!, and Gorgo!, and any of those things? Or was it more the Spider-Man, you think.
Pat: More of Spider-Man.
Alex: Okay, that’s interesting. So, it sounds like, do you feel like he was especially proud of that character?
Pat: Oh, absolutely.
Alex: Did he ever mention anything specific about that?
Pat: No, but my cousin Helen Durrey, she was a cousin to Steve too. She always says, when we meet her, she’d say, “How’s Yunic doing?” or something… “Oh, well he’s doing all right, this and that.”
“Well, you know what, he’s the one that created Spider-Man not that Stan Lee.” She’d go off on a tangent and where she got it from, I have no idea.
Alex: I see. But it’s possible that Steve may have told her that at the time or…
Pat: Oh, there’s something… Yeah, or yeah, who knows. I don’t know but it was…
Alex: But there was a feeling when he did first see it that Peter Parker was more like Steve Ditko and then…
Pat: I said that soon as I read it.
Alex: And then there was something from the cousin that it was more of a Steve Ditko type of creation.
Pat: She says that she remembers him doing that when he was home and I don’t remember.
Alex: Oh, when he was here, he was actually kind of working on it a little bit.
Alex: I see. So, this was kind of an innocent time for him, kind of early `60s where he’s doing stuff. He may have done stuff here but he wasn’t as maybe hardened to the situation maybe as he
was later. But you never talked about it with him directly, Spider-Man.
Alex: Yeah… And then, did he ever talk about Jack Kirby? Marvel? Wally Wood? Anything in person with you?
Alex: Did you ever talk about Joe Gill at Charlton? The guy at Charlton, no, right?
Pat: Everything that happened in New York, I was not aware of.
Patrick: Privy to.
Alex: Right. But the interesting thing is that he sent you some Spider-Man comics in the early `60s, that’s just really interesting.
Alex: Because that seems to break that rule a little.
Pat: Well, I don’t know when it was, but he used to send me comic books, and then he sent me those albums… No.
Patrick: But this, that was much later.
Pat: Yeah, but prior to that, he would send me… I have boxes of the stuff that he’d send me. Like his certificates, his discharge.
Patrick: That was all 2017, 2016, 17, 18.
Pat: Oh, okay..
Patrick: It was much later.
Pat: I don’t know where my days are.
Patrick: You are pretty sure though that he had sent you copies of early Spider-Man.
Pat: I would say that.
Patrick: Where did he send them to you?
Pat: Here. So, it had to be after `60.
Patrick: Yeah, they bought it in `60, so that would have been later `60s. It would have been this address that he would.
Alex: Because there’s a feeling like you’ve known that he was doing Spider-Man for a long time. This isn’t like a recent thing, like you knew for a long time that he had done Spider-Man.
Alex: On the Merry Marvel Marching Society record that Marvel put out in the mid-`60s they called him “shy Steve Ditko”. Is that not the right word to use for him?
Pat: I think that’s not the right word at all.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. Was it just more like if he was interested in talking to a person he would, and if he wasn’t he wouldn’t? Is that how he was?
Pat: I think, shy doesn’t sound too bad. I think with some people he maybe be that way, but with people he knew, no, no way. So I don’t know how you say that.
Alex: Right. Interesting. So it sounds like maybe he had to kind of know a person and then he wasn’t shy.
Alex: So, maybe like a new person he wouldn’t necessarily go and try to talk to him.
Patrick: And then, if you go into a group of new people…
Patrick: Now, you’re screwed.
Alex: Then probably he’s less interested.
Pat: And on the lighter note of that, we had a Christmas dinner here… Not a Christmas…
Patrick: Christmas party?
Pat: No, we had a Christmas party and I invited Jerry Canary and his girlfriend.
Pat: And they came down, and Steve was here. He was so, almost rude to them because he says, “I thought this was a family get together.”
Alex: Okay. You didn’t talk to him.
Pat: No. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me.
Patrick: And then that sort of set the tone that you didn’t invite friends to the family gatherings that he was going to be at.
Pat: Yeah… Yeah…
Alex: I see.
.Pat: Family only. That was…
Patrick: “If you wanted to have a gathering, go ahead, but I’m not going to be there if it’s going to be friends and family.”
Alex: Yes. So it had to be family.
Pat: Fact is, mom was like sort of upset about that but it never went any further than that.
Alex: I see. What year was that story?
Pat: Well, it had of be… I don’t know…
Alex: Like `70s?
Pat: Yeah, it had to be around `72.
Alex: 1972. There you go.
Pat: Yeah, I got registered in `72, right? Do you remember?
Patrick: Maybe a little later than that because `76 was…
Pat: Oh… Yeah.
Patrick: `76 was that Christ the Savior, so Jerry Canary…
Pat: Yeah, it could have been 1976, yeah.
Alex: I see.
Pat: Because Jerry was a partner up there, and I invited him down here.
