After Steve Ditko left Marvel in the mid-1960s, the gifted creator essentially washed his hands of his two most famous characters – Spider-Man and Doctor Strange – and pursued characters and concepts that mirrored his interests at such publishers as Charlton and DC.
Ditko’s apparent resolve to not look back at what many considered his glory days was so strong that given an opportunity to design splash pages featuring the Marvel Universe circa 1985 (in the all-time classic ROM #65), he pointedly avoided any mention of a certain Webhead or Master of the Mystic Arts.
Still, to appropriate the title of a rather mediocre James Bond film, never say never again. While Ditko never lent his talents to Spider-Man again, he did illustrate a Doctor Strange story … more or less.
A few years after leaving Marvel, Ditko produced a story for the Charlton horror anthology – The Many Ghosts Of Dr. Graves – that served as a secret “Dr. Strange” adventure.
The story’s protagonist, Dr. Graves himself, bore a strong resemblance to Stephen Strange but rarely participated in the tales within his comic. He generally acted as a narrator, much like EC’s Crypt Keeper or DC’s Cain and Abel.
In the “Ultimate Enemy,” which appeared in the 12th issue of the anthology comic, Graves took the center stage and utilized his mystic powers against a “mystical being … bent on conquering Earth.”
The resulting battle – which took place on the astral plane, natch – would have fit in quite nicely with the surreal Dr. Strange adventures by Ditko that made Strange Tales a timeless cult classic of the original Marvel Age.
In celebration of Steve Ditko’s 85th birthday – not that he would want anyone to take notice – here’s a “lost” Dr. Strange classic from The Many Ghosts Of Dr. Graves #12 (Charlton, February 1969).
“The Ultimate Enemy” was scripted by Steve Skeates. The pencils and inks are by Ditko.