The Atlantic

Steve Ditko’s Ordinary People

The legendary comic-book illustrator and writer, who died in June at the age of 90, infused characters like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with a revolutionary sort of humanity.
Source: Marvel Comics / Steve Ditko

Near the end of The Amazing Spider-Man’s ninth issue (published in 1964), the costumed hero finally figures out how to stymie Electro, the bad guy of the month, by soaking him in water. “Life sure is funny!” Spider-Man says. “Here’s one of the most powerful criminals of all time! And what finally beat him?? Just a dousing from a plain, ordinary water hose!” He then goes to remove Electro’s mask, but is disappointed by the result—under the costume, Electro is just a regular-looking man. “If this was a movie, I’d gasp in shock and then I’d say: ‘Good heavens! The butler!’ But this guy I never saw before,” he muses.

The issue is credited as being written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, a legendary, mercurial artist who worked

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