Monday, April 25, 2005

"No Mystery To Me"


Re-watching The Fountainhead recently (1949: Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey), I remembered how much I used to think everyone in that film was such a drama queen with their acting. But then, thinking about it again over time and the Ayn Rand novel upon which it is based that I read years ago, that's exactly how those characters were written.

Ms. Rand was certainly brilliant. She knew that if she expressed her objectivistic philosophies in an outright format that it would be too intellectual for the common man. Therefore, she put these beliefs into a fictional novel about a totally ethical architect who would not bend to the will of society, or compromise his principles to achieve his goal of building structures the way they should be constructed.

And, re-watching this film version of one of Ayn Rand's work, also got me to thinking about artist, Steve Ditko. About how so many fans of his work consider him somewhat of the man of mystery because he denies interviews and publicity in general. How he's always been a free-lance artist, picking and choosing which assignments he wishes over the years, but refusing the return to do characters again that gave him most of his reknown.

But, Mr. Ditko is no mystery at all if you understand Ms. Rand's writings, because her beliefs are pretty much his as well.

Most recall Steve Ditko as being the co-creator of Spider-man, and Dr. Strange, and Captain Atom, The Question, the silver-age version of The Blue Beetle, The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, (etc.), but you know he made his mark on his characters by actually doing very few issues. Spider-man was the longest and the most issues at around 40 (including the Annuals), followed by Dr. Strange. And the prime reason that he left Spider-man wasn't because he grew bored with the strip; rather conflicts with Stan Lee on the direction in which he wanted to take the characters in the title. When he wouldn't bend to Lee's will, he simply left the title (and the company as well as a "regular" artist), moving on to new projects.

Although he's best known for the work he did at Charlton, Marvel and DC Comics, none of this is as much the true Steve Ditko as his own characters published in independent works, such as Mr. A and The Avenging World. In those you will find the true Ditko with characters very similiar to the ones in The Fountainhead. "Heroes" that would not give in to the popularity of style or compromise their principles just because everyone else is doing it. They are characters basically with B&W ideas of Right & Wrong. They do what they do for purpose and because it's the way it's supposed to be done. The self-satisfaction of their work comes not from the admiration of those around them (although it IS gratifying when that does occur) but simply to see it be done as they themselves wish it to be.

Steve Ditko is an objectivist and his philosophies and beliefs reflect those of Ayn Rand. So, if you want to read an interview with him, those specific works he has done outside of the mainstream of the "regular" comic book IS just that. In those works you will know Steve Ditko.
(However, I have never considered the comic book format as impressive as Ms. Rand did with cinema although the medias are closely related. Movies have a tendency to cause a deeper impression I feel, in general, and that is perhaps because we can actually hear the emotions being expressed by the actors rather than relying on our fantasies to create such upon which to reflect.)

There will come a day when a retrospect of Mr. Ditko's life will be indeed be written. His fans will discover many secrets, I'm sure, about his life that for certain he considers no ones' business except his own, because if he thought them important enough to let people know, he'd already told us.

And, I'm also certain that it won't be in his life time because, just like Ayn Rand's fictional characters, he'll never compromise his principles or corrupt his personal philosophies just for publicity or the admiration.

For as he has stated occasionally when his fans have requested more personal information from him regarding his life, we will have to let "his work speak for him".

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