Libertarian Funny Pages

Entertainment Weekly gives a thumbs up to the new coffee table biography of Spider-Man co-creator and Ayn Rand fanatic Steve Ditko, calling the artist's life "one of the strangest comic-book tales ever: not just how a talented man was ripped off by others, but how he denied himself a larger place in comics history."

Ditko is one strange bird, no doubt about it. As reason contributor Julian Sanchez tells it:

[A]fter falling out with his Marvel collaborator Stan Lee, Ditko, well, went round the bend a little, and began churning out turgid, nigh-unreadable comics devoted to expounding Rand's Objectivist philosophy in tedious, rambling lectures punctuated by the odd fistfight. His primary mouthpiece was the costumed avenger Mr. A—as in "A is A," the tautology from which Rand purported to derive an elaborate system of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. Along with another Ditko creation, The Question, Mr. A would serve as the model for Rorschach in Alan Moore's seminal Watchmen.

In other comic book-related news, Eric Alterman described the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight, as "both libertarian and fascistic," while reason contributor Ilya Somin weighed in on the "libertarian law and economics of Batman."

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  • PantsFan||

    It's Spider-Man, not spiderman

  • ||

    Until the advent of Image Comics, pretty much every illustrator and writer in the comics world got screwed on their creations.

  • ||

    the tautology from which Rand purported to derive an elaborate system of metaphysics

    Thinking that morality can transcend a material world is where Rand falls into a trap.

  • Marcvs||

    Thinking that morality can transcend a material world is where Rand falls into a trap.

    Cuz we are spirits in the material world..
    are spirits in the material world..
    are spirits in the material world..

  • BakedPenguin||

    I always wondered if Sting read Gilbert Ryle, or he just thought "Ghost in the Machine" was a cool title.

  • DannyK||

    Exposing my inner geek for all to see:

    I wish there'd be a Mr. A revival. The world needs more libertarian superheroes. Rorschach is more of a paleocon, and the Question mostly sucks in his post-Ditko incarnations, although the paranoid conspiracy theorist version in the JLA animated series is kind of fun.

    But who would write it? Grant Morrison?

  • ||

    I thought Mr. A was fantastic, not only was he explicitly libertarian-objectivist, but he also broke the superhero trope of not killing people who deserved it - in the 60s!
    Mr. A's tendency to rant philosophy wasn't really that bad, it was just a character trait. Lots of superheroes are slightly crazy, at least he didn't dress up like bat.

  • Franklin Harris||

    and the Question mostly sucks in his post-Ditko incarnations



    Which now includes being dead. Same for Ditko's version of the Blue Beetle. And Ditko's Captain Atom has been turned into an insane villain.

    Why does DC Comics hate Steve Ditko?

    Bah. They're a bunch of stinking second-handers at DC, anyway.

  • Franklin Harris||

    Alan Moore's Mr. A song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD7EKZ32ODQ

  • ||

    I loved Rorschach! Best. Antihero. Ever.

    From what I've seen, the costumes are really cool and the overall mood of The Watchmen movie should rival Blade Runner or some similar dark fantasy. Might be good ...

  • ||

    ,i.turgid, nigh-unreadable...devoted to expounding Rand's Objectivist philosophy in tedious, rambling lectures punctuated by the odd fistfight

    Wow. How strange.

    I can't imagine what that must like. I haven't ever seen anything like that.

  • Kim Scarborough||

    joe (and anyone else interested):

    We posted one of Ditko's comics at the blog Dinosaur Gardens a while ago, if you'd like to see for yourself.

  • Justin Slotman||

    That comic....wow. And I thought Moore was being unfair to Ditko with Rorschach. (Love the guy with OBJECTIVITY on his dunce cap and REASON on his pants.)

    Yeah, the animated version of the Question is my favorite version of the character. He's sort of a mashup of the Ditko conception (note his "A is A" speech when he confronts Luthor) and Rorschach, filtered through a 90s full of X-Files.

  • Justin Slotman||

    And I'm not reading that book until somebody tells me it has a whole chapter devoted to Squirrel Girl.

  • Metal Messiah||

    I wish there'd be a Mr. A revival. The world needs more libertarian superheroes. Rorschach is more of a paleocon, and the Question mostly sucks in his post-Ditko incarnations, although the paranoid conspiracy theorist version in the JLA animated series is kind of fun.

    But who would write it? Grant Morrison?


    Paul Pope, maybe. He's apparently a big fan of Von Mises (and even worked him into a Batman story). Great artist, too.

  • ||

    Rand arrived at her philosophy by observation and induction, not by deduction from "A is A" and developed, among other things, a morality for us here in the "material world".