Alex: Ditko wrote that he left Spider-Man and Doctor Strange behind and went off to Charlton. He had expressed what he wanted to express. He wanted to express the next project, work on the next thing, but there was some implication he made that the breakdown in communication made him less motivated to stay. What’s your impression of that breakdown in communication? If there is, why is that an important factor for him to stay involved in something?
Pat: Well, I mean first of all, how would you feel comfortable working with somebody that doesn’t respond to you? I mean it just doesn’t make sense.
Alex: There you go, uh-huh.
Pat: And I’d probably do the same thing.
Alex: Yeah. Exactly.
Pat: But you got to have feedback if you’re going to do anything.
Alex: What’s your impression of Stan Lee?
Pat: My impression of him, because I know so much about him now that I would call him a leech.
Alex: Okay. There you go.
Pat: Because I think that’s what he is. I’m right or wrong.
Alex: Right, right. But that’s your impression.
Alex: And that’s fair. And that’s fair, and it’s hard to tell if Steve felt that specific term also or do you feel like Steve probably thought that too?
Pat: Well, if he’s anything like I am he would probably think similar.
Alex: Yeah, you’re right.
Pat: He’s thinking, “I’m his meal ticket”, basically.
Alex: Bethany Swarosky who looked into some of these religious icons had made some sort of similarity or drew some similarity between the Byzantine Catholic saint hand gestures and then the Doctor Strange hand gestures, the Spider-Man hand gestures. Do you think there’s anything to that based on what you’ve seen?
Patrick: When did the iconostas come out?
Patrick: Or St Mary’s never had iconostas?
Pat: In the old church?
Patrick: St Mary’s.
Pat: No, there was never an icon in that church.
Patrick: St Mary’s never had icons?
Pat: Never had iconostas.
Patrick: You could… I would can all of this, and I’ll tell you why. Because St Mary’s didn’t have a traditional iconostas. It didn’t have traditional icons. It had a Roman feel.
Patrick: So, those icons with those hand gestures were most likely not present. And then, even more specifically, my friend Ashley studied Tibetan Buddhism and the Doctor Strange mudras are all legit. They are mudras from Buddhism, all the Buddhas in…
Alex: There you go. It was more of an Eastern influence probably.
Patrick: Those, I took non- Eastern, art history and studied those Buddhas. There’s like seven or eight different hand, that are rarest, but they are that way. And he used those hand gestures for Doctor Strange.
Alex: There you go.
Patrick: She spotted them in the movie. She called her Tibetan monk friend and was like, “Those are the right mudras.”
Alex: Okay, interesting.
Patrick: So, those hand gestures are 100% extracted from legitimate Eastern hand gestures.
Alex: From Eastern… There you go.
Patrick: And then…
Alex: Like Buddhist in the Buddhist World.
Alex: And then, the window of Doctor Strange in the house, I do know that there’s a Tibetan symbol there. It’s probably more Eastern which is what Doctor Strange was. He went to Tibet and did all that stuff, right?
Patrick: Absolutely. It’s not Byzantine.
Alex: There we go. And that’s cool and that’s great. I love that.
When he came back to Marvel in like `79 or so, he was doing like a Captain Universe and other characters like that. But he did not want to, in any way, redraw Spider-Man or Doctor Strange ever again. What would be your impression of why he wouldn’t want to return to those characters, coming back there? Do you think it’s like painful? Do you think it’s because those were his kind of… What do you think happened there?
Patrick: You know that he was offered a extremely huge sum of money to do a graphic novel with Stan Lee and he turned it down, even after that. So, it’s almost like taking your baby and then saying, “That’s not my kid anymore.” [chuckle]. It’s maybe a little extreme but it’s not.
I think he probably explored those characters to a point that he was satisfied.
Alex: Okay. That’s a good way to put it… Because it wasn’t really about making a million dollars in one day like that for him. It was just he wanted to express what he wanted to express, and if there was a job and there was an interest.
Patrick: And I was telling you about looking through those covers, and what I would see as I would flip through them, it’s like, “Let’s make Spider-Man flat. Let’s make Spider-Man inverse. Let’s make Spider-Man in this position because we haven’t seen him do that before.”
Alex: Right. That’s true.
Patrick: And from what my understanding is that he was usually three issues ahead from what was being published, in terms of his own personal creative arc, so he was already… Like he knew what he was going to do in these episodes and he was already probably laying out ideas for what he would want to do that was an interesting exploration for him in the next episode, in the next issue.
Alex: Chameleon, Mr. A, the Question, kind of these faceless characters that he tend to kind of go back to. There’s something from when he would design Squirrel Girl or Spider-Man, there’s something about the one identity concept that that character has to fit that function. But these characters have almost like a no identity concept to them, and then he’s almost using them to make whoever is encountering them rethink what real is or what this is or that.
Chameleon, he made Spider-Man second guess, “Is that Chameleon or not?” The Question, Mr. A, he would make readers question things. He wanted to teach things. He was almost imparting values to people. What do you think it is about these faceless characters, and him trying to teach, or him trying to confuse, but then also maybe make real, and then make a lesson out of it? What do you think is going on with that?
