Today I want to share the first part of my look at the early work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, ( though the latter is perhaps fittingly more of a headliner in the supporting cast). That video, a transcript, and some related art are below. Stick around afterward for some other notable odds and ends regarding plans for this newsletter …
THE STRANGE TALE of STEVE AND STAN: PART 1: SPIDER-MAN
Cartoonist Steve Ditko’s inventive art and narrative pathos paired with the vaudevillian stage presence of Writer/Editor Stan Lee to launch Spider-man into the public consciousness.
But despite their shared successes— Lee and Ditko’s philosophies had long dueled behind the scenes. For Lee, art was entertainment. For Ditko, an adherent to the conservative and controversial philosophy of Objectivism—art was a journey toward absolute personal and moral perfection.
“Art creates a model. An ideal man as a measuring standard… Early comic book heroes were not about life as it is, but creations of how a man with a clear understanding of right and wrong and moral courage chose to act, even if branded an outlaw. He dispensed a better justice than the pervading legal, moral one. He was a moral AVENGER.”
- Steve Ditko (1987)
Distrusted, hunted, and feared. The more Ditko-esque take on Peter Parker's world often drove the narrative. But through his heavy-handed approach to filling word balloons— Lee was (mostly) able to impose his will.
“We try to bring comics a little more into the real world…
The chances are that possibly even you and I aren’t perfect. Today most people just aren’t.
We try to have our characters have feet of clay.”
- Stan Lee (1977)
(continued below image…)
(above: my recreation of Amazing Fantasy # 15, page 10)
Lionized and vilified over the decades, a picture of the real Stan Lee was would be painted in a tonal range of gray that would surely set the binary-minded Ditko spinning.
And as a writer, Stan’s Marvel Method is an even messier smear, oft-derided for the creative strangulation of his collaborators.
Even a cursory glance at Stan’s stage persona: the toupee and glasses, punchy catchphrases, and Funky Flashman pimp suits— revealed a glaring refutation of one of Ditko’s most core beliefs:
“A is A. A thing is what it is. It has a specific nature and identity.
The truth cannot contradict itself and also be a lie.”
- Steve Ditko, (1987)
But oddly enough it's in the pages of Spider-man, THE WORK for which Lee is most widely and inaccurately given sole creative credit, that perhaps the case for his veto power is most justified.
With an emphatic Dikembe Mutumbo-style finger wag, Stan's self-aware dialogue tirelessly stepped up to spare readers and countless damned dirty hippies from Ditko's would-be highlight reel of right-handed windmill dunks.
But though Lee had wrestled Spidey away from Ditko’s ideals of exceptionalism, the pages of their other co-credited title were a VERY different battleground…
(TO BE CONTINUED)
In breaking news: the internet is still a sewer trawled by stingy algorithms and bottom-feeding shit posters.
And now those maniacs have Allen Iverson making art with a computer.
Who needs practice now, A.I.?
Still, when any of my work pierces through that noise — there’s a feeling of connectivity that doesn’t often happen in traditional publishing.
Being able to make anything and hand it to an audience whenever I want is a tremendous freedom. Even dropping the silliest, most out-of-left-field comic— renews and imbues the whole process with a feeling of risk and honesty that excites me.
Your support for that kind of work buoys and emboldens my commitment. I’m touched and amazed that, without any prompting from me, some of you have even pledged to support this newsletter financially. I’m cooking up ways to reward your extra effort and faith. Thinking long and hard about how to make this space unique.
Well, more than thinking actually…
- In lieu of its own dedicated post, part 3 of the ROBOCOP essay I promised is included in the full version of the video below. A transcript is in the video description:
-ALSO: The raffle for the art in this video IS STILL HAPPENING (see rules in the last newsletter). Expect a winner and possibly a second raffle to be announced soon.
That’s all for now. Hope all y’all are doing as well as you can.
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Thank you Jason; you're a master story teller in every medium you try. Hopefully hear soon about how you can be recompensed for your efforts!
So so good; as always