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Avenging World by Ditko
August 28, 2009 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Steve Ditko is, of course, best known for being the co-creator and original artist of Spider-Man. What most people don’t know... is that in the early 1970s he went on a tear and produced a series of insane Objectivist independent comics/rants (13MB PDF) that are unlike any comics produced then or now. - Dinosaur Gardens

Related posts here and here.
posted by Joe Beese (60 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
NO NO NO NO NO!!!

NO!

Why does Metafilter keep ruining my heroes?!
posted by shmegegge at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2009


Um...this isn't exactly news re: Steve Ditko, shmegegge. I'm just sayin'.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:37 PM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is hilarious.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:40 PM on August 28, 2009


The axioms of reasons, shmegegge. Because of the axioms of reason.

Honestly, I think this stuff makes Ditko more, not less, interesting, though it's got to be weird to encounter it after the fact if he's more of a childhood hero than just an interesting part of history. I came late to superhero industry history, so he's more the latter for me.

Certainly, if e.g. Rob Liefeld had produced anything as ideologically intense as this, he'd be at least partly redeemed for being otherwise such an unfortunate rash on the industry's dermis.

Anyway, this is lovely stuff, nuttiness and all. The almost Boschian tableaux on page 18 of the PDF kills me.
posted by cortex at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The must be what converted the Whole Foods CEO.
posted by benzenedream at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, man, these. A few years ago in a fit of ... well, I'm not sure what, I bought the original objectivist comics (Avenging World, two issues of Mr. A, and Wha...!?) on eBay over the course of a few months.

They're nigh-unreadable. I mean, I guess someone relishing re-reading a two-hundred page monologue might see some fun in them but, jesus, I still haven't gotten through a single one.

The best thing about them, however, is their link to Charleston/DC's The Question and Watchmen's Rorschach: The Question (before the 80's dark revival and the 00's psychedelic one) is the "comic book" (i.e. kid-safe) version of the character Rorschach believes himself to be: Mr. A.
posted by griphus at 4:44 PM on August 28, 2009


Wow. The art and layout are boatloads of awesome.
posted by ...possums at 4:45 PM on August 28, 2009


Ditko's the creator (co-creator?) of Spider-Man, right?

So how does an Objectivist reconcile the teachings of Ayn Rand with the motto "with great power comes great responsibility"?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 4:45 PM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Certainly, if e.g. Rob Liefeld had produced anything as ideologically intense as this, he'd be at least partly redeemed for being otherwise such an unfortunate rash on the industry's dermis.

Ok... what is up with this? I had never heard of Rob Liefeld until a few months ago (not a comics person, clearly), but since then I haven't been able to spit without hitting a reference to him. As I understand it, he really hasn't done much lately... right? Why is it suddenly part of the web zeitgeist to bitch about Liefeld?

/derail
posted by brundlefly at 4:49 PM on August 28, 2009


So how does an Objectivist reconcile the teachings of Ayn Rand with the motto "with great power comes great responsibility"?

With great power comes great responsibility to be a total self-interested jerk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's also Toyland, a frankly indescribable essay by Ditko wrote that was (in the link) later posted at the conservative media website, Big Hollywood. It was originally published in Robin Snyder's newsletter, The Comics. (Full disclosure: I briefly subscribed to The Comics, which is a strange mix of inoffensive nostalgia, depressingly frequent obits of recently deceased comics writers and artists who depressingly often died in obscurity -- Joe Gill, probably the most prolific comics writer of all time, worked as a security guard at the end of his life, using the idle hours of the night shift to write a comic strip that only appeared in Italy, which meant that everything he wrote was translated by someone else anyhow; although none of this is presented as at all sad, I actually started crying when I read this story, and completely hated the comics industry for a solid week after -- Ditko's serialized [prose] essays/rants, and ads for comics from Mr. Snyder's personal collection, seemingly selected totally at random. I kinda miss getting this friendly little 'zine once a month...)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I used to work sitting next to an objectivist. He'd read something on the innernette, then turn to me and say, "hey, blah blah blah... right?" - where "blah blah blah" was whatever straw man talking points he wanted to attribute to me as a known liberal. Extreme welfare caricatures, straw man environmentalism, whatever.