Patrick: Well, I think it’s a total exploration of the character concept, right? It’s almost anti-character. So, this is everything that a character would be, what is everything a character wouldn’t be? And then illustrating that, and finding ways of how can I show that in a unique way.
Alex: Yeah, because see this, is you guys are speaking from two different angles is, you from his brother. You knew him really well or at least as well as a younger brother could, and then, also as an architect.
But then, you’re also an artist, and you design things, and you look at it like an artist. You have a certain creative freedom in your life. You’re not going to be held down by a thing, you’re going to have that freedom and you’re going to hash… So, you’re looking at like an artist too and so you can almost kind of answer that from a Ditko artist angle. That’s kind of how your impression of those things are.
Patrick: Well, in my work, I explore perspective, and it’s through vanishing points, and it’s literal. But it’s also, you have a perspective on things, and it is I like to use multiple vanishing points. It gives me multiple perspectives. I like to view whatever it is, an idea or a character or a drawing, from as many different vantage points as I can. It’s like a well-rounded world view.
I definitely think that Steve did that as well.
Alex: Was doing that with those characters.
Jack Harris, there’s a quote from him from the Jeschonek book, a recollection of Batman try-out concept that Ditko did, where he had these sharp fins on his wrists and they could kind of cut things. Although that didn’t pan out in the comics for him to do, it seemed like that comes up in the Batman movies later. That it made sense from an engineering perspective that he would have these little bat wings that could actually cut things. That comes up in the movie decades later.
From your perspective, Patrick, what do you think that is? That’s more of him like looking into that other dimension and seeing what else could possibly work for that character looks…
Patrick: He sees, explores the potential in everything, and what its strongest aspects are. And of course, being rejected at that time is just more evidence of Steve Ditko being so far ahead of his time.
Alex: Ahead of his time, is what that is. Yeah.
In the Harlan Ellison special in the 1980s, he has this monologue of Mr. A and what Mr. A is. Have you guys heard that?
Patrick: Yeah, I have heard that one, yes. Yeah.
Alex: But it was all about how he kind of rejected the flawed superhero, the superhero with problems, that he felt like a superhero should represent an ideal like they did in the `40s. But in like a more real world way, and and how has to have principles, and not be imperfect. He kind of lets Spider-Man get away with it because he was a teenager.
Alex: But as an adult it should be realized as a person with purpose and function. And I think that comes out in his Blue Beetle character, that it’s a very well-engineered character with principles that meant so much to Steve Ditko. What do you guys think that is?
Patrick: Well, I think it’s the greatest potential that comic books have is to teach a valuable lesson. So, why would you if you… I could understand why demonstrating flaws in a character makes them more human, but we already are human. We already have flaws. We already know that. What would make a superhero super would be their ability to refrain from those vices, and refrain from those problems, and to hold them as an ideal.
It almost, to me, could even go to like sort of those Catholic roots of you need a model. You need a model of something, you need rules, you need things to follow, you need standards. Otherwise, what do you have? If one’s flaws become acceptable, what’s an acceptable level of flaws? So, in order for comic books to function as a model of something good, the characters should represent.
Alex: When you see that he turned down money to do certain things, he had a certain code that he lived by. What’s your take on that? Did he show signs of… Was he always like that since as long as you knew him? That he just lived by a certain set of values.
Pat: I think that was Steve. That’s the way he was. That was him.
Patrick: He held himself to the same standards that he held his characters do.
Alex: That’s what he did.
Patrick: So, in the same way that he wouldn’t draw a flawed character any more than he would want flaws in himself.
Alex: Some publishers would turn down his mystery material because they wanted entertainment and not lectures. What’s your take on that?
Pat: They want to sell comics, right?
Patrick: That’s right. It’s not going to sell comics
Alex: That’s a realistic take.
Pat: Winds up what’s it all about, but it’s all about the money.
Alex: It sounds to me like he didn’t really focus on yesterday or things that happened before. He was always focused on the present and what he’s going to do next. Can you relate to that? What do you think was going into that?
Pat: To a degree… The future always looks brighter than the present to me [chuckle]… The future is to me, is a dream world that you hope happens.
Alex: Okay. That’s cool.
Pat: You have to live it, life, and sometimes, it’s not that easy.
Patrick: I think that’s a convenient, and a good way to move on from your past, is to stick to the present and look towards the future. But I think a healthy life you’ve got to have some continuity between your past, and your present, and your future. A healthy life encompasses all three of those aspects in unity. You can’t toss one of them out.
Alex: Yeah… Patrick, when did you first realize that your uncle created co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange? How old were you?
Patrick: I remember being in grade school, and we had a Spider-Man. I don’t know which one it was, some of mid-teen, late teens, maybe #19 or something, that was just laying around the house. I remember taking it into like second, third grade, and being like, “Look!”… Because there was no internet. You couldn’t say, “Go look it up.” There was no…
There was nothing, something that I would brag about or talk about because there was hardly any ever way to validate it. People would almost go, “Oh, there’s no way. He’s just making that up.” So, I knew it, but I usually kept it pretty quiet because it wasn’t really worth the argument.
