I'm not finished reading this great book, but I felt the need to promote it here at my blog. It's STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO. Now, Steve Ditko remains, after my first exposure to his work more than 44 years ago, my all-time favorite comic book creator. Those of you who've followed this blog also know that I credit him completely with the creation of both The Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange--books which he produced for Marvel Comics, and characters whose names are now attached to a man who had almost nothing to do with their creation.
This book has so far been something of a treasure for me. For instance, I had wondered for many years why Ditko's art seemed to blossom when he worked very briefly for Warren Publications when he illustrated stories for the horror magazines CREEPY and EERIE. Steve Ditko created art for those two magazines that were far and away from the material his fans had seen before that, and were not equaled in the long years after. The author of this biography, Blake Bell, explains quite simply why Ditko tried so many new and different methods of illustration with the tales he illustrated for Warren. I won't explain those reasons here--for you need to buy this book to discover why.
I also had many other questions answered. For instance, the input of Stan Lee into the characters Ditko created at Marvel had been a mystery to me since I first began to suspect that Lee, indeed, had not created any of the characters whose ownership he has claimed for so many decades. Blake explains, to a certain extent, Lee's pitiable contribution to the labors of both Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. For this he reaped tens of millions of dollars? The mind is boggled.
Some people have asked me why I would champion a fellow whose political ideals are so diametrically opposed to my own. Ditko is a proponent of Ayn Rand's Objectivism. And I find that philosophy abhorrent and have nothing but disdain for Laissez-faire capitalism, which lies at the poisoned base of Objectivism. It's partly a mystery even to me. It could be that I'm not entirely opposed to Ditko's own lessons of personal responsibility so readily apparent in the stories he wrote. Or it could be that Ditko's art, and even his tales, are so well wrought that I am able to look beyond the obvious propaganda inherent in them and see them as the works of fine illustration and sequential art that they are. Frankly...I'm not sure.
Ditko remains a strange man to me. He's a mystery. Much as JD Salinger is a mystery. Much as Jack Kerouac is a mystery. I don't compare him equitably to people like Salinger and Kerouac, but there is that strain of not quite knowing where the creator is coming from, nor at what he's aiming. If you're a fan of Steve Ditko, there is no more perfect book for you than Blake Bell's STRANGE AND STRANGER: THE WORLDS OF STEVE DITKO. I could have done without the fawning book dedication to a certain fascistic monster, but I'm willing to overlook that minor irritant. Pick up this wonderful hardback. It'll be a great addition to any comics and biography library.