And I'd say, no, that's horseshit, which he would then ignore as he went on a 20 minute tirade against his imaginary adversary.

Anyhoo that's what's happening in this here comical book here.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:52 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


brundlefly - Liefeld's (or, rather, his complete inability to grasp human anatomy, among other things) has been a running joke for years and years. You sort of can't bring up what was shitty about comics in the early-to-mid 90's without mentioning him. I think you just didn't notice it before.
posted by griphus at 4:53 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Extreme welfare caricatures, straw man environmentalism, whatever.

Is that sorta like how the original post called (or quoted) the Objectivist comics "insane" and "rants"?
posted by xmutex at 5:04 PM on August 28, 2009


brundlefly, I think this page has helped raise Liefeld's profile on the web.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:06 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So how does an Objectivist reconcile the teachings of Ayn Rand with the motto "with great power comes great responsibility"?


... to draw feet.

Everyone forgets that part...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:14 PM on August 28, 2009


So how does an Objectivist reconcile the teachings of Ayn Rand with the motto "with great power comes great responsibility"?

Probably by noticing that, with great power comes the ability to earn a great paycheck.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:16 PM on August 28, 2009


With great power comes great responsibility ... to do whatever the fuck Stan Lee tells you to do, because that man was the real genius in this equation.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Probably by noticing that, with great power comes the ability to earn a great paycheck.

Uhhhhhh...actually, there was a fair amount of tension between Ditko and Lee about the character; anything un-Randian can probably be laid at Lee's feet.

With great power comes great responsibility ... to do whatever the fuck Stan Lee tells you to do, because that man was the real genius in this equation.

.....Oh dear.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2009


Uhhhhhh...actually, there was a fair amount of tension between Ditko and Lee about the character; anything un-Randian can probably be laid at Lee's feet.

But everything about Spider-Man was un-Randian. He worked for free, for fuck's sake. What is it about Spider-Man that was Randian?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 5:23 PM on August 28, 2009


.....Oh dear.

Oh dear? OH DEAR???

Clearly, it's clobberin' time.

;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:26 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. Great post.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2009


Well, Ditko sees heroic figures in general as Randian -- and idealized to the point, unfortunately, where they're very difficult to relate to as characters. I think this is what makes much of the work he did on the Charlton heroes (Captain Atom, The Question, Blue Beetle) less entertaining than it could be, even while you can't help but be knocked out by the art. No real doubt in my mind that what Stan brought to the table helped make Ditko's work palatable, though I take pretty serious exception to the idea that Stan was anything like the genius of the operation. (With Ditko and Kirby, you have the Marvel Universe; Stan alone, you've got, you know, Stripperella.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:31 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


What is it about Spider-Man that was Randian?

He liked big buildings.

And when Venom beat the crap out of Black Cat? She totally dug that.
posted by qvantamon at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Alan Moore would later base the character of Rorschach in his series Watchmen on The Question/Mr. A; Moore lacked the political empathy and understanding, however, to truly parody someone whose beliefs were so far from his own, and Rorschach became simply a fascist psychotic, albeit a memorable and oddly charismatic one.

I think Moore put a bit more thought into Rorschach than the author gives him credit for. It's the exploration of the character that makes Rorschach so compelling.
posted by lekvar at 5:36 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Er, Moore originally conceived Watchmen as starring the original Charlton characters, as I understand it—Rorschach wasn't based on The Question so much as invented after the Charlton license was yanked out from under him midstream.

Rorschach is a child of necessity. The notion that he was or was not a successful "parody" of The Question is not even wrong, by that reckoning.
posted by cortex at 5:52 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Clearly, it's clobberin' time.