But I would take in an old tattered Spider-Man, and be like, “Look, his name’s right there. That’s my uncle.” But it didn’t really resonate.
Alex: Yeah. Did you know it, as long as you can remember?
Alex: Like do you remember a sibling telling you that or is that how that happened?
Patrick: That’s how… It just kind of ends up in your mind. It’s just part of the…
Alex: Did you go around telling everyone about that like, “Hey, my brother made that guy.” Not really, right?
Pat: No. The fact is, after a while, when it came out about him being so famous, I’d go to a meeting and I’d say, “Well, my only…
Patrick: Claim to fame?
Pat: Yeah, “Claim to fame is my brother Steve.” That’s all I’d say to open up the meeting.
And everybody would chuckle. I don’t know if they knew it or what. I didn’t care, just that’s my line.
Alex: So now, from what I understand, Mark actually sent some of your art to Uncle Steve to look at. Did he ever give you feedback on that artwork?
Patrick: He said it was interesting, and that he didn’t have any room for it, but that he might take it out and look at it occasionally.
I actually thought we’d find it and I was actually surprised to not find it.
Alex: Oh, okay.
Patrick: So it makes me wonder what happened.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s interesting.
Patrick: Like I wonder if he passed it on to someone?
Alex: Was it big?
Patrick: It was a poster.
Alex: Okay, it’s a poster size.
Patrick: It’s like a 24 by 36 poster.
Alex: 24 by 36 poster.
Patrick: Yeah, of Transmission.
Alex: And then, I had read that when he would give pointers on art, he would draw it on like toilet paper, something disposable, just so he can teach the thing, but so that it couldn’t be like saved or sold later. What do you think that was about?
Pat: Boy… [chuckle]
Alex: Or tisue paper or something.
Patrick: I think that’s being slightly misunderstood… He’s talking about bumwad.
Pat: Oh, we live on bumwad.
Patrick: Yeah, we should have been more prepared…
Pat: I think it’s misconcept. It wasn’t the fact that in my work when, I draw something, and you can overlay it.
Pat: And I draw it again, and I throw it away.
Alex: You toss it.
Pat: Then I do another one.
Alex: Yeah. So, it’s not like there’s another reason behind it.
Pat: No, I mean it’s just to develop what you’re doing.
Alex: It’s like a quick communication.
Pat: But yeah, so you don’t have to erase…
Patrick: If you’re not familiar with that, like so my dad taught me this really early, which is a huge way for you to learn… So, with my drawings in particular, but I’d say anybody that’s doing anything really good. So say, you do a drawing, say well this is my dad’s icon, and say uncle Steve was going to give him some pointers.
Alex: Yeah… Okay. It’s a teaching tool. That’s cool.
Patrick: Yeah. So then you say, “Well, I think your halo is a little too big. The halo should be here, and then this hand is should be down here.”
Alex: Right, right.
Patrick: But then, like for my drawings, I’m always working on translucent layers. So, I’ll do a layer on there, and then I put my finish drawing on, and I extract stuff from there, and then I put another layer on, and I figure things out. Then, I’m constantly working on those layers. So, when my brothers would do drawings, Uncle Steve would come over, he’d get trace paper, and he’d do this. He would analyze their drawings and tell them how to make it better.
Alex: Okay. That makes sense.
Patrick: So that’s how it was.
Alex: So, it’s just a teaching tool, end of story. That’s pretty much it. And tissue paper, yeah. That’s what he used as teaching tool.
Patrick: That’s the paper.
Alex: That story of him walking to a comic shop with…
Pat: Oh, Rick.
Alex: Yeah. With his nephew, right?
Patrick: Yeah, that’s my cousin.
Alex: Cousin Rick. And talking to a few employees in the comic shop, and nobody knew who he was. What do you think was going on in his mind? Did he go into comic shops much? I mean…
Patrick: Who would know?… So, Rick, that’s going to be on our panel. That’s the only reason… Well, I shouldn’t say that’s the only reason he’s on the panel, but that’s the only reason he’s on the panel.
Because it’s just such a good example of how he would do anything for family, and his sister asked him.
Alex: Yeah, that’s cool.
Pat: Yeah, that was a whole…
Patrick: Because Rick was like, “I want to go to…” And I’m sure she tried to like… She was like, “Oh, no Rick. Just, oh…” But he was one of those like. “I’m holding my breath until pass out”, kind of thing like, “I got to make this happen.” That she finally broke down and asked him to do it.
Alex: And then… Yeah.
Alex: That was cool. Is this the side of the family that calls him JD?
Patrick: No, that.
Alex: So, then the other side of it. There’s a lot of family.
Patrick: There is.
Alex: What do you think his favorite food was?
Pat: But he always went to McDonald’s in New York.
Alex: That’s right. That’s what I was saying is hamburgers, right?
Pat: And I would say hamburger. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah, hamburger was probably like his favorite thing, right?
Pat: I would say, yeah.
