Thursday, 14 November 2013

Objectivist Spider-Ham

The Objectivist Spider-Ham (2009)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Comic Book Artist #9, Twomorrows, 2000)
...Despite the fact that Steve Ditko was obviously a hero to the hippies with his psychedelic Dr. Strange work and for the teen angst of Spider-Man, Ditko's politics were obviously very different from those fans. His views were apparent through his portrayals of Mr. A and the protesters or beatniks that occasionally surfaced in his other work. I think this article was the first to actually point out that, yes, Steve Ditko did have a very right-wing agenda (which of course, he's completely entitled to), but at the time, it was quite interesting, and that probably led to me portraying [Watchmen character] Rorschach as an extremely right-wing character...

...I can look at Salvador Dali's work and marvel at it, despite the fact that I believe that Dali was probably a completely disgusting human being [laughter] and borderline fascist, but that doesn't detract from the genius of his artwork. With Steve Ditko, I at least felt that though Steve Ditko's political agenda was very different to mine, Steve Ditko had a political agenda, and that in some ways set him above most of his contemporaries. During the '60s, I learned pretty quickly about the sources of Steve Ditko's ideas, and I realized very early on that he was very fond of the writing of Ayn Rand...

...I had to look at The Fountainhead. I have to say I found Ayn Rand's philosophy laughable. It was a "white supremacist dreams of the master race," burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn't really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority. I would basically disagree with all of Ditko's ideas, but he has to be given credit for expressing these political ideas. I believe some feminists regard Dave Sim in much the same light; they might disagree with everything he says, but at least there is some sort of sexual-political debate going on there. So I've got respect for Ditko...

...Steve Ditko is completely at the other end of the political spectrum from me. I wouldn't say that I was far left in terms of Communism, but I am an anarchist, which is 180° away from Steve Ditko's position. But I have a great deal of respect for the man, and certainly respect for his artwork, and the fact that there's something about his uncompromising attitude that I have a great deal of sympathy with. It's just that the things I wouldn't compromise about or that he wouldn't compromise about are probably very different.

Even if they have morals you don't agree with, a person with strong moral code is a person who has a big advantage in today's world.


Anonymous said...

Another similarity between Ditko and Sim is that they both espouse philosophies that are completely ludicrous. (C'mon, you knew somebody was going to say it.)

Moore's point is interesting: that it's interesting to see creators express a moral code in their comics. The simple, absolutist moral codes that creators gave their superhero creations have been bent or retired. (Batman doesn't use guns -- except sometimes. Superman doesn't kill -- except when he does.)

What moral codes have been portrayed in comics tend to be condemnations of things that no reasonable person is in favour of, eg. "racism is bad" or "addicting children to drugs is wrong". To (loosely) quote Tom Lehrer, "It takes courage to come out in favour of all the things that the audience is against -- like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on."

I remember reading somewhere that Steven Grant characterized The Punisher as an existentialist: he realizes that life is meaningless, but commits himself to a course of action -- and, even though he knows that his actions are without meaning, pursues that course whole-heartedly.

I don't think I agree with Moore that "a person with strong moral code is a person who has a big advantage in today's world." Dave is always complaining about what his adherence to his vision of Truth (or "Truth") has cost him. There are certainly plenty of examples that the person with the greatest advantage is the person with no moral code whatsoever, who'll go along with anyone with greater power and disparage anyone with less.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pdq

Anonymous said...

"There are certainly plenty of examples that the person with the greatest advantage is the person with no moral code whatsoever, who'll go along with anyone with greater power and disparage anyone with less."

This. Steve Ditko could have ridden on the coat tails of the Spider-Man films' success by selling off a bunch of original artwork, doing interviews, and going to one of the big publishers to play around in their IP sandboxes (I'm sure DC woulda been thrilled to have him return to The Creeper, The Question, and/or Hawk and Dove for a while)- or hell, go to Image, or IDW, or Dark Horse, or Legendary and pitch a mainstream comic. Instead, he wanted to continue doing black and white small press runs of reprinted materials mixed with new rants and pointed political/philosophical cartoons. Instead of sitting pretty on a mountain of retirement dough and a newfound notariety, he's still living the spartan lifestyle in the same little New York apartment, having his small press publishing friend turn to kickstarter for funding. Is he doing the work he seems to want to do, and thus living 'the dream?' I guess, but I wouldn't say he's got 'the advantage' (as Moore puts it) over anything other than continuing his current lot. If that's what he wants, good for him. But given his significance to the industry and talent, it'd just be nice to see one of the old guard guys... just ONE outside of Stan Lee... be comfortably well off and treated better. Or at least... someone invent a fortune reversal ray and switch Rob Liefeld's luck out with Steve Ditko's.

I like to think that if Ditko read what I just wrote he'd admonish me for wanting to loot a successful artist like Liefeld. Of course, if anyone in the comic industry can be compared to Peter Keating...

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I just wrote this really long thing about Dave Sim that got deleted because I didn't comment in the proper commenting profile.

Probably some metaphorical joke there.

It was basically that I think Dave really nailed it in Latter Days, and I haven't seen a point by point refutation of his reading of Scripture that has changed my opinion. I have shaped the past ten years of my life around that book, for better or worse. I really think it's the Truth. As he said though, in regards to people actually reading the whole Cerebus epic, it really takes a unique person. And then, as he relates in regards to Mailer's Armies of the Night, the primary challenge when confronting Truth is pushing forward and climbing that ladder one rung at a time. It doesn't stop. It doesn't fulfil in dome satisfying plateau. There's always another rung.

But now that there's no new Cerebus comics, aye, there's the rub. It really is the perfect challenge for his readers. I swear...Cerebus is a majestic piece of work.

David C.

M Southall said...

Aside from Stan Lee, of the Old Guard, Bob Kane did very well financially by Batman - and he and Lee were friends.