Saturday, November 21, 2015

Preview P1: Images from "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6"

Just leafing through some of the original comic books that will be included in my next book, "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6" and it's great to see that, even at volume six, the book leads off with a bang. 

Check out page three of "The Time Chamber" from Out Of This World #11. It was published by Charlton Comics, with a January 1959 cover date, meaning that Ditko likely drew the story five-to-six months in advance of that date. Is it difficult to see how Ditko would go on to create those amazing alternative dimensions in one of his signature strips, Dr Strange?

The work in this volume of the Steve Ditko Archives series coincides with Ditko starting back up with Marvel Comics and Stan Lee for their uninterrupted run of 7+ years which encompassed the creation of the Amazing Spider-Man, as well. Truth be told, Ditko's favourite work of mine is the period of 1959 to about 1961 on these five-page "Twilight Zone"-type stories, with the shock endings. His line work, under the influence of his study of John Severin's inking, is so detailed, yet the layouts are so fluid, so easy to interpret; perfect comic-book storytelling.

And, in the late 1950s, not a lot of artists, especially on these non-superhero books, were breaking apart the traditional 6 or 9-panel page grid. As we know, however, Ditko was not "a lot of artists" and he was doing this frequently during this late 1950s period to great effect. Click on the image below to enlarge...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6" in new Fantagraphics Winter Catalog

We posted on Wednesday the news about my next book, Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6 - the cover, release date, and some notes about what to expect.

Almost surreptitiously, Fantagraphics then followed my post with the online release of their Winter catalog which features a spread on volume 6. Click on the image below to expand...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Preview: "Steve Ditko Archives volume 6"

Anyone who says "half of writing is rewriting" is about one-third correct. Today is a good example of that. I was set to hand in the introduction for my next book, "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 6" (to be published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc.), so I sat down in front of my computer for one last read...and then completely tore up the first twenty percent.

I still plan on getting it out today, and that should close down my work on this one. I would guess-timate that it will be in stores come March 2016. (Book #12 for l'il old me.)

This volume should be of particular interest to all Ditko fans, because it's really the close of the first (big) chapter of his career (1953-59). The work represented in the 200 pages of remastered Charlton Comics artwork lands in the second half of 1958 time frame, just when Ditko is headed back to Marvel Comics and Stan Lee. Sure, it would be another four years until the two men would create Spider-Man, but the groundwork for their working methodology (i.e., the "Marvel Method"), and its seeds of discontent, are first sown during this period.

I say that the work within volume six represent closure on that first big chapter of Ditko's career also because the final stories mark the first unbroken string of work provided by Charlton Comics since late 1956. Ditko would focus on Marvel work exclusively for about 6 months before pulling double-duty with both companies...and on Ditko's first superhero character, Captain Atom (a Charlton comic, not a Marvel one).

But it isn't just the shift in narrative focus; the stylings of the work also takes a turn once he starts at Marvel. And it appears in that "second phase" of his Charlton work too.

Of course, all of this plays out in a Manhattan studio that Ditko started to share with Eric Stanton, the (in)famous fetish artist, in 1958, as well. If that isn't enough of a dichotomy - the buttoned-down, straight-laced, shy Ditko stepping over half-naked models, bound and gagged on his studio floor - then imagine Ditko the superhero artist dipping his pen into the murky ink of Stanton's pornography. Explain that one, Ayn Rand!

We explain it all in "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 6", out in stores ~March 2016.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Official "Blake Bell" Facebook Page up w/ exclusive content!

Okay, there's so many things going on this year that I need to get my collective "Blake Bell Awareness" act together and start acting like a writer! To help facilitate that, I've debuted the official "Blake Bell - Writer" page on Facebook. You can "like" it here:

Today, I've just added a series of images for my "Steve Ditko Archives" series, which also includes exclusive commentary on the volumes. (This includes the cover for the upcoming volume five in the series, well into production now!)

Last night, I added the same for my four main books, and we'll continue in this vein, as well as offer glimpses into past, current and upcoming projects, so see you there at

Monday, May 5, 2014

Memories of Dick Ayers

90 years is a good life. And so is being able to make a living at what you love to do for most of that life.

Dick Ayers, the artist most famous for his contributions to the Silver Age of Marvel Comics (inking Jack Kirby, and a 10-year run penciling Nick Fury), passed away yesterday. (Read more about his career here.)

We've lost not just a member of our community, and an important ambassador for the medium's history, but we also lost a gentleman and, more importantly, a husband and life partner to his lovely wife, Lindy.

Lindy is the source from which my personal association with Dick was fostered. My first book, I Have To Live With This Guy!, told the tales of the spouses/partners of comic-book greats and, given Dick's long and multifaceted career, I was ecstatic when Lindy and Dick agreed to be part of the process.

Thanks to my Secret History Of Marvel Comics co-author, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, I had the pleasure of visiting the Ayers' home on two occasions in late 2001/2002. They lived near by Doc V. and the first visit (in Nov '01) was really a visit to Dick and his home studio...


One of the memories of this visit that is seared into my brain is something you don't see in this picture. Just before you walk into this room, on the wall to the left, is a letter from DC Comics to Dick. It was a formal acknowledgement of his role in the creation of the character, Scalphunter, who first appeared in the 1977 comic book, Weird Western Tales #39.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

X-mas Special! My three 2013 books for $99 (incl. shipping)

Looking for the Holy Trinity of Christmas gifts? How about a special on all three of my 2013 books for only $99...which includes shipping within Canada and the U.S.!

Yes, that's The Secret History of Marvel Comics, Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 4, and Heroic Tales: The Bill Everett Archives vol. 2. That's a $145 value for less than a c-note. Each book has a cover price of $40 each, but you can have them all for about 60% of the cover price (when you factor in the shipping costs).

Just email me at to order via Paypal and you will receive a copy of each signed by me (plus my co-author, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo for The SHoMC), very well packed to survive the journey.

And there's more! Add the following older books of mine for 50% off each (only $5 more for shipping for each two added):
  • Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko
  • Unknown Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 2
  • Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 3
  • Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives vol. 2
Here's all you need to know about my three 2013 books...

The Secret History of Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Top 10 Bill Everett Covers" Feature for Wednesday's Heroes

As if I haven't written enough these days, here's another 2000+ words on one of my favorite artists, Bill Everett!

Craig Rogers runs the "Wednesday's Heroes" website and he commissioned me to write an installment for his "Top 10 Covers" feature, in light of the release last month of my book, Heroic Tales: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 2.

I first caught wind of the "Top 10 Covers" feature when I saw Tom Field do the same for Gene Colan, and was interested myself in what I'd label as Everett's ten best covers, not too much how I'd ever be able to order them ten through to one.

Blessedly, Everett was great from start to finish in his career, so there's representation from 1939 up to the year of his passing in 1973.

Leave your feedback below, or at the Wednesday's Heroes site, about my 10 and how it may compare to your choices!