Jog had a great comment on Jacob Canfield’s recent Ditko post, so I thought I’d highlight it. It’s below:
I enjoyed this, although I must confess some amusement with your identification of Ditko’s “worrying and depressing trend” – if anything, Ditko has eased up since the ’70s, when he was making polemical comics about (in one instance) a kidnapped doctor heroically refusing medical care to a Che-like revolutionary before striding away into the sunrise as milquetoast, compromise-prone bystanders are torn to shreds by crossfire: a fitting end for their kind! Also, the final panel is occupied almost entirely by a large word balloon. I’ve really come to prefer his abridged style of… dialogue (which makes no effort to accurately copy speech patterns, instead functioning as graphic flourish that ‘works’ to impart basic motivation; this strikes me as an effort to evade the clutter he rails against in the Public Service Package, which has to be understood in the context of an industry that used to lean very very heavily on words reiterating the content of pictures).
The Public Service Package is a weird book in general, in that Ditko adopts a burn-it-all attitude that allows for remarkably little satiric grounding; when *everyone’s* a moron (I’d question whether Ditko even likes the good old days all that much), it’s difficult to discern the advocacy behind the lampoon… and Ditko is ALL about advocacy. I don’t think Jack T. Chick comparisons are out of line; I’ve made them myself, several times. The trick is, to Ditko, MAN is GOD, and hell is less a tangible place than the state of surrendering one’s self to the neuroses and guilt relentlessly promoted by the fallen world which we inhabit. Mr. A. passes judgment, yes, but you’re not supposed to worship him: you were not made in His image, but you can make yourself INTO him.
(By far the most Jack T. Chick story of Ditko’s is in his & Snyder’s recent Mr. A. reprint book, wherein a convicted thug struggles to reform his life, effectively putting Mr. A. into the role of a tough-talking preacher ministering to the city… except, there’s no God. Ditko uses religious devices as prompts for self-betterment, and query whether there’s any substantive difference…)
Another good Ditko comparison is the movie critic Armond White, who sometimes errs on the side of assuming the reader has been following his (often counter-intuitive) arguments for months and months, resorting to a shorthand of self-reference that baffles new and curious readers. I don’t actually think Ditko is nearly so bad — that Earth cartoon you’ve posted seems clear enough to me; as you indicate elsewhere, Ditko spells out what he means in plain fragments, i.e. that the Earth is troubled by excessive regulation, though it probably helps to have previously read some his opinions on property rights, which abhor basically any restriction on use — insofar as his art tends to be compelling enough that understanding rapidly accumulates.
That said, I do think you misunderstand Ditko’s point about gender representation. It’s not that women don’t have a place in comics, it’s that lobbying for gender-based representation is a sop to abstract, collectivist concepts that demean the observable solidity of the individual human’s experience. It’s not an atypically right-wing view: individual excellence providing a cure-all to systemic injustices. Indeed, if you’re nonetheless trampled by the system, it doesn’t matter, because material gain and social standing are irrelevant in the face of Ideals, of self-satisfaction: not so different from Christian suffering in the hopes of a paradise to come, though with Ditko ‘paradise’ is in knowing you’ll never have to remember anything because you’ve never told a lie…