Alex: Because I think I feel like I’ve heard three or four stories of him in a hamburger place.
Pat: You know what… Yeah, he went to McDonald’s all the time there was a…
Patrick: Because we had all the placemats.
Patrick: Because he puts notes on placemats.
Pat: So, I would say, yeah.
Alex: Yeah, and McDonald’s hamburgers specifically, it sounds like.
Pat: Yeah, that’s what I would say. But I…
Patrick: That’s what the placemats show.
Alex: No, it’s great. That’s just a cool and funny thing. So then…
Patrick: And then, a big coffee drinker.
Alex: Oh, he drank coffee?
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Alex: Okay. So, he was a coffee guy.
Alex: Okay, that’s cool to know. But not alcohol at all.
Alex: He ate a lot of food when he would visit, so he would measure his weight before and then after, right?
Pat: Oh, yeah. Yup.
Alex: So, he ate a lot when he would visit.
Pat: He enjoyed himself.
Alex: But he lived to what, 90, 91 or so?
Alex: On McDonald’s burgers, I mean that’s pretty good.
Pat: I think he had more than that.
Remember in this studio, he had a full kitchen there.
Patrick: He had a little cooking area there, yeah.
Alex: Okay, so he’s probably cooking some stuff himself.
Patrick: There was not a lot of food in his apartment.
Pat: There was something…
Patrick: His refrigerator was pretty empty.
Alex: Got that.
Patrick: His studio was across the street from his apartment. You only had to cross that and there was a bagel stand right there.
Alex: Yeah… and it was there. He could easily get some…
Patrick: So, I’m sure…
Alex: Especially if there’s not much in the fridge, go get some bagels or something.
Let’s talk about kind of the after death scenario. Where you guys went to his studio and apartment, right?
Alex: And something that I remember you had mentioned, Patrick, was that he was, I think from what I understand, in a hospital more toward the end. And he probably left against medical advice, he returned home, and he would probably rather die there, and not in a hospital, is that right?
Alex: Is it because he just wanted to be in his own space if he was going to go? Was that kind of the idea with that? What do you think?
Pat: I don’t think he had anything that he was… He knew he was, I guess, sick but I don’t know I just… He just didn’t like the hospital and I can understand why.
Alex: Yeah. He just wanted out of there.
Pat: Cause my wife went through… But anyway I guess he wanted to get out of there.
Alex: He just wanted to get out of there.
Alex: So, tell me what you guys saw in his studio.
Patrick: The first thing I would want to point out is that he didn’t have a drafting table. He basically drew on a lap board, and he drew on his desk, but he didn’t have anything tilted. He had a T-square, so he used a T-square. We have the pens, I think his pens are extremely interesting, they’re… Follow his tradition of using everything till its last breath. They’re taped up, and just you can tell ancient. It wasn’t like, “Let’s get a new pen this month I’m starting a new character.” [chuckle]. That was not something that he would have done.
The visuals in his studio – pictures of the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, a lot of classical Greek and Roman sculptures for references on the walls,
Patrick: A lot of nature, that was mostly in his apartment.
Pat: Oh, yeah. Apartment, yeah… Files, there was tons of files.
Patrick: . He’d lots of files, and all of his reference files… And very interesting that he kept a separate space of living and working in. I always found that kind of interesting for people that are so immersed in their work especially like he was. To have a separate place to live and a separate place to work, I find unusual. I don’t know. Dad, what do you think about that?
Pat: I don’t know… You got to get away from it sometimes, to rejuvenate to a degree, get your mind working again. I don’t know… I don’t know why he did that too but that’s what he did.
Patrick: So, when we went up into his apartment, he had a few modern art pieces – a George Brock, and then the rest of the walls were covered with pictures that his sister Anna Marie would send him every year, a calendar of flowers. He would tear all the months out and tack them up on the walls. His apartment was covered with those pictures of flowers.
His apartment was on the ninth floor?
Patrick: And it had two windows that opened up into a light well that basically just looked into a shaft of windows. And you would look out that window, and you’d look up, and there was one little rectangle of light at the top and you look down and there were six air conditioning units in the bottom of the courtyard.
What did you think, Dad, after growing up here, living in Pennsylvania, living in the woods, when we first stepped foot into Uncle Steve’s apartment, what did you think?
Pat: Oh, brother…
Patrick: He is your brother.
Pat: Yeah, I know. That’s why I said, “Oh, brother… Why are you living here?” I couldn’t have take more than one day of that.
Alex: I see.
Pat: It’s just… I don’t know… I didn’t like it at all.
Alex: Uh-huh. Did you feel like it was kind of confining or what?
Pat: I think it was, for him to live like that was like unthinkable. Why? Why?… Because we always thought he was doing pretty good I thought, so… I mean I had no idea how he’s living there.
Patrick: And the place was in disarray because he was older, and he was sick, and he was in the hospital…
Pat: He couldn’t take care of himself.
Patrick: So, it wasn’t… And what my dad’s talking about isn’t necessarily just… That it was dilapidated or uncared for.
