Saturday, November 26, 2016

Some Fake News about Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko, dreaming of being left alone by smug, pompous "journalists."

Earlier this month, Vulture ran a sleazy, facile article titled “The Creator of Doctor Strange Will Not See You Now.” The subtitle states, “Marvel Comics legend Steve Ditko wants his work to stand for itself. If only it were that easy.”

What follows is an article proving that the reason why it’s not “that easy” is because snarky, semiliterate “journalists” won’t let it.

In the first paragraph, the author calls Mr. Ditko a “recluse,” then states that the location and phone number of his Manhattan studio can readily be found, “if you ask within the comics community.” He then concludes the paragraph with, “It’s putting that contact information to good use that’s difficult.”

Answering questions from a dimwit who’s done perhaps a day’s worth of research (Blake Bell’s excellent Strange and Stranger is a fairly quick read, and then there’s the Jonathan Ross special, about which more in a moment) is “good use,” at least in the author’s eyes.

The first five paragraphs are all about the author, detailing his nine-block journey from the theater showing a screening of the Doctor Strange movie (being an important journalist, the author got to see an advance screening in late October!) to the building in which Mr. Ditko’s studio is located. He also throws in some virtue-signaling, unfeeling critiques of Mr. Ditko’s “spite-filled, didactic, and often baffling comics and essays that evangelize the philosophy of Ayn Rand.”

Steve Ditko commenting on the process of creating a comics character. Hopefully the author of the Vulture article didn't find this too "baffling."

There then follows a sketch of Mr. Ditko’s career that tells us nothing we don’t already know, and tells it all poorly. (There’s no mention of Mr. Ditko’s later masterpieces The Mocker, Static, and The Safest Place in the World, for instance, but the author makes sure to mention that The Question inspired Rorschach from Watchmen— did you know that?)

Then there’s the sleazy and completely unprofessional printing of innuendo. In the building where Mr. Ditko has his office, the author meets with one of the other tenants, who tells him what he assures us is an “intriguing story.”

“One time, about ten years ago, I accidentally got a piece of his mail,” she said, her eyebrows rising scandalously. “I opened it and then realized it wasn’t mine because that check had too many zeroes.” My body jerked up with shock — that contradicted Ditko’s claim that he doesn’t get a cut. I asked for more details. She said it was from a movie studio, and that when she gave it back to him, he just took it and said nothing. “That’s probably why he can work in that little office,” she said, and laughed. “He’s doing all right.”

One person from the building tells him a story about Mr. Ditko getting a check of some kind, and the author assumes first of all that the other tenant is telling him the unvarnished, clear-eyed truth about it (ten years is a long time— plenty of time in which to add a few “zeroes” to a memory, or even turn a query letter into a check for crying out loud) and second of all that Mr. Ditko would have kept an unsolicited check even if they did somehow manage to get him one. The author then practices serious journalism by asking her for more details, and he gets them all right— it was from a movie studio, and Mr. Ditko said nothing to her when he took it.

Does this qualify as Fake News?

This exchange takes place while the author is waiting outside Mr. Ditko’s office. He knows (everyone knows, for crying out loud!) that Mr. Ditko doesn’t want visitors, he doesn’t do interviews, he wants to be left alone. Yet there he is, “putting that contact information to good use,” because by gosh there are some hipster millennials out there who want to read what this author has to say, and they’re sure as hell not going to look up any of the other, better material on Mr. Ditko. They’re most certainly not going to seek out Mr. Ditko’s Avenging World or any of the Packages, or The Ditko Public Service Package.

They won’t even bother to look up that Jonathan Ross BBC special “In Search of Steve Ditko,” which covers exactly the same ground as this worthless article, mixing pomposity and empathy, and features commentary from the likes of, well, Alan Moore for one (and by the way, did you know that Rorschach was based on The Question? It’s true!) who claims that Mr. Ditko has a “moral draw of integrity.”

Here’s another look at Mr. Ditko and Jonathan Ross’s BBC special, from Douglas Ernst Blog.

One of the greatest pages in the history of superhero comics, from Amazing Spider-Man issue 33. Because I wanted to end on a high note!

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