I heard someone quip recently that they were glad the Dr. Strange movie was getting a lot of attention because it meant that, when Steve Ditko eventually passes away, his obituaries will say more than “co-creator of Spider-Man.” It’s kind of reductionist to broaden that only to “co-creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange” but it does at least start to convey that he wasn’t a one-trick pony. I think one of the reasons Stan Lee is given as much credit for Spidey as he is is because the rest of Ditko’s many creations did not make their way into the popular consciousness. So there’s some assumption that, since Ditko only had one well-known superhero to his name, and Lee had dozens, Lee must have been the primary driver in the character’s creation. Which is bullshit, of course, but in the absence of knowing about the Question, Squirrel Girl, Speedball, the Creeper, Captain Atom, Hawk & Dove, and so on, one might assume that.

Ditko’s name inevitably came up with each new Spider-Man movie, and given how many have been made since 2002, he’s gained some level of recognition in the public consciousness. Certainly moreso that he had before the movies. While not every article and column and review about those movie’s mentioned Ditko, many did. So now, with Dr. Strange in theaters, seeing Ditko’s name again might get people to stop and think.

“Ditko? Isn’t that the guy who did Spider-Man? Huh. I wonder what else he’s done.”

Maybe that amounts to no more than scanning his Wikipedia entry. But maybe that includes checking out some of his older work. And perhaps finding those other oddball heroes he created. Not everyone will like everything he does—particularly when it comes to his more recent philosophical work—but we will almost certainly see the movie produce some new Ditko fans. Fans who are discovering his work for the first time.

Something to remember is that, even if you’ve been reading Dr. Strange stories since 1963, not everyone is in the same position. Some have just discovered this character and his creator. Which means they could well have questions that come off as rudimentary. The stuff of common knowledge.

But this is one of the impacts of a broadening fan base. As more people become exposed to the character or creator, they’ll garner more fans. And those fans, being newer, will simply not have the deep knowledge that an older fan might. And that’s okay. That’s not a reason to mock them or condescend to them. They’re only inquiring about joining a community you might already be a member of.

And isn’t that ultimately what we all want out of fandom in the first place? A means to connect with other people who share similar thoughts and values. Something attracted this new person to the character or creator, much in the same way that it did for you, and they just want to share their enjoyment with others. You were new to this fandom once yourself; let them have their joy and recall how you felt when you first discovered it. Share their joy with them, and you might find your own enjoyment grow as well.

About The Author

Sean Kleefeld
Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle
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Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.