Steve Ditko is old enough and has done enough for his chosen art form that he owes us nothing. On the other hand, although as a comix geek back in the 1970s I’d read about the acrimonious Ditko / Stan Lee creative breakup, I don’t remember hearing that Ditko was a full-metal Objectivist. Writers, as Joan Didion reminds us, are always selling someone out… so make your own judgement as to Abraham Reisman’s conclusions in his NYMag story. But Mr. Ditko does come off as a tragic example of the warning attributed to that Nietzsche fella about staring into the abyss:
For a recluse, Steve Ditko is surprisingly easy to locate. You won’t see him in public: Despite being one of the most important figures in comics history, the most recent published photograph of the 89-year-old was taken about 50 years ago. And though his name appears prominently as “co-creator” in the credits of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange — which has already grossed more than $490 million worldwide — he has never been on a red carpet, or appeared on TV or radio. But if you ask within the comics community, you can readily find the location and phone number of his Manhattan studio. The man’s around. It’s putting that contact information to good use that’s difficult.
Ditko hasn’t done an interview with a journalist since 1968, two years after he shocked comics fandom by leaving Marvel in a move for which he offered no explanation — even to his boss, Stan Lee, with whom he created Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, among other classic characters. What followed has been an idiosyncratic crusade that has consumed Ditko’s capacious imagination: the creation of spite-filled, didactic, and often baffling comics and essays that evangelize the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Ditko has long been principled in a way few popular artists are, and he changed the comics medium twice: first with his elegant, kinetic, at times psychedelic artwork; then by being the first high-profile creator to inject serious philosophical arguments into superhero comics. His influence is staggering, but his personal story is almost totally hidden. He remains one of pop culture’s most enigmatic figures…