That's Kirby.
posted by Artw at 6:09 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


UrineSoakedRube> What is it about Spider-Man that was Randian?

kittens for breakfast> Well, Ditko sees heroic figures in general as Randian -- and idealized to the point, unfortunately, where they're very difficult to relate to as characters.

But that's really a dodge (a dodge on Ditko's part, not yours), isn't it? The origin story of Spider-Man is just about as anti-Randian as you could possibly imagine. If Ditko really considered himself an Objectivist, he should have resigned out of principle. All of the Randian characters he created afterwards and all of the rants that he put in their mouths don't change the fact that his most famous (co-)creation is an act of prostitution.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:11 PM on August 28, 2009


So the ideal Ditko Spiderman would be the Spiderman of "What if... Spiderman Joined the Fantastic Four!?"...?
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


But that's really a dodge (a dodge on Ditko's part, not yours), isn't it? The origin story of Spider-Man is just about as anti-Randian as you could possibly imagine.

It really kind of is -- Peter Parker's abilities are bestowed completely by chance (although you could argue that the development of his webshooters implies that Peter is himself, as a science prodigy, a remarkable person before he receives his superpowers). On the other hand, though, I'm not sure when exactly Ditko became an objectivist.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2009


Reading right-wing libertarian philosophy is like watching a dog named False Dichotomy jump repeatedly for a ball and come within an inch, over and over. Jaws snapping air, forever. And you really kind of want the dog to make it, just once, but you know that then you'd just have to grab it out of the damn thing's mouth, and who the hell wants to get libertarian slobber on their hand?
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:18 PM on August 28, 2009 [21 favorites]


Er, Moore originally conceived Watchmen as starring the original Charlton characters, as I understand it (cortex)

CBA: Just to map this out: The prototype for Rorshach was The Question, right?

Alan: The Question was Rorschach, yep. Dr. Manhattan and Captain Atom were obviously equivalent. Nite-Owl and the new Blue Beetle—well, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle—were equivalent. Because there was a pre-existing, original Blue Beetle in the Charlton cosmology, I thought it might be nice to have an original Nite-Owl. I can't really say that Nightshade was a big inspiration. I never thought she was a particularly strong or interesting female character. The Silk Spectre was just a female character because I needed to have a heroine in there. Since we weren't doing the Charlton characters anymore, there was no reason why I should stick with Nightshade, I could take a different sort of super-heroine, something a bit like the Phantom Lady, the Black Canary, generally my favorite sort of costume heroines anyway. The Silk Spectre, in that she's the girl of the group, sort of was the equivalent of Nightshade, but really, there's not much connection beyond that. The Comedian was The Peacemaker, we had a greater degree of freedom, and we decided to make him slightly right-wing, patriotic, and we mixed in a little bit of Nick Fury into The Peacemaker make-up, and probably a bit of the standard Captain America patriotic hero-type. So, yeah, these characters started out like that, to fill gaps in the story that had been left by the Charlton heroes, but we didn't have to strictly stick to that Charlton formula. In some places, we stuck to it more closely, and in some places, we didn't.

Adrian Veidt was Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt; I always quite liked Pete Morisi's Thunderbolt strip... there was something about the art style, almost bordering on kind of Alex Toth style, though it was never as good as Toth, but it sometimes had a pleasing sensibility and a nice design sense about it that I was quite taken by. And I quite like the idea of this character using the full 100% of his brain and sort of having complete physical and mental control. Adrian Veidt did grow directly out of the Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt character.
posted by WCityMike at 6:19 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ach! Forgot to put in the first part:

Alan: So, Dick had purchased the Charlton characters for DC, and he was looking for some way to use them, and Dave and I put forth this proposal which originally was designed around a number of the Charlton characters. I forget how much of the idea was in place then, but I think that it would start with a murder, and I pretty well knew who would be guilty of the murder, and I've got an idea of the motive, and the basic bare-bones of the plot—all of which actually ended up being about the least important thing about Watchmen. The most powerful elements in the the final book was more the storytelling and all the stuff in-between, bits of the plot. When we were just planning to do an extreme and unusual super-hero book, we thought the Charlton characters would provide us with a great line-up that had a lot of emotional nostalgia, with associations and resonance for the readership. So, that was why we put forward this proposal for doing this new take on the Charlton characters.

