When I picked up Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, I figured I would learn more about the comic book creator. Instead, after finishing this book, I only have more questions. This isn’t a shortcoming of the author; his subject is just that complex.
Bell shares a glimpse into the mind of Ditko, someone who is very important in the history of American comics but at the same time is more elusive and mysterious than the Question–a character he created.
So what did I learn about Ditko?
By the time you finish Strange and Stranger, you learn what motivated Ditko. It’s not fame and fortune, or other forms of personal success. It’s following the Ayn Rand philosophy of objectivism. So what’s that?
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Ayn Rand
So what does that mean and how does it apply to Ditko? Basically, he had his own strong sense of what was right and wrong, and he would only do things on his own terms. This strong sense of black and white in his worldview is what influenced his career. Bell shares many stories from Ditko’s peers–and excerpts from the artist–that show how they shaped his business decisions, for better or worse.
Bell does a great job of showing how the characters created by Ditko incorporated objectivist theory, like how Hawk and Dove may have differing theories on how to get there but ultimately coming to the same conclusion of what is right. I can now look back at his work on the Creeper and the Question and see how this influences the characters’ actions. I also was introduced to Ditko’s Mr. A, a somewhat more sinister and objective version of the Question, who wasn’t afraid to take a life of a criminal.
Even if you don’t agree with them, you can’t help but not respect Ditko’s decisions. He is a man who would rather lose personal success then compromise his personal values. This is evident in the tale of Frank Miller wanting to collaborate on a Mr. A project, but Ditko refusing since Miller didn’t share the same views on the character.
So ultimately, I’m more intrigued about Steve Ditko than ever before thanks to this book b y Blake Bell. Does anyone have any recommendations of where I should start?