Patrick: It was that it was such a speck of small space.
Alex: His apartment.
Patrick: And to not have any kind of a view. If you did open the window all you were going to hear was noisy city. I mean for him and where we live up here…
Alex: Yeah, up in the mountains.
Patrick: Opening the windows, and hearing the crickets…
Alex: It’s the opposite.
Pat: Yeah. Absolutely.
Patrick: It’s a 100% opposite. And I always wondered what you had thought about… How different his life was in New York versus how he grew up here in Pennsylvania in the woods.
Pat: Yeah, exactly.
Patrick: And open spaces, and nature, and being so close to it,
Alex: Yeah, it’s almost up there.
Patrick: And with what he had up on the walls, you could tell he missed that. It seemed as though he missed that.
Alex: Yeah, because he had pictures of the outdoors on the walls.
Alex: And then, I guess what of Arizona places that you were at.
Patrick: Yeah, places that I had visited were on his walls which we never talked about.
Alex: Which you never talked, it was just some weird similar connection of some kind.
Alex: Do you think he threw away his original art or or disposed of it?
Pat: I know this to be a fact that he used to use his boards and he’d cut them.
Pat: Cut them up and cut stuff on them because we found some of those somewhere.
Patrick: It’s pretty public knowledge that he used his…
Patrick: Originals for cutting boards.
Pat: I have a couple letters from some of the guys that he sent stuff to with a letter confirming that they’re from Stephen. But very few, very few.
Alex: Now, tell us about the pens. Like these are his pens basically.
Patrick: So, this pencil box would have been from veteran school era, and it confirms that Ditko and Ahab are the same.
Alex: Oh, look at that. So, Ditko – Ahab… Wow. And then you have the…
Patrick: Middle Eastern… It’s a continuation of a…
Alex: This is interesting… Kind of the camel and the Ditko-Ahab and this
is from the Veteran Trade School. This is like 1948 to `50.
Patrick: Yeah. It just fits that. It fits the era.
Alex: Yeah… Yeah.
Patrick: So yeah, these would have been his, this is his the constabulatory, his sergeant stripes…
Alex: Oh, yeah. Like his patches, and stuff, yeah.
Patrick: His dog tags.
Alex: Oh, my gosh! Look at that.
Alex: Steve Ditko dog tags. Oh. yeah… Oh, okay. Ditko, Stephen… Yeah it’s interesting. Ditko but then it’s like some of the letters are backward but then the Ditko isn’t. And then what’s this one here? Yeah, same thing. Ditko dog tags, I never thought I would have ever seen that.
Patrick: Those will be on display along with his work.
Patrick: Yeah, this is my favorite.
Alex: Oh, wow! Look at this.
Patrick: Talk about, I’m not giving up on that pen.
Alex: Yeah… Yeah, so he put this through some use here and it’s taped up here, it looks like.
Patrick: Over, and over, and over again.
Alex: To keep it together.
Patrick: Yeah. And this one is too, the same way, just completely taped.
Alex: I see. Look at that… So, what do you think when you see this?
Pat: I’m saying, “Yeah. I don’t know.” I probably would never work with pen and ink [chuckle].
Patrick: Like that.
Patrick: Not with the calligraphy pens.
Pat: Yeah, not with that stuff.
Patrick: We use technical pens. We use Rapidographs, not the old fashions. So, he was committed to his medium [chuckle].
Alex: Yeah, yeah. But it was interesting because it’s almost like he had a comfort level with those pens.
Alex: And so, he didn’t want to let them go and get a new one.
Patrick: Well there’s another story too, that he came to visit, and his suitcase, the zipper broke on his suitcase.
Pat: And he was leaving.
Patrick: And he was leaving to go back to New York. His sister or brother-in-law were like, “We’ll get you another bag.” “No! I don’t want another suitcase. Just give me a rope.”
Alex: He wanted that bag.
Patrick: Tied it together with a rope… That bag.
Alex: He wanted his suitcase.
Patrick: It’s got to bring him home.
Alex: That’s amazing.
Patrick: Then he… Yeah. Definitely that depression era sense of thrift, use it till it cannot be used anymore.
Pat: We didn’t find that in his apartment though, that bag [chuckle].
Patrick: No, we didn’t.
Alex: Sometimes, fans would go up to him and say, “Oh, my God! I love what you did with Spider-Man.” or “I love what you did with that, with this.” and he didn’t want the fanfare specifically. He wouldn’t go to comic conventions.
I’ve heard some explain it to me that the reason why he didn’t like that kind of talk is because people who would con him out of working or con him out of ideas use similar language to manipulate him and he wanted to keep all manipulation away. Is that a correct way of looking at that? Or are there other ways of looking at that?
Pat: I don’t think he wanted to bother. He didn’t like the fanfare and that was the end of it.
Alex: That was it.
Pat: I don’t know if he had a reason, but…
Patrick: I mean I think it’s kind of like would you have a restaurant and let your customers determine the menu. Like it doesn’t… You’ll never…
Alex: Oh, that’s a good way to…
Patrick: You can’t run a successful restaurant by letting your customers determine what you should serve. So, why would you care what the fans want.