CBA: So you mailed this proposal in to Dick?

Alan: Something like that, and I forget the details—it was such a long time ago—but I remember that at some point, we heard from Dick that yes, he liked the proposal, but he didn't really want to use the Charlton characters, because the proposal would've left a lot of them in bad shape, and DC couldn't have really used them again after what we were going to do to them without detracting from the power of what it was that we were planning.
posted by WCityMike at 6:20 PM on August 28, 2009


Objectivism: I'm not sure what it is I believe but I'm certain I'm right.
posted by nola at 6:24 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you guys want something weirder than an Objectivist making Spidey? How about an Objectivist making Dr. Strange?

"Lee, Ditko, and comic historians all acknowledge that Ditko was largely left to his own devices on Dr. Strange from the character's inception to Ditko's departure from Marvel in '66."

Ancient One: "You were proud, haughty, successful! But you cared little for your fellow men. Money, that was all that interested you, all you cared about. To you the problems of others meant less than nothing!"

From The Religion of Steve Ditko.
posted by WCityMike at 6:25 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read Toyland with great interest. I really like Ditko's work but it makes my flesh crawl when he (or most other Objectivists, for that matter) start to talk about Logic and Rationality. Here Ditko says that the 9/11 terrorists are akin to kids at Summerhill breaking their toys because "A is A". (Sidenote: everyone remembers Summerhill, right? No? Then maybe Ditko is one of those old guys railing against the permissive 60s. A is A.) Anyway, I can agree that Marvel Comics are mostly crap but now what? Break them like toys? Let them rot?
Robin Snyder, Ditko's former editor at Charlton, has been involved in a number of Ditko enterprises and, at one time, was sort of his link to the outside world. Some Snyder/Ditko collaborations were published by Deni Loubert's Renegade Comics in the 80s. Loubert recalled Snyder as being impossible to work with. (Though that may be some kitchenware calling other utensils a dark color.)
posted by CCBC at 6:27 PM on August 28, 2009


Re "with great power comes great responsibility": Those words were written by Stan Lee, and they were written well before Ditko acquired his ideology. Word on the street is that when Ditko turned all Objectivist, he decided that the Marvel approach was philosophically unacceptable: Marvel was all based around showing even heroes as flawed and human and capable of making mistakes, whereas Ditko wanted to hold up even ordinary people to higher standards than that, never mind heroes, which had to be paragons of absolute pure-mindedness.

Funny how most people found the Marvel approach produced more interesting stories.
posted by baf at 6:32 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


brundlefly, I've noticed a lot of Liefeld references too lately (like this), I don't think it just you. I think there's a bit of an interest in 90s kitsch right now, which I think may explain why Third Eye Blind are back on the charts.
posted by bobo123 at 6:53 PM on August 28, 2009


Steve Ditko's 32-Page Package 5: TSK! TSK! is more of the same flavor of fun!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:22 PM on August 28, 2009


Wrong link, bobo123? I don't see any Liefeld references on that page...
posted by ericost at 8:15 PM on August 28, 2009


spidey with pouches, epaulets and funky looking guns? that is absolutely a commentary on how awful spidey'd look if he were designed by liefeld.
posted by shmegegge at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2009


They're nigh-unreadable.

Yep. Although that art in Mr. A (when it wasn't obscured by word balloons) looked pretty great.

Ditko's Objectivist comics are interesting for what he tried to do-- blend his belief system with traditional comic book narrative-- but they definitely come across like something Seymour would pull from the crank file of the New Frontiersman.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:30 PM on August 28, 2009


I think there's a bit of an interest in 90s kitsch right now, which I think may explain why Third Eye Blind are back on the charts.


