Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ditkoblogging: Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko

I'm not sure I have a whole lot to say about Blake Bell's wonderful biography Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, but I promised more Ditkoblogging, so more Ditkoblogging is what y'all are gonna get. This lovely, over sized hardcover is equal parts art book and biography, showcasing many examples of Ditko's work from various points in his career, including images both famous and obscure. Bell provides what may be the most comprehensive biography of the artist we are ever likely to get. He does a fine job explaining the pervasive influence of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy on Ditko's life and work, and one can see how Ditko's adherence to a strict moral code makes him both one of the most fascinating artists ever to have worked in comics, and also one of the most frustrating, as he routinely refuses interview requests and has in effect alienated himself from most of the comics industry. Bell also does a great job taking a close look at Ditko's artwork and storytelling, breaking down what makes Ditko's art work so well with clear, passionate writing.

I don't know that it would be possible to get a better understanding of Ditko's work from a single volume, but, frustratingly, the man himself remains elusive. There is precious little personal information provided in this biography. No fault of Bell's, of course, due to Ditko's notorious reclusiveness. Still, one can't help but wonder after such information, particularly when, after having finished the book, the question of "Who is Steve Ditko?" remains largely unanswered. While we may come to understand how Objectivism shaped Ditko's work and professional relationships, we have little clue as to WHY Ditko was so susceptible to this philosophy taking over his life so completely. Certainly, many people have read and continue to read Ayn Rand and even find tremendous value in her ideas, without alienating themselves to the extent Ditko seems to have done. What about Ditko's personal life, almost a complete blank here? I assume he did not marry or have children. Does he have many friends? What about his relationships with his family?

Again, I want to reiterate that the absence of such information is no fault of Bell's. Indeed, it is to his credit that the compelling portrait of the artist provided here makes one so hungry to learn more about the man. As I said, though, this is likely as close to a definitive Ditko biography as we're going to get. If we cannot know Ditko himself, at least we can know his work, which is beautifully presented here. Bell obviously has a great deal of affection and admiration for his subject, as well as the skills to put together such an important book about the life and legacy of one of comics' true masters. I would think this book is a "must" for the library of any serious student of comics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just purchased this book for my mother for her 87th birthday. She is Steve's 1st cousin. Rita (Ditko) Mizak. In the Endnotes of the book it questions whether Rita is Steve's 1st cousin. She is pictured next to Steve in his Garfield Jr. High and Johnstown High School Yearbook photos on page 14. Here's the rundown according to Rita. Pete, Steve, John, Andy and Anna were brothers and sister. Pete was the oldest and his children were William and Dorothy. Steve (nickname Devil), children were Anna Marie, Steve, Betty and Pat. John (nicknames Dikers or Jaggers) was my mom's (Rita) father along with her brothers, John, Donald and Kenny. Andy had six children - Ruth, Ronald, Robert, Charlotte, Margaret and Nancy. Anna, Steve's sister died while giving birth. At least that's what my mom thinks...she not quite sure of this last bit of information. Anyway, I wanted to clear up the fact that Rita is indeed Steve's 1st cousin. Contrary to Ancestry.com. Steve's sisters, Anna Marie, Betty and his brother Pat are all still alive and living in Johnstown. 1st cousins - Rita, Ronald, Robert, Charlotte, and Margaret are also still living in Johnstown and surrounding areas. Not sure about Ruth.

September 1, 2014 at 8:09 PM  

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