“With great power comes great responsibility” was the message writer Stan Lee saw in Spider-Man. The superhero’s co-creator, artist Steve Ditko, adored Ayn Rand and didn’t believe his artistic power created any obligations. Thus, one of comics’ greatest artists languishes in self-made obscurity, living out a Roark-at-the-quarry scenario, refusing to grasp most of the work opportunities that awed acolytes offer him.
In Blake Bell’s gorgeous coffee-table art book and biography, Strange and Stranger (Fantagraphics Books), we see Ditko’s vividly grotesque gift, and we contemplate how being robbed of the recognition and money that being Spider-Man’s co-inventor should warrant, and having his Objectivist superhero “Mr. A” ignored or mocked, led Ditko to self-imposed exile. He refuses for reasons of integrity understandable only to him even to sell off his old pages, which could make him a very rich man. Rand taught Ditko that the artist is the world’s fountainhead, and he has poured on our ungrateful heads all he cares to.