  • Mad Max||

    Does this mean Spider-Man was an Objectivist? He always struck me as altruistic, with all that stuff about Great Power Bringing Great Responsibility.

  • ||

    The book is two pounds of crap in a one-pound bag.

    I find Bell's book wrong in so many ways I am having a hard time getting my mind around it. His word choice, his mode of expression, his facts, his methods, his conclusions, have me speechless right now.

    The author claims to be the foremost Ditko scholar. But can anyone with even the vaguest notion of any critical standards actually write "Blue Beetle #5 was the first signpost that Ditko was losing confidence in his graphics to represent his ideas, and is increasingly evident in Mysterious Suspense #1, a collection of the Question stories." In the classic phrase of the comics "WHAT TH-??"

    How can a retrospective on his work not include an in-depth discussion of "Lazlo's Hammer"?

    I did learn that two "Italian immigrants" started Charlton: John Santangelo and Ed Levy! The book is full of statements such as "Charlton's main intention" or Ditko must have thought/felt etc. Too many to list here.

    His criticisms are devoid of standards, sloppy in thought and usually just plain wrong. Incredibly bad is his handling of Ditko's role in the creation os Spider-man, especially bad because Ditko himself has written extensively on the subject.

    I think Bell has left what Ditko would call a "very ugly stain." And saddest of all, he seems oblivious. But I have to conclude that Gary Groth, the publisher, knows exactly what he has emitted: with publication of this book, Groth has taken a mighty swing with Lazlo's Hammer.

  • ||

    Marcvs: Creative and ownership freedom in comics has EVERYTHING to do with the advent of Underground Comics in the late 1960s -early '70s, and next to NOTHING to do with Image Comics in the late 1980s - early'90s.

    Just wanted to make that clear.

  • ||

    Have just read that the Watchmen movie will feature a My Chemical Romance cover of a Bob Dylan song. Umm, yeah, that won't be too f*cking awful ...

    http://www.avclub.com/content/newswire/friday_buzzkills_thank_you_for

  • ed||

    Thinking that morality can transcend a material world is where Rand falls into a trap

    "Material" world? You mean the real world? The world that exists? There can be no morality in the real world? Rand argued that morality does not derive from the fake world, e.g. religion or other forms of mysticism. One cannot separate morality from reality.

  • ||

    Thinking that morality can transcend a material world is where Rand falls into a trap

    Uh...where did she say this, again? She never said that there were moral codes just floating out in the universe.

  • Jon Rowe||

    #2,

    In one of my first blog posts (that Julian picked up on) I showed how Image in taking that philosophy got itself into one big IP mess. This post was complete with a reference to a judicial opinion by the mighty Judge Posner on the Image IP mess.

    http://jonrowe.blogspot.com/2004/03/comic-books-and-copyright-law-these.html

  • Jon Rowe||

    I don't think Spiderman is an Objectivist because story wise, he is Stan Lee's creation, not Steve Ditko's (I'm pretty sure; I may be wrong).

    Though Lee wasn't the "creative genius" behind all of those concepts. I may be showing my bias here but most of the Marvel characters were created by Lee and artist Jack Kirby and it was Kirby who created most of the cool Marvel concepts.

    Kirby is an interesting cat. His work was very "mass produced" and didn't have the anatomical detail that most artists today put in (or that his contemporaries John Buscema, Gil Kane, and Neal Adams put in).

    However, that's not what Kirby was all about. He was all about an innovative style and creative genius when it came to "concepts," especially visual concepts. As a creator of characters and concepts, Kirby's genius remains unsurpassed.

  • DannyK||

    "turgid, nigh-unreadable...devoted to expounding Rand's Objectivist philosophy in tedious, rambling lectures punctuated by the odd fistfight"

    I can't imagine what that must [be] like. I haven't ever seen anything like that.


    And it's Joe with a suckerpunch for the win!

  • Luke Baggins||

    Stan Lee is about as far from an objectivist as it's possible to be. Netflix has a disc of Kevin Smith interviewing him. In the special features he reads a poem he wrote that pretty much spells out where he stands philosophically. He's pretty much conventional altruism with a seasoning of Augustine's "man is a fallen creature" schtick and a twist of Pope Innocent III's "...vessel of dung and sputem"

  • Jon Rowe||

    Kirby seemed to be a hard line New Deal Democrat.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Bagge - so when is the Martini Baton motion picture coming out?

  • ||

    Here's an overview of Mr. A, Ditko, and Rand's influence on him:

    http://www.dialbforblog.com/archives/296/

  • Bart||

    Mike DeLisa, no offense, but i read your comment in Comic Book Guy's voice and nearly shat myself laughing.
    WORST COFFEE-TABLE BIOGRAPHY EVER

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