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
On September 14, 1987, Garry B Trudeau ran the first Doonesbury strip that mentioned Donald Trump, in which his characters marvel that New York’s “loudest and most visible asshole” had floated a political trial balloon, hinting that he would run for president; thus began 30 years of marveling at, mocking, and skewering Der Drumpf, so rattling the Short-Fingered Vulgarian that he felt the need to issue a series of wounded denunciations. Now, just in time for the election, Trudeau has released a collection of his Trump-themed strips, Yuge: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, just the thing to put the Republican nominee on tilt.
Since 2015, our family has been in love with Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn books, a kind of modern take on Calvin and Hobbes, only Calvin is an awesome little girl, Hobbes is a unicorn, and the parental figures can see and interact with the unicorn, but are not freaked out because she generates a SHIELD OF BORINGNESS. Now, the insanely prolific Simpson has released the fourth collection in the series: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure.
It’s been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa’s stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.
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