Alex: There go. So, it’s almost like, “Don’t mess with my artistic freedom of choice to do what I want to express.”
Patrick: He’s the chef… He’s the chef. Don’t put a little more parsley in there…
Alex: Yeah. No, no.
Patrick: That’s none of your business.
Alex: Okay, there you go. Now that, I never thought of it like that before. That’s great.
It seemed like he was visiting a lot in the `50s, `60s, `70s, maybe the `80s. But then, as time goes on, transportation gets harder. From what I understand, his mobility kind of suffered a bit, his vision wasn’t as good, and so then you guys stopped getting those visits around 2008 or so. Is that about right?
Patrick: That sounds about right. It could be a little earlier. Right around there.
Patrick: It was a that gradual degradation of like he’ll be here this year, oh he didn’t make it next year.
Patrick: Oh, he didn’t make the year after that either… Oh, now he’s here. So, he missed two years and then he’d get here, you know what I mean? So, it just it literally…
Alex: Less often.
Patrick: Just less often.
Pat: And I think his knees were bothering him too.
Alex: His knees.
Alex: I see. Walking just got harder.
Patrick: That’s a Ditko hereditary trait. His sister, and him, and me, luckily got all that.
Alex: Did he have eye problems?
Pat: Well, he wore glasses, but not that I know of.
Alex: Yeah, not like macular degeneration or glaucoma, and all that stuff.
Patrick: Not that he had told us.
Alex: And he didn’t have cataract surgery or anything in his eye area.
Patrick: Not that we would know.
Alex: Did you guys then keep in touch as he visited less often? Did you guys write letters, or call each other on the phone?
Pat: I used to write him and… It seemed like, it was funny. I’d write him, and Joan would say, “Hey, you better write to Steve, you got a letter from him.” So, I’d write him but I never wrote anything about what I was doing only, “Betty’s feeling this way and Anna Marie this way and Joan this way.” And he would reply in answering my questions, I mean what I said. And he would never say anything about what he’s doing because I never said anything about what I was doing.
Then in the beginning, he’d always print his return address, and then all of a sudden, I don’t know after a good while, he finally put on one of his tags. Name tags.
Patrick: He’d use a sticker.
Pat: But every time I wrote him, I always printed my stuff. I would not put my tag on.
Alex: Does that imply like hand pain or something maybe?
Pat: No, it’s just a…What…?
Patrick: It’s that personal touch. It’s the extra effort.
Patrick: It’s the handwritten quality versus…
Alex: I see. But you guys never talked on the phone really?
Pat: I called him when he was in a hospital, and he was in Mount Sinai, and the girl says, “Well, who are you?” And I says, “Well, I’m his brother. Can I talk to him? I understand he’s in…” And then, anyway she connected me to his room, and he picked up the phone, and says, “Hello.” And I says, “Yunic, aren’t you in work today?” This was a joke because he was always joking with me, so I joke back, and he said, “Pat, how’s Joan?”
We talked for a while, and then the nurse came on, and she says, “He’s sorry, but he has to have his paper and his coffee. He’s tired.” I said, “Okay.” I says, “Well, tell him I’ll call him back.” And I did, but he wouldn’t answer or they wouldn’t put me through.
Alex: Oh… What do you think that means? What is that?
Pat: He was really failing then.
Alex: Okay, so he just didn’t want maybe for you to hear him like that.
Pat: Maybe. Maybe, I don’t know about that.
Alex: How about in earlier years, would you guys talk on the phone, in earlier years?
Pat: Once in a while.
Alex: Once in a while.
Patrick: But you remember that was long distance.
Alex: Cost more back then.
Patrick: It cost money.
Alex: Yeah, it did.
Patrick: So, I mean that was something that you, you know, emergencies, big news, something major…
Alex: You’re right… Or maybe like, “Hey! I’m going to come down and visit at this time.”
Patrick: I’m sure there were those families that would say, “Oh, every Sunday I’ll call you for 10 minutes.” Because it was a certain dollar amount that that was allocated for that. But otherwise, you didn’t just pick up the phone and call people in another state.
Alex: Yeah, and it looks like he kept souvenirs of Johnstown in his place, is that right.?
Patrick: Well, we have that rails that was a piece of the inclined plane that Chris sent him.
Patrick: Yeah, there were pictures too. Some pictures, family pictures that Mark had sent him, and there was some sentimental stuff there.
Alex: How close was his studio to his apartment?
Patrick: Well, his last apartment and last studio were 500 feet away [chuckle].
Pat: I get so confused on that thing. I don’t even want to… You explain it [chuckle]
Alex: It was really close..
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Alex: But in different different buildings.
Patrick: The main street that runs… He lived on this side, he’d crossed that street, and went into his building to the side. So, he was even on the same side of 56th or whatever it was. His office and home were on the same side.
Pat: Yeah, because I think when you sent your mail you had to…
Patrick: I don’t… That part I never understood. I’m not going to try and explain.
