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
Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three — collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success — turned the series’ reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.
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