I was never much of a fan of Steve Ditko, the cartoonist who created Spider Man and Dr. Strange. Not because I had a special dislike for those two characters, but because I was and still am lukewarm on superheroes. (I'd rather read Little Lulu or Uncle Scrooge than a superhero comic book.) The only creation of Ditko's that I was passingly familiar with was his 1960s Ayn Randian hero, Mr. A, which I came across in a Fantagraphics anthology that I'd spent a few hours with one day in the 1980s. I can say two good things about Mr. A: one, the design and art is really cool and weird, and two, Mr. A's mechanical affect and self-righteous logorrhea succeeded in snuffing out any ember of objectivism still smoldering from my college days' reading of The Fountainhead.
When Craig Yoe told me last year that he was publishing an anthology of Steve Ditko, I thought, if anyone could make an interesting book about Ditko, it's Craig.
For years, Craig was the creative director of The Muppets, working closely with Jim Henson. He was also the senior designer at Marvin Glass
, the crazy toy and game company responsible for many of my childhood treasures: Ants in the Pants, Dynamite Shack, Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, Gnip Gnop, Hands Down, Haunted House, Lite Brite, Odd Ogg, Operation, Mouse Trap, Time Bomb, Tip-It, and Toss Across. Craig is also a fine cartoonist and comic book historian of the first water. Last year he wrote a remarkable book about the sad fate of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster
, who ended up becoming an illustrator for seedy fetish pamphlets.
So I received The Art of Ditko with an open mind, which was promptly blown even wider by the stunning presentation, the selection of 30 full-color stories from the '50s to the '70s, and the essays written by comic industry folks who worked with Ditko (who lives a Salinger/Pynchon-esque life of reclusivity these days).
The Art of Ditko hasn't changed my opinion of Ditko's political philosophy, but I now understand why many comic art aficionados consider him a master of comic book art and panel design. Craig's book revealed to me a genius I had ignored my entire life.
The Art of Ditko
Brian Wood’s Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.
I discovered The 13 Clocks by reading Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats, a massive collection of Gaiman’s nonfiction), where he calls it “Probably the best book in the world” — how could I resist?
The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman’s mammoth collection of nonfiction essays, introductions, and speeches, is a remarkable explanatory volume in which Gaiman explains not just why he loves the things he loves, but also what makes them great.
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