Pat: Oh, yeah. It was crazy.
Patrick: That didn’t make sense to me at all. I’m not going to try to figure that one out.
Pat: You had write on the envelope so the mailman could understand it. I never could get it either, I just didn’t…
Alex: Did he ever mention the Atlas Society to you guys?
Patrick: We only would know about The Atlas Society because there was mail from The Atlas Society.
Pat: Yeah, right.
Alex: Okay. Because he donated to it for like close to 30 years, from what I understand.
Pat: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Alex: So, I mean he cared about it.
Pat: He did a lot of that, yeah.
Alex: Last question, which I thought was interesting from a sentimental note was this Detective Tom Donovan?
Pat: Yes, Tom Donovan.
Alex: He’s the one who informed you guys about Steve’s passing.
Pat: He called me.
Alex: He said something that was especially meaningful. Tell me about how he broke the news.
Pat: He just said that thanks to Steve that’s why he’s an office or in the police. That he made an impression on him with his, I guess his comic books. And then, I don’t know, I wrote him but he never answered me. And then, when we went to get his stuff, we went to the police station, and I asked for him, and he was on vacation or something. Remember that?
Patrick: Yeah, he’s a big help.
Pat: So, we had to go down to the main, things… And when we went down to the main place where they kept all this, I they gave me this little booklet with cards in it, and then, I says, “Well, where’s his glasses”. And the guy says, “Well, that’s all we have.”
Patrick: We’re still wondering what happened to his glasses. They weren’t in his studio. They weren’t in his apartment, and they weren’t among his belongings.
Alex: Oh, wow!… Okay, so someone took his glasses.
Pat: It just bothered me,
Patrick: Looks like it.
Alex: I want to know what his prescription was.
Pat: I never thought of that.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. Curious, about it.
Patrick: I wonder if he was far or nearsighted.
Alex: He was probably nearsighted, because you guys are and a lot of times, artists are nearsighted. You just take off your glasses, and there it is. That’s usually the case.
Patrick: That’s why I won’t have surgery is cause I wouldn’t want to mess with my close vision.
Alex: So, what do you feel we may have missed and what you feel the world should know about?
Patrick: Well, he was really a fun loving guy.
Patrick: That loved family.
Alex: What do you miss the most about him?
Pat: Well, I sort of like the pranks he’d always pull. He always come up with something, and like that puzzle piece that was… And I really, really, really, and I’m sure you can concur, I like playing pinochle with him.
Alex: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was a big family event, right?
Pat: Yeah, that was a small war.
Patrick: Yeah, you guys played for blood. It was serious.
Pat: Like serious.
Patrick: I was so lucky to get initiated into that club just because it was always my uncles that play pinochle. I guess he’d say, “Oh, I’ll teach you how to play”, and you need three or four people to play. So, we used to just play with a fake hand. So, he taught me all the rules…
Alex: Uncle Steve did.
Pat: I did.
Patrick: My dad did. Taught me all in advance. We used to sort of play this sort of fake pinochle to help me understand how to play. Then one day we went down to his sister’s house where he stayed, and there was my dad, my uncle Steve, my Uncle Joe, and pinochle is a partners game, so I got to be the forth, so I got to play with all my uncles.
It was pretty, pretty intense for a 13 or 14 year old kid to play with the old guard. So, good game… He works pinochle into one of his comic books.
Alex: Oh, he does? I didn’t…
Patrick: Mark found it, and then I asked him which one it was in, “Oh, I’ll have to look for it again.” There’s a story, because I did all the titles, there’s a story and Stan Lee is credited as the writer. But we don’t know, right? That he could just…
Alex: Yeah, yeah. Who knows who came up with the plot.
Patrick: There’s a story called The Mighty Oak. They moved here in 1960. That view that you see going down there, right in line with that street, was an oak tree.
Alex: Yeah, big.
Pat: You couldn’t put your arms around it.
Patrick: Three times, you’d put your arms to go around.
Alex: I see, and everyone called it The Mighty Oak?
Patrick: No, but I still think that that… We have 8mm footage, they had to have professional treat trimmers come up and trim it. So, those movies of trimming the oak would have been shown at like functions. So, I often wondered if The Mighty Oak wasn’t a story that was generated from our oak tree that disappeared.
Alex: Well, this was a lot of fun. I loved it. I really appreciate you guys inviting me here, and taking me through your story and your relationship with Steve Ditko. It’s great to hear it!
Patrick: And we’re just glad to get out, some of the truth of the type of person that he was.
Alex: That’s right. And I think that’s the objective anyway, is to get the truth out there. There’s a lot of speculation, and it’s silly, and weird, and there’s from different sides of fandom. People that are kind of pro-Marvel have a recluse kind of and then people on the Ditko side will almost even get a little too much say, “Oh, tuberculosis just destroyed them, and yada yah, and read into things that weren’t real. There’s a real person in between all this, and so it’s nice to have that.
Patrick: And especially, with people that didn’t have the evidence too that aren’t just giving hearsay.
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