Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko (Fantagraphics, $39.99) received a full-page review by Douglas Wolk in the “Book Review” section of Sunday’s New York Times. Wolk calls Ditko “one of American comics’ great visual stylists,” and the article is accompanied some prime examples of Ditko’s work and points out the artist’s crictical contribution to the creation of Spider-Man and some of the other Marvel heroes.
Wolk characterizes Bell’s Ditko monograph as “anecdotal and critical rather than strictly biographical,” and notes that after corresponding with Bell for several years in 2003 Ditko suddenly “decided that both author and publisher were ‘anti-Ditko’ and repudiated them.”
Wolk appears to blame Ditko’s lack of recognition for the innovative work he produced in the 1960s on the fact that the artist had “fallen under the spell of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and started producing an endless string of ham-fisted comics about how A is A and there is no gray area between good and evil…his drawing style kept evolving, even as his stories tediously parroted Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead at the expense of character, plot and ultimately bearability.”
Though he spends quite a bit of the review pointing out the self-defeating qualities that hampered Ditko’s career, Wolk also admits that even at his best Ditko was always a “difficult” artist whose style was never facile or pretty, but was always quite original, noting that “the raw, nightmarish visions of his art are all he offers, and all he’s ever needed to offer.”