Just after leaving the service in 1969, I met and became friends and assistant to Wallace “Woody” Wood, arguably the greatest science fiction comic book illustrator of all time. Woody lived in Woodmere, Long Island and I lived in Valley Stream about ten minutes away from him. Woody requested that I find a studio for him and I located a terrific office on Rockaway Boulevard and thus “Wood Art Studio” was born with Woody, Jack Abel, Syd Shores, and myself. Although we were a very comfortable group Woody wanted one more person in the studio, his friend, Steve Ditko.
I had met several of Woody’s artist friends, but this was the legendary recluse Steve Ditko, the co-creator of The Amazing Spider-Man. He had recently broken away from Marvel Comics and was free-lancing. Nothing is more uncertain for employment than free-lancing and so Woody was sure he would be able to convince Steve to join our little studio. After all, he had worked with Steve before on The 12-page spy story called "Cannon", written and inked by Wood, penciled by Steve Ditko, for the self-published magazine Heroes Inc.
I was a little nervous about picking him up at our train station. I had read his ultra-conservative strip, “Mr. A” for Witzend Magazine and was afraid I would I find a sarcastic, angry, right-winger; who would bite my head off if I should even mention a liberal cause or perhaps he was some mysterious dark character with a hump and only one good eye. The anticipation was unnecessary, as Woody laughingly told me, because there was not a more normal-looking guy than Steve. who more resembled an accountant rather than a savage, raging artist.
Steve was tall, thin, wore glasses, and had a receding hairline, and a friendly smile. He was dressed in a long, black coat and fedora hat. As we drove to the Studio, he quipped, “So this is Valley Stream, but, Nick, I don’t see a valley or a stream anywhere.” I told him it was probably more a colorful name than an accurate one, but I did know of a few streams if he wanted me to find them. Thankfully, he didn’t. Our local restaurants had homey food and Steve, Woody, and I spent dinner at one just across the street from the studio where we discussed the possibility of him joining us. Although Steve was impressed by our series of comic strips, he was more impressed by Woody’s “The Wizard King’” a Tolkienesque fantasy, which Steve called “…one of the finest pieces of work in comics, ever.” It was obvious to me that this was a very kind and generous man who was so completely confident in his own ability that there was plenty of room to admire the talent of others.
During the 1970’s I was offered the job of assistant editor for Charlton Comics in Connecticut, forcing me to move there.
One day, at work I heard someone call, “Nick, so you’re here too,” and recognized a familiar voice. It was Steve. Although Charlton paid the lowest fee in comics, Steve was attracted to the total freedom. George Wildman, editor, and I so admired our artists we rarely asked for changes. Steve would work at his home and often at the Charlton offices, where he would chat with Vince Alicia or Charlie Nichols.
I recalled a crisis, which occurred on an issue of Ghostly Tales #107, where Steve was involved. Wayne Howard had rendered a wonderful cover and the cover story had been written but the artist for the story turned in an unprintable piece of work. We were behind on our deadline, so George and I called on our two speediest, yet most accomplished artists, to illustrate two stories for the issue. They only had three days to do the job. The stories were “The Anywhere Machine” and “His Final Glory” and the artists were Tom Sutton and, of course, Steve Ditko. Both of them came through with well-drawn stories in record time. Steve remained with Charlton for a while and then, decided to go free-lance. But I had heard Steve went back to doing work for all the big and small companies. That was perfectly in line with Steve’s work ethic. He never drew for the money, he drew because he was a professional and loved the field he had chosen, comics.