The Steve Ditko Archives Volume 6 is titled Outer Limits and it showcases Ditko's work for Charlton in the years 1958 and 1959. The stories in these volumes have been arranged according to the order in which Ditko produced them and not in the order they were published. The science fiction and fantasy stories have hit a formula at this point of a disenchanted protagonist must confront the weird and unusual in order to be punished or find enlightenment. As the years have gone by and comics under the Code have drifted further and further from the EC Comics mode, enlightenment is more common than cruel cosmic justice.
There's a lot of space opera and oddly as a counterpoint quite a few western tales. These stories are from issues of Charlton's Black Fury and Rocky Lane's Black Jack series, both of which starred coal-black stallions as they main character. In these simple days of Roy Rogers and Trigger, such comics were not uncommon at all, a somewhat bizarre mini-genre of its very own. While he did not interior work for Cheyenne Kid, Ditko doe supply a cover for the series.
Of the covers produced in this time are some of my very favorite Ditko images. The lyrical and delicate image of an undersea realm for Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds is astounding in so many ways. It's at once beautiful and compelling as we see our own civilization stumbling across this weird and strangely lit undersea world filled with creatures new to our experience.,
I've remarked elsewhere about this Out of this World cover, my all-time favorite Ditko cover image, so tender and so elegantly composed. You'd never think this showcased a battle, a battle I imagine fought in complete silence.
A little more rooted in the pulps is this Outer Space cover. Some folks really hate the practice at Charlton to mar their cover art with blurbs for contests and such. I find these ads all part of the cover experience and clearly Ditko has left room for these announcements. Covers were meant to get you to buy the book and not just a piece of art for its own sake.
This sidewalk creature on this Unusual Tales cover is one of Ditko's weirdest concoctions and an urban nightmare for certain. I wonder if folks adrift inside the digital worlds of their cellphones think of the landscape like this when they inevitable crash into some of their surroundings.
The Steve Ditko Archives from Fantagraphics were lovingly put together by Blake Bell, a man dedicated for many years to achieving a clearer understanding of the elusive Ditko and his art. These tomes are a wonderful gateway into the earliest years of one of comic's greatest talents.