Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Why do I have to choose?" Out of This World #20 and #25 review

Yet another Steve Ditko comic book has been produced via a Kickstarter project run by his long-time editor Robin Snyder. You may recall last time (as I posted here) Snyder printed one reprint comic and one of Ditko's newer Snyder books. This time there is again one reprint book, Out of This World #20 and the all-new #25.

Out of This World #20 reprints various Ditko comics which are either in public domain or are Ditko's own property. From Ditko's Charlton days are reprinted "A World Where I Was King" and "From All Our Darkrooms." Also featured are "In Due Time" from Strange Avenging Tales #1 (which I covered on my blog here), a tale from Mort Todd's Monsters Attack called "Face It" and a pair of rare 1970s stories published in Questar magazine featuring the Destruction Agent and Star.

Taken together, Out of This World #20 is a splendid look at Ditko across the years - Ditko of the 50s, 70s & 90s. Strangely, it's the stories from the 50s & 90s in which I find him most disciplined, telling stories with identifiable plots and characters. The 70s tales from Questar are full of weird energy but aren't paced quite right. In both tales it feels like compilations of an adventure comic strip where you only have the Sunday pages and none of the weekday pages which were building up to that Sunday's events. Throughout the tales I found myself wondering - "wait, what are they after?" and "hold on, who's this guy? is this the first I'm seeing of him?"

It's a shame that comic book culture doesn't often speak about Ditko's contemporary work, for here we have #25, containing six brand-new comic stories by Ditko. At this point, it feels as though fandom has rendered its judgment upon Ditko's self-published works and are no longer interested in talking about it - only Ditko fans in the echo chamber are still examining his work. To some extent, I am likewise guilty of this for I struggle to have anything new to say about his present-days works. Very often, his stories are screeds about objectivism which I find unpersuasive and while I frequently admire his penciling, I'm repeatedly irritated by the rough scripting and half-formed characterizations.

...And so I feel much the same about #25. Many of the pages look unfinished and unprofessional. One begins to feel as though they are not so much supporting new Steve Ditko comics as new Steve Ditko sketchbooks. The new tales include recent creations of his such as the Madman, the Cape and the Hero. The tales include "Either or" and "Choices" which are both objectivist tracts, while "Action-Reaction" is another instance of Ditko musing upon his relationship with his fanbase.

I'm not old enough to have witnessed how the Ditko/fandom dynamic has played out over the decades but at this point, Ditko seems quite frustrated by people like... well, me - people who presume to criticize objectivism without having read Ayn Rand (per his editorial "Philosophy vs. No- or Anti-Philosophy." In "Action-Reaction" Ditko depicts the arrival of a new Steve Ditko comic and the consumer's choice to either accept or reject it; when the exchange of money and product occurs, the purchaser then flies into an angry rage, tearing the comic apart. At this stage, rage is not what I've seen from today's Ditko followers - very few people talk about Ditko at all and most of the reactions I see in the fanzine Ditkomania are very forgiving (and tend to be objectivists like him). I'm afraid the days of people becoming enraged by Ditko's comics are long past - that may very well be how fans reacted in the late 60s when he first began telling his Mr. A stories, but today... Ditko's known for his Spider-Man & Doctor Strange work which predates Mr. A; the rest is being steadily ignored.

Taken as a whole, I am glad Mr. Ditko is still telling stories and has a modest audience who are interested in his work. He's a living legend and regardless of how much I enjoy his recent stories, I am happy to continue supporting his publications.

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