Johnstown, PA is a city of firsts, from inventing the Bessemer process to mass produce steel to being named the first ever Hockeyville USA. Over the next three months, Flood City will put the spotlight on native Steve Ditko, who helped co-create Spider-Man and many of the iconic heroes that dominate the silver screen, streaming services and your local comics store.

I spoke with Matt Lamb, creative director at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, for the lowdown on their new Ditko art exhibits, and some of the most exciting events planned to honor Ditko this year. And Matt is the right guy to do it. A Spider-Man junkie since birth, Matt was shocked to find out that Ditko was from Johnstown, and wants to be sure he's the last person to ever be surprised by that fact. 

Don your spandex, pack your spare Cloak of Levitation and see how Bottle Works is honoring this hometown hero!

See Ditko Art on Display

Spider-Man Steve Ditko

By "Amazing Fantasy #15" at The Grand Comics Database. Retrieved ., Fair use,

What better way to celebrate Steve Ditko than two art exhibits dedicated to his work and the people he's inspired ever since? Hosted at the Bottle Works, these run July 15- Sept. 11 in collaboration with the Ditko family.

Hometown Heroes-Steve Ditko is a focus on the master inker and penciller himself, containing everything from original works and memorabilia to walls of living Ditko inspiration and spotlighting his  infamous fan mail responses. Ditko let his work speak for itself and didn't give interviews, leaving us to know him through fan mail correspondence gems like the following:

Dana, I don't have the time to go into answering your questions. Steve Ditko

The Ditko Inspired exhibit will run concurrently, giving other artists a chance to show their stuff and how Ditko has influenced them through the years. Their original pieces will be accompanied by short videos where they explain what Ditko means to them as they create in the comics world and beyond every day.

Secret Tip #1: Just like a Marvel movie, it pays to stick around to the end credits. There will be surprises at the exhibit you can only get there. So be sure to look for exclusive items while you enjoy the art.

Learn to Create like Ditko 

Hometown Heroes Exhibit - Steve Ditko

Are you ready to create the next cinematic universe? If so, Bottle Works is hosting six Saturdays of Comics Works Workshops to help get your comic started. And we're talking everything you need to know. Complete all six and you will have all the tools you need to start your own comic.

Aspiring creators will be learning from the best, with distinguished instructors like Carol Potts, Marvel Editor, Patrick Ditko, Steve's nephew, Khoi Pham, Marvel/DC artist, and Javier Hernandez, cartoonist and creator of El Muerto each leading a workshop.

Watch Ditko's Life Unfold

DITKO play

To really understand a visionary creator like Steve Ditko, you have to check out a special performance of DITKO, a play done in conjunction with Bottle Works and State Theater on July 25. This tongue-in-cheek retrospective will show you the man behind the creations, lifting the latex mask off of a man who divulged little to the public and even his fans. Follow his early career leaving Johnstown to taking an all-important class in New York, then going on to help ink and color at a fledgling comic producer named Marvel.

Performed by community actors, DITKO again makes Johnstown the star, showing off the talented people in this area. Who knows? Maybe one of the artists or performers you see is the next rising star to come out of Flood City!

Visit Marvel-Approved Murals

Dr. Strange

By Source, Fair use,

I can't spoil too much, but one of my favorite parts of this Ditko celebration is the upcoming mural project that will feature his work at Stone Bridge Brewing Company and the Tulip Building at Bottle Works. The best part is that these murals are approved by Marvel Comics themselves!

Chalk up another first for the city of Johnstown! These two murals will be the first of their kind in the country, making these two exclusive Marvel murals must-sees.

If I get a vote on who is featured, I'm rooting for Squirrel Girl, maybe my favorite of Ditko's creations. Her comics are fun and lighthearted, showing off her unique powers of a prehensile tail and the uncanny ability to talk to squirrels.

Attend Ditko Con

You Don't Know Ditko

By Javier Hernandez via Twitter,

Rounding out this celebration of all things Ditko is the aptly-named Ditko Con at Ace's banquet hall and the Bottle Work Sept. 11. Swing by to meet celebrity guests, browse toys and collectibles featuring your favorite heroes, and attend a Q&A Panel featuring Ditko experts and a family member. Ending the evening will be an auction of your favorite pieces from the Ditko-Inspired exhibit, with lots of surprises in store.

I hope you're as excited as I am to honor Steve Ditko's innovation and lifetime of work in the city of firsts, Johnstown, PA. For more information on any of the above events, reach out to Bottle Works or follow them on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all the latest announcements!