Questions are the Answers you Might Need…
(Soundtrack: Holly Golightly — The Good Things)

Over at The Hurting, Tim publishes a fine letter from Matt Rossi (Matt is doing wondrous things with G.A. Batman comics on his own blog, by the way) that takes up the momentous question of “unfair adaptations”, specifically with regard to Steve Ditko’s The Question. Matt defends Veitch/Edwards’ decision to take the character in a completely new direction (politically–not visually) on the grounds that the concept was unsuccessful the first time around–a victim of its own didacticism. Now, I agree with Matt that the new series looks good–and that Tim is wrong to insist that every update of Ditko should remain grounded in Randian metaphysics–but what I want to emphasize is that Ditko’s work itself is never pure Randian agitprop! If it was, it would interest us as little as Rand’s own writing does (in my case, that would be “not at all”)! I’m not usually one to dwell upon the purely visual elements of the comics I study, but in Ditko’s case (especially once he gets away from Stan Lee–a consummate artist in his own right!), I think you have to!

I don’t know about you, but when I see something like this:

I don’t feel as if I’m being preached to! I don’t care what the words say, or whether Ditko believed that “A=A”; that drawing equals infinity to me (which is the same thing, in a way! an absolutely unique thing cannot equal anything but itself–however, this doesn’t mean that it communicates only one meaning–regardless of what its creator intended!–all it communicates is meaning itself)

That’s what creative expression is all about–the communication of pure personality! When Courtney Love shrieks at me to “shut up!” or “fuck off!”, I don’t do those things, nor do I think that she (any more than Steve Ditko) has anything constructive to say about world affairs, but I marvel at the performance… Artists will always be returning to Ditko’s “unsuccessful” creations, because they are, in fact, very successful indeed (at least if you define “success” the way I do–that is, not in terms of sales, but in terms of the energy the works transfer to future artists)… The “spirit” of Ditko’s art has nothing to do with the Randian “letter” it’s couched in, and it should not surprise us that most of the people who’ve been inspired by the work have chosen to embody that spirit in completely new forms.

So–anyone want to work on a new Anarchist Speedball series with me?

p.s.: Scott, at Polite Dissent, got started on some Hawk And Dove blogging the other day… Make him do more blogosphere!

Good Afternoons Friends!



  1. I’d argue that it is *only* the visual above that saves it from being pure preaching: the language is unabashedly demagogic. “Only through black and white principles can man seperate good from evil! The principles show man’s basic choice of actions! Man can choose grey principles, to choose to be corrupt, but that choice only leads to evil – and self-destruction!”

    That’s preaching. The art is lovely, as elegant and brilliant as Ditko often was. The message is tripe.

    – Matt Rossi

  2. sure it’s tripe Matt–but can you think of any messages that aren’t? If I heard a person with an interesting voice yelling those words on a street corner, man–I’d stop, wouldn’t you?


  3. Sure, I can think of messages that aren’t.

    Love thy neighbor as thyself.

    We exist on an island of knowledge in the middle of a sea of ignorance, and it is our job in every generation to reclaim a little more ground.

    A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?

    We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    These are all examples of messages that are not tripe. Would that Ditko had fused that intensely brilliant mind of his to one of them, or one of the many others he could have chosen. I wouldn’t stop for the message Ditko chose to shout if it were being yelled on the street, and it’s only his great genius for illustration that makes it tenable above.

    – Matt

  4. And yeah, I’m coming off as really strident and didactic myself. I wish I could throttle it back: any response that pointed it out would be an accurate one.

    – Matt

  5. I guess we just differ on this point Matt… as far as I’m concerned, each of the examples you adduced are tripe (as messages!)… What makes them interesting is the way in which they are expressed…and I’m not just talking about the word choice here–would you thrill to “love thy neighbor as thyself” if it was rattled off in a mindlessly sing-songy way by some sunday school teacher? I wouldn’t.

    And I love Ditko’s work exactly as it is

    Time for class!


  6. I still believe that the content of a message is as important as the expression thereof (imagine if Moore and Ditko worked together to craft a beautifully vivid and expressive story about a baby with a hammer crushing grapes for 60 pages) but in all of this discussion, I now think it’s a shame that I’ve never heard of a Steve Ditko-written Batman story.

    That would have been interesting.


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