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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Spider-Man Co-Creator Steve Ditko

The famed cartoonist is dead at 90.


Comics legend Steve Ditko, who co-created iconic characters including Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and cult favorite Squirrel Girl, has died at 90. Throughout his life, the cartoonist worked for both Marvel and DC and smaller independent publishing houses. He was also famously reclusive and a devotee of the philosophy of author Ayn Rand.

Jude Domski | Getty Images

Ditko was a World War II veteran. Stationed in Europe during the conflict, he drew cartoons for the Army newspaper. After the war ended, he went to The School of Visual Arts in New York City -- which was then called the Cartoonists and Illustrators School -- where he was taught by Jerry Robinson, one of the creators of Batman.

A few years into his career in the mid-1950s, Ditko contracted tuberculosis and had to return to his home state of Pennsylvania to recover. After bouncing back from his near death experience, he headed to New York again and pitched himself to Stan Lee at Atlas Comics. Ditko initially worked on horror titles. Atlas rebranded as Marvel Comics in the 1960s.

Their partnership led to some of the most influential characters in comics history, but their working relationship was a fractious one. Ditko left Marvel in 1966 after a falling out with Lee, the details of which to this day aren't entirely clear, but disagreements over royalties may have played a part.

And while Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel movie outing, Ditko eschewed all press coverage, so it would seem that the two men just had very different sensibilities too.

In the early 1990s, Ditko was inducted into both the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame for his work. And he kept creating comics until the end of his life, self-publishing and using Kickstarter to fund his projects with co-publisher Robin Snyder.

Not too much is known about Ditko other than his work, but it would appear that was how the late artist preferred it.

So what can entrepreneurs learn from Ditko's life and creations?

  • Seek out mentors willing to impart their wisdom.

  • Stay the course even if life throws you a curveball.

  • Working with people with different perspectives can lead to great, enduring things.

  • Follow your vision wherever it goes, and …

  • With great power comes great responsibility.

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