'Ditko-inspired excitement' Unveiling of 'The Legacy of Captain Bottle Works' will highlight event

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Sep. 15—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — This event will recognize a Johnstown native whose stories and characters in comic books and movies are legendary.

Ditko Con will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown. It will celebrate the work of Steve Ditko.

"This unique gathering promises a day of Ditko-inspired excitement, bringing together comic book enthusiasts, creators and fans to celebrate the indelible mark that Steve Ditko left on the world of comics," said Melody Tisinger, Bottle Works director of advancement and operations.

"From his iconic co-creation of Spider- Man to his innovative contributions to the comic book industry, Ditko's legacy continues to inspire generations of artists and fans."

Matt Lamb, Bottle Works creative director, said the inaugural Ditko Con was held in 2021 to wrap up an exhibition that honored Ditko.

"It was well-attended and pretty popular," he said. "People kept asking us when we were going to do another one. Members of the Steve Ditko estate enjoyed it, and they had a good time meeting so many people who have such a passion for Steve's work. They wanted to do it again, as well."

Special guests

Ditko Con will boast a lineup of guests, including creators who collaborated with Ditko and those who drew inspiration from his groundbreaking work.

"We're basing the con on honoring Steve, so what we did was to select some guests who worked with him during his career," Lamb said.

At 2 p.m., the "Working with Steve Ditko" panel will include Mort Todd, Will Murray, Michael T. Gilbert and Zack Kruse. It will be moderated by Mark Ditko.

"Mort Todd worked with Steve pretty regularly in the later years of his career, so he knew him well," Lamb said. "We will have a couple panels where these industry leaders will get up and talk about working with Steve, what he was like to work with and what he was like as a person."

Spider-Man enthusiast Bruce Wechtenhiser will offer a presentation on his experiences with the superhero character at 3 p.m.

A panel featuring members of the Steve Ditko estate — Patrick S. Ditko, Patrick J. Ditko, Mark Ditko and Robert Jeschonek — will be presented at 4 p.m. It will be moderated by Lenny Schwartz.

"Family members will talk about who Steve was as a person outside of the comic book industry," Lamb said.

Captivating stories

One of the highlights will be the unveiling of Hero Works Publishing's inaugural publication "The Legacy of Captain Bottle Works."

The 60-page, Ditko-inspired book features captivating stories penned by "Ditko" playwright Schwartz, accompanied by artwork by Lamb, Glenn Klimeck, K. Brandon Wilt, Ariana Skebeck, Garrett Murphy and Chris Rehner.

"We've been fundraising and doing all the work behind the book since February, so this is the big unveiling, and we will have the book in hand for the con," Lamb said.

Attendees will have the opportunity to have their copies of the book signed by the creative team.

Additional guests include Ditko Ink and comic book artists Wayne Faucher and Sam Johns.

There will also be toy and comic book vendors on site, including Buckethead's Collectibles, Bent Wookee Comix and Ditkoclub.com.

At the conclusion of Ditko Con, artist Khoi Pham will offer "Comic Works — How to Draw Spider-Man" from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $25.

Lamb added that the event is also designed to help eliminate the stigma that has been placed on Ditko.

"The estate's biggest concern is making sure that people know who he really was as a person, because he wasn't a hermit who locked himself behind a door and never talked to anybody," he said. "We're looking to change people's knowledge of him and celebrate the fact that Johns-town has some pretty cool things credited to his name in the arts community."

Lamb said that despite Bottle Works holding multiple Ditko events and exhibitions over the past three years, in addition to the installation of two Ditko-inspired murals, he continues to hear people say they were unaware of Ditko's connection to Johnstown.

"It's important for us to keep promoting the local talent," Lamb said. "We have a couple of local artists involved in the con, so we want to keep celebrating those people and keep drawing attention to the good things that are coming out of the arts in Johnstown."

Tickets are available in three tiers.

Spectacular Admission is $10 for members and $12 for the public, and includes full access to vendor and guest areas, all panels and charity quick sketch.

The Amazing Art Lover Admission is $50 per person. It grants full access to vendor and guest areas, all panels and charity quick sketch, along with an exclusive Ditko Con swag bag featuring the "You Don't Know Ditko" fanzine by Javier Hernandez, Ditko-inspired art prints and a paperback copy of "The Legacy of Captain Bottle Works."

The Ditko VIP Admission is $100 per person. It provides VIP access starting at 10 a.m., full access to vendor and guest areas, all panels and charity quick sketch. VIP attendees will receive a Ditko Con swag bag with the "You Don't Know Ditko" fanzine, Ditko-inspired art prints, an autographed hardback copy of "The Legacy of Captain Bottle Works" and a Ditko Con T-shirt.

Additionally, VIPs will have exclusive access to the VIP lounge, where they can connect and mingle with fellow VIPs while enjoying light refreshments.

It's recommended that tickets be purchased in advance online at www.bottleworks.org.

For more information, call 814-535-2020.