The Screamed From the Rooftops But Unheard Story of Marvel Comics: Part 1

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Part 1-(Not So) Marvel Team-Up: Steve Ditko and Ayn Rand

Steve Ditko was the creator of Doctor Strange, Speedball, and Squirrel Girl. He co-created Spider-Man and had the idea to make Iron Man's armor the iconic gold and red. Ditko was a huge creative force in the comic book industry in the mid- 1960’s,Ditko was the hottest artist in the industry working on the hottest bookin the industry (The Amazing Spider-Man). Ditko revolutionized the superhero by having every idea that set Spider-Man apart from the status quo superhero, from the age, to the costume, to the heavy incorporation of the character's personal life outside of the costume. These are all things that will forever be credited to Stan Lee, and as Stan Lee once said "I'll take any credit that isn't nailed down", but there are those of us who will forever know this was all Steve Ditko and we as the readers will forever be grateful for what Ditko has given us.

Then Ditko just decided to quit Marvel Comics. I've heard several times that Ditko's departure had to do with a creative difference he and Stan Lee had over the secret identity of the Green Goblin. The story goes that Stan Lee came to Ditko and said that he wanted Green Goblin to be the father of a friend of Peter Parker's, Norman Osborn, but Ditko was adamant that Green Goblin be a random New Yorker like every other villain that Spider-Man had faced so far. I think we know how this worked out, and probably for the best. Norman Osborn has turned into an iconic character and added so much to the lore that I can't imagine Green Goblin being anyone else. I always thought that this little creative difference was a stupid thing to quit over, especially since it worked out so good for the comic book's lore. Then I heard about Ditko and Ayn Rand, particularly Ditko's obsession with Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and things started making sense.

For those out there that were not brow-beat with Ayn Rand books by and over-zealous literature teacher in high school like I was. I'm just going to put the Wikipedia definition here:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-fairecapitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.

Academic philosophers have mostly ignored or rejected Rand's philosophy. Nonetheless, Objectivism has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives. The Objectivist movement, which Rand founded, attempts to spread her ideas to the public and in academic settings.

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In Objectivism what someone creates should be the most important thing in the world to them. In Rand's book The Fountainhead, the hero of the story, an architect named Howard Roark, actually burned down a building he designed because it was not built to his exact specifications. So that goes without saying that Steve Ditko's decision to leave Marvel Comics over a small creative difference was one that he made through philosophical principal. But it goes on, there's a theory out there that there was a bigger reason that Ditko didn't want Norman Osborn to be the Green Goblin. This theory goes that Ditko wanted Peter Parker (not having a male role model in his life) to meet his friend Harry's father and be inspired. In time Ditko planned to make Norman Osborn into not only a father figure for Peter Parker, but also a philosophical mentor that Steve Ditko would use to put Objectivist ideologies into the comic book.

In the next few years Ditko would create The Question for Charlton comics and The Creeper and The Hawk and The Dove for DC comics. The early issues of these titles show a lot of Objectivist ideologies, reinforcing the idea that Ditko wanted to put this agenda in The Amazing Spider-Man. His runs would always end with editors telling him to stop though. Ditko then created and independently published Mr. A, a title that anyone who has ever even seen panels of it online (guilty as charged) can recognize it as a platform to move ideology.

In the years since Ditko has published with several independent companies and even returned to both Marvel and DC. These returns however were only for one shots or small runs. In the late 80s' Ditko won a Comic-Con International Inkpot Award. Since Ditko refuses to give interviews or appear publically the award was accepted on his behalf by his publisher. Ditko did not like this at all, his words to his publisher were: "Awards bleed the artist and make us compete against each other. They are the most horrible things in the world. How dare you accept this on my behalf" and made the publisher return the award.

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