MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER: THE STEVE DITKO ARCHIVES VOL. 3 (Fantagraphics, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)
Collects the Steve Ditko drawn stories from Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #4-6, Out of This World #4-6, Strange Suspense Stories #33-36, Tales of the Mysterious Traveler #5, 6, 8, This Magazine Is Haunted Vol. 2 #12, 13, and Unusual Tales #8, 9 (cover dates June, 1957- July, 1958)
Writers: Joe Gill, Jack Oleck, and other unidentified writers
Artist: Steve Ditko
I like how this series of books is presented chronologically by job number instead of publication. What that means is that these stories are presented in the order which Ditko penciled them, not in the order which they were originally published. This approach allows us to see Ditko's art progress and refine over time.
Most of the stories run the typical 'Atomic Age' gamut, that weird post-Code type of Science Fiction, light Horror fare about paranoia, fear of Communist infiltration, space aliens, and the like. There is a lot of Twilight Zone precursors here, albeit usually not at refined as that show would be.
One of my favorites in this book is His Fate from This Magazine Is Haunted Vol. 2 #12, one of those concepts which seems tired to modern audiences but interests me: the relationship between the ventriloquist and his dummy. A lot of these stories seem predictable, but that is only because this stuff has been regurgitated and strip-mined in the ensuing decades, robbing it of all originality.
The Desert Spell shows Ditko experimenting with Zip-A-Tone, something that I am a sucker for. It is obsolete due to Photoshop, but just like how George Lucas filming Star Wars with models looks more real to me than CGI, Zip-A-Tone is a more effective form of shading than gradient blends to my jaded old eyes. The story is also great, about a Nazi awaking from suspended animation with plans to resurrect the Third Reich, only to...ahhh, but that would be telling. Read it yourself.
I am glad that Blake Bell and Fantagraphics have continued this line of books. Ditko's early work is great and is worthy of a spot on your bookshelf.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- There are a number of omissions in this book. The final page of the story The Missing Room is omitted, ditto The Menace of Maple Leaves. Both stories are reprinted in their entirety in Volume 4 and Fantagraphics has printable PDFs of those pages on their site.
The Ditko penciled covers to Out of This World #4 and Strange Suspense Stories #33 are also sadly absent.
Linework and Color restoration: High resolution scans with minimal tinkering, only yellowing removed. As far as raw scans go these look great.
Paper stock: White uncoated stock.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding, book lays mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: Image printed on matte casewrap with spot varnish.