Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Comics and Politics of Steve Ditko

Seeing how "V for Vendetta" has reintroduced everyone to Alan Moore's comic book discourse on anarchy vs. Fascism, now might be a good time to review other comic writers who created superheroes with a strong political message. That list pretty much begins and ends with Steve Ditko, co-creator (?) of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, creator of Shade the Changing Man, the Creeper, Hawk and Dove, and the writer and artist for several books that spelled out an Objectivist philosophy of rational self-interest and the defiance extraordinary people must show to the masses--The Question, Mr. A, Killjoy (pictured), Avenging World (technically not a superhero), and many others.

Ditko was and is completely one-of-a-kind; uncompromising, genuine, hugely influential, and one of the greatest comic book artists ever (though it took me a little while to recognize this). For a man who prized rationalism and a clear-eyed view of reality, he turned out some seriously trippy psychedelic art. For a thinker who believed that independent geniuses owed nothing to society apart from their example, he gave vivid life to Peter Parker's responsible-out-of-guilt hero and conceited Stephen Strange's fall from grace due to his own high self-regard. Two interesting articles trace Ditko's political evolution, one quoting heavily from BookForum's Andrew Hultkrans, the other from the "Ditko Looked Up" Web site (contrasting Hawk and Dove and Mr. A).

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