July 13, 2008

Ditko on... Dictators


  1. -- except is the men in question steal or murder, then they have no rights, eh, mister A?

    most of which men happen to be african american men, who constitute the vast majority of the prison population.

    the stealing, murdering members of the US government, and their agents, on the other hand -- they are just and noble -- and mostly european american, as it happens.

    yes, indeed, steve, morality really is as simple as black and white.

  2. You can accuse Ditko of a lot of things, but I don't think racism is among them. That the "black and white" metaphor has that alternate meaning is unfortunate, perhaps, but I don't think it's fair to read into that.

  3. "GORdon" your comments here make no sense.

    Ditko has never made a difference between evil men, regardless of the color of their skin.

    In fact, something that people don't like about Ditko's work is he shows that the people supporting evil are also evil.

  4. [sigh]

    first of all, i love a lot of things about ditko's work. i don't want to be charged as a "hater" here. i hate that. for my position on being critical of what you love, see here:

    now, the fact is that in mister A and question and other stories, ditko came down hard on "criminals." it is ME who is drawing the connection to crime and poverty, and/or the oppression of groups like african americans. if the vast majority of criminals in prison are black men then, to use **logic** (as steve would advocate), "crime" is a political act, and to come down hard on so-called "criminals" as steve has, is racist.

    and meanwhile, does somebody have a percentage of how much steve has come down on white collar corporate crime versus the much less harmful petty theivery that is depicted in so much of comic books, and in mass media at large?

  5. I've got no problem with being critical of Ditko. One of the reasons I'm easing into the discussion of Ditko's personal political comics with these quotes, after mostly posting about his pop genre comics for the first 100+ entries in the weblog, is because I'm struggling with how to talk about them and my considerable enjoyment of both the art and language countered with some serious disagreements I have with the politics. "I wish I had your passion. Misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion".

    But I don't think "racist" is a valid charge you can level against him, at least not on your evidence. If the targets of his heroes tend to be street criminals, it's because he works in crime and super-hero genres. Mr. A doing forensic accounting to thwart an insider trading scheme isn't going to wash. And I'll note the "Pragmatic Businessman" and "Political Power Luster" are prominent targets of the Avenging World's wrath.

    (and I still want to see the comic where Mr. A and the Avenging World team up to battle fandom...)

  6. thanks for your considered comments, bob. i really like this blog, love seeing the artwork, and appreciate the opportunity for exchange.

    i think essentially the superhero genre is one for kids, in that it presents a very simple black and white view of the world, one that is all about doing right versus doing wrong. in other words, it's about socialization.

    and of course there is nothing wrong with being right -- ie, being good to your fellow humans. just as there is nothing wrong with the teachings of a certain jew from nazzareth. the problem comes when these codes of conduct get controlled by an all too human power structure -- power corrupts.

    to diverge a bit, i think steve is a guy who personally cannot tolerate shades of grey. he needs things to be simple, as a child might understand them, or need them to be. he can't tolerate that morality is in fact, relative, and that you cannot pronounce any act absolutely good or bad irrespective of the context.

    the result is that he cow tows to whoever holds the reins of power, and makes the laws. those outside the law he condemns -- and once again, while steve does not come out and condemn african americans, the FACT is that african americans are statistically speaking more outside the law than any other group.

    i am not targeting steve as a racist. what i am saying is, if we are not racist, then logically we must conclude that the kind of "get the criminals" mentality espoused in comics and by steve in particular (so vehemently, without compromise) is erroneous.

    that should be nuff said. it is logical. are the vast majority of black men evil men who must be condemned? of course not. so then logically *** what is evil is the distribution of wealth and power **** and that **** what is good is the redistribution of that wealth and power **** -- and how else can that be done other than, logically, by any means necessary?

  7. Thanks for the kind words, and I appreciate that your comments are more nuanced now. I'd just caution against assuming you can get a comprehensive idea of Ditko's politics from his public writings, as extensive as they are. I don't know how he feels about mandatory minimums for non-violent offensives, for example (many of his comics deal specifically with justified retribution against initiators of force). I don't know his views on drug laws at all, though many self-described objectivists are also self-described Libertarians. And as rigid as his views may seem at times, in "When is a Man to be Judged Evil" he does have Mr. A espouse ideas of reform after paying your debt to society.

    Now I'd be surprised if his unexpressed politics in most fields matches yours, or mine for that matter, but let's argue Ditko on the merits of Ditko.

    I'm not sure anything in his work suggests he thinks an illegitimate law, one which violates the rights of the people, ought to be enforced, in fact quite the opposite is often suggested.

  8. GORdon and Bob,

    Interesting discussion. I think GORdon has a point when he discusses Ditko's simple, almost child-like world-view. Having said that I don't think Ditko blindly follows any politicians, mainly because most of them compromise their values.

    I've always been fascinated by Ditko's self-published work, although not agreeing with much of it on a personal level. Ditko would probably look on African-Americans as individuals and not as a "group", so he would likely dismiss GORdons discussion as not being relevant.

    In Ditko's defense, he was one of the first artists to use African-Americans in the early 1960s. In the pages of Spider-Man he had Policeman and Doctors in stories, positions of authority. I suspect he was trying to make a subtle statement, something many of his peers took years to do, and usually in a big way.

    Nick Caputo

  9. Actually, in several of Ditko's later works the villians were corrupt police, lawyers, judges, and government officials.

    In Shade, Shade was framed by corrupt officials, including he future mother-in-law who was secretly the head of a crime syndicate.

    In the Mocker, the Mocker (a former Assistant DA) was framed by corrupt politians and another ADA.

    In Static, Static fought against a criminal conspiracy made up of corrupt officials, including a government leader heading up a secret army bent at taking over the country.

    And this trend started, as I had noted, in stories using both Mr. A and the Question, where they (as reporters) showed the support structure of criminal activities that are supported by so-called 'honest' people (who really won't).

  10. all of mass media have stories where the villains are "corrupt officials."

    the problem as so many people have pointed out is that this just obscures the fact that the very system of law and order is corrupt. that the laws are made by the rich and powerful to benefit the rich and powerful.

    in the end, all stories about "corrupt officials" do is to reinforce the reigning order. "oh look, we can ferret out the corrupt within our system and deal with them" isn't that nice? all better now.

    as for the comments made here about ditko including african americans in his work, way back to the 60's, ** you continue to miss my point.** which i cannot clarify any better than my last post.

  11. Objectivists, and presumably Ditko, believe that goverment is necessary to protect rights. It is interesting that Ditko's stories have corrupt officials, but never goes farther to say that the system itself is flawed. I think Objectivism would logically and naturally lead to anarcho-capitalism, as I do think that government is fundamentally flawed, and not merely "corrupted". But Objectivists disagree



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