Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange movie will undoubtedly attract mountains of media attention — and cash — for the company. What is not likely to get much traction, however, is the story of co-creator Steve Ditko.
Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man), abruptly walked away from Marvel years ago like NFL-great Barry Sanders did with football. BBC did a documentary on the man titled “In Search of Steve Ditko” in 2007, which was fascinating for all the wrong reasons: The pompous attitudes displayed by men ruminating on why Ditko would leave answered the question, but their lack of self-awareness prevented them from seeing it.
Ditko’s love for Ayn Rand, his objectivist politics, and his character “Mr. A,” were explored midway through the documentary. His philosophy in a nutshell was explained in an issue from 1972:
“Only through black and white principles can a man distinguish between good and evil. The principles guide man’s basic choice of actions. Man can attempt to choose contradictions, grey principles, like man can choose to be dishonest, corrupt, but that choice only leads to evil — to self-destruction.” Mr. A, by Steve Ditko.
There are serious philosophical arguments that have been made over the course of thousands of years to back up Ditko’s claim. But yet, to liberal writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, Ditko is just a madman.
Gaiman told BBC host Jonathan Ross:
“You know, Steve Ditko obviously would like you to read these and see the light and step into the light and become an objectivist and become an Ayn Randian philosopher like what he is. And instead I wind up reading them as something closer to classic American outsider art. They move more into the realm of just sheer beautiful, wonderful straight-from-the-heart, American barking-madness.” — Neil Gaiman
When Neil Gaiman writes stories, they’re all apparently barking-sanity — according to Neil Gaiman.
Let’s take his 2001 short story, Foreign Parts, for example:
“Simon masturbated a great deal. Every night — sometimes more than that if unable to sleep. He could take as long, or as short, a time to climax as he wished. And in his mind he had had them all. Film and television stars; women from the office; school girls; the naked models who pouted from the crumpled pages of Fiesta; faceless slaves in chains; tanned boys with bodies like Greek gods…” — Gaiman, Neil. Smoke and Mirrors, 2001. Page 239.
When Gaiman writes of men who masturbate to school girls, slaves and tanned boys, it’s sanity. When Ditko writes about the duality of good and evil, it’s “barking madness.”
Telling, isn’t it?
Next there is Alan Moore, himself a bit of a recluse, who decided to take part in the pile-on.
“The most unpleasant right-wing character is Rorschach. He almost ends up certainly the character with the most ferocious integrity. Even if his politics are completely mad, he has this ferocious moral integrity that has made him one of the most popular characters in the book. Obviously, that ferocious moral draw of an integrity, that was kind of my take upon Steve Ditko.”
Steve Ditko’s politics are allegedly madness, but yet in 2014 it was Alan Moore who said the following to Pádraig Ó Méalóid at Slovobooks:
“It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.”
It was Ditko who said in the 1970’s that living in a culturally grey area was a recipe for destruction. He was laughed and ridiculed by Alan Moore in 2007, and then by 2014 Moore was admitting that grey-loving western society can no longer make sense of the world. He said western civilization was on the verge of a “culturally catastrophic” moment. Do you laugh or cry at the irony?
Perhaps the cherry on top came when Gaiman called Ditko, “Magnificently uptight, world-class uptight, impossibly-uptight” for his political clashes with Stan Lee.
Fans of Spider-Man know that Lee weirdly allowed himself to be referred to as the sole creator for years until Ditko finally spoke up. (How “uptight” of him.) Lee even tries to make the case that he really is the sole creator in the BBC documentary. His reasoning: He had “the idea.”
Note to Stan Lee: An idea without action is wasted potential.
Steve Ditko put an idea into action, and therefore he is rightfully the co-creator of Spider-Man. A man who has a crystal-clear understanding of right and wrong would not need to be prompted to call Ditko Spider-Man’s co-creator.
This blog covered the industry’s treatment of Frank Miller, Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche in 2014. At the time I questioned why there were no Captain America tales where Steve Rogers performs black ops in Middle East against Islamic terrorists. I said Iron Man was a character who begged for a Rand-inspired tale called A World Without Tony Stark, and the response by a liberal commenter was “readers don’t want to read Rand.”
Classic! Whether it is the activist-writers within the industry or their readers, they are unable to objectively step outside their own psychological “safe space” and make the differentiation between “I don’t want to read ‘A World Without Tony Stark” and “Potential customers would not buy ‘A World Without Tony Stark.”
The comic book industry is dying because men like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore sneer at those who politically disagree with them. They scoff at those who don’t subscribe to moral relativism, and then lament the morally-relativistic world they helped create.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read that issue of The Superior Spider-Man where Dan Slott had Doctor Octopus masturbate to thoughts of Mary Jane. Then I’ll wonder if Slott was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Foreign Parts, or if modern comic book creators just have a strange fascination with masturbation.
There are plenty of comic book readers out there who do not think Mr. Ditko is “barking-mad.” We just don’t have megaphones offered to us by BBC, Marvel, or writers like Messrs. Gaiman and Moore. This blog will continue doing its small part to defend the values of men like Steve Ditko until that changes.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hat tip to reader Nate Winchester for sending me the BBC documentary.