The new Guardian article “The unsung hero behind Spider-Man” by Jonathan Ross contains some interesting background on Steve Ditko, complete with obligatory snide remarks about Ditko’s admiration for Ayn Rand:
[After he left Marvel comics], the mystique surrounding Ditko began to grow. His refusal to give interviews or to state why he bailed out just as Spider-Man was on the verge of becoming the biggest-selling comic in America only increased the fans’ curiosity. He went first to Charlton Comics, a small outfit based in Connecticut, and then surfaced at DC comics, where he created two of the weirdest books of the period. The first was The Creeper, about an oddball maniac whose costume came from a fancy-dress store and was finished off with a red rug on his back. The second was The Hawk and the Dove, a strange peace-v-war debate dressed up in superhero tights, which was presumably an attempt to appeal to the newly politicised students of the Vietnam era, but came from a right-of-centre perspective.
Neither was a big enough hit to keep Ditko at DC or to keep the books in print, and since then he has bounced around from publisher to publisher, creating books and intriguing characters, then suddenly leaving. Small independent companies published several of his characters, and it is in those books that you can most clearly see Ditko’s world-view expressed. As an advocate of the philosopher Ayn Rand, Ditko is a believer in objectivism, that peculiar school of thought that promotes hardline capitalism and the pursuit of individual, self-serving goals and personal happiness as the only legitimate and rational way forward for the human race. Hence such characters as Mr A, for example, a Randian vigilante dressed all in white and doling out a brutal, uncompromising form of justice. In the universe that Mr A inhabits there is good, there is evil, and there is nothing in between. Mr A not only perfectly illustrates the nutty extremism of objectivism but also perfectly sums up why Ditko is such an anomaly in the world of comics. If compromise is an unacceptable evil, how on earth can you work for big companies that are always going to insist on doing things their way, regardless of what a character’s creator wants?
I continued to buy Ditko’s work, and continue to love it, even as he bounced between the borderline lunacy of his small-press political rants and the slowly diminishing return that his superhero work provided. Because once you begin to absorb his drawings, once you fall in love with that beautiful line-work, the shading, the anatomies and those remarkable faces, well, you never really stop. And part of me loves him just as much for his extreme take on the world – his refusal to do things any way other than his way, and his decision never to talk about the past in print, never to press his association with those early characters even if that means missing out on the mountains of cash they now generate.
See the full article for more, including the story of Ross’s attempts to interview Mr. Ditko.
And then savor Ditko’s Henry Cameron-like response. Heh.