LALALALALALALLAICAN'THEARYOULALALALALA!
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my alternate universe, The Neutralist is a playable character in Marvel vs Capcom.
posted by hellojed at 9:53 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I know is my gut says MAYBE.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:27 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand meets Jack Chick.
posted by Wood at 10:36 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


shmegegge: spidey with pouches, epaulets and funky looking guns? that is absolutely a commentary on how awful spidey'd look if he were designed by liefeld.

It's Spidey as Cable, Deadpool's co-star in the book they share/shared. Cable was created by Liefeld, so really it is both, I guess.

Fuckin' Liefeld.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:41 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Awesome.

And by awesome I mean a little soul-crushing but still LOLOCAUSTIC.
posted by bardic at 11:06 PM on August 28, 2009


Marvel characters are seen as deeper, more complex, etc., because they are generally tragic figures.
posted by Artw at 12:16 AM on August 29, 2009


This fine set of oddities are also available in the Comic Book Archive format, viewable in CDisplay (Windows), Jomic (Mac), Comical for Linux, and Droid (Google Android). Or you can rename the extension to .zip and unpack it with anything that handles ZIP files.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:07 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just as a note for fellow Macheads, a lot of people already have Xee installed as a Preview replacement, and I was surprised to learn the other day that it handles CBRs and CBZs just fine.
posted by WCityMike at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2009


Alan Moore 'sings' Mr A - There is black and there is white, there is wrong and there is right... 'nuff said!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Objectivism: I'm not sure what it is I believe but I'm certain I'm right.

Metafilter: I'm not sure what it is I believe but I'm certain I'm right.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I'm not sure what it is I believe but I'm certain I'm right your wrong.

Catches the tenor of the place a little better, eh?
posted by absalom at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


YOU'RE, damn it.

*hangs head*

*ritual flagellation*
posted by absalom at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2009


brundlefly, I think this page has helped raise Liefeld's profile on the web.

Yeah, that's where I first became aware of him.

MetaFilter: ALL GRIMACING ALL THE TIME
posted by brundlefly at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2009


Stan Lee's true talent was collaboration. He's a terrible writer by himself, but everything he collaborated on came out better than the solo product of his partners.

Kirby was half hack, half genius. Ditko was half lunatic, half genius. Lee got the genius out of both of them.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2009


No part of Kirby was hack. A big part of Stan Lee is huckster, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Talking of Marvel, Lee and Kirby... oh dear.
posted by Artw at 8:11 PM on August 29, 2009


With great power comes great responsibility ... to do whatever the fuck Stan Lee tells you to do, because that man was the real genius in this equation.

Considering Ditko had a fair complaint about Stan not giving him creator credit for Spiderman, perhaps we shouldnt hold Stan up to any lofty standards. It took decades before Ditko received the credit he deserved.

A part of me respects Ditko. He really stuck to his principles while Stan was really just paying lip service to the far-left hippie movement popular at the time. Ditko's unpopular political views really have hurt him in the court of popular opinion when it comes to spiderman ownership. Considering how utterly ridiculous much of the hippie/Yippie movement was at that time, I dont begrudge Ditko for taking a contrarian position.

The double-standard for Ditko really blows my mind. I mean, if you bring up how DC treated the Superman creators or how Marvel treated the people who later formed Image, you would have no shortage of aspies completely losing their shit over it if you mentioned it to them. If you mention Ditko, suddenly its all jokes about his politics.

There's a great documentary about this called "In Search of Steve Ditko" in which Stan is asked whether he thinks Ditko is truly a co-creator, a title Stan gave him after a couple of decades of complaints and lawsuits. He flatly states no and immediately regrets admitting to such on camera. He claims only the writer should get creator credit. I disagree. In a visual media like comic books, the illustrator isnt a mere technician but an important part of character and story creation. Ditko deserves far better treatment than what he got from Stan and the fans.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2009


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