Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Ditko and Frank Miller Have New Books!

A Ditko #14 (that's the title) is fresh off the presses and offers another collection of brand new stories and meanderings from the co-creator of Spider-Man. These books are almost certainly an acquired taste, but I love all things Ditko and enjoyed this issue more than most. Ditko's artwork seems a bit tighter and more finished, and we get some classic Ditko polemics along with a dose of crime/superhero-ish stories. In fact, here's exactly what you get (from publisher Robin Snyder's web site):

- ditko cover
- inside front cover: "previously" reprints the cover of ACT 8 making lucky 13 thirteen ditko 32s
- inside front cover: "coming attraction" A DITKO #15
- 8-page "miss eerie"
- 10-page HERO story "faith and force"
- 6-page "the cape"
- 4-page "the distorter"
- 4-page "the complainers"
- inside back cover: "have mercy on poor me..."
- back cover: "not my fault"

My two favorites? The "10 page HERO story" is a series of full page pin-ups distilling Ditko's philosophy, mostly via a monster looming over (hell? The Earth?). Sample captioning from page four, over and under a monster clutching clubs marked "Faith!" and "Force": "It's so easy to dominate, rule with so many, so willing to sell out, sacrifice their best for the unearned and undeserved. Ah, Ha! HA! Created by two powerless weapons on their own by self-deceivers and self-destroyers. HA! HA! Ha! Ha!"

This issue also features my new favorite piece of comic book dialogue. In the "Miss Eerie" story, a couple of 30's cops are mulling a criminal's sudden absence, and one of them isn't buying that the crook is gone for good, because "he came back for some CRIME."

Those examples either left you scratching your head in disbelief, or (if you're like me) desperate to order the entire self-published Ditko series. Here's the thing: I don't agree with any of Steve Ditko's Ayn Rand-ian philosophical beliefs. But I love that at (82? 83?) Steve Ditko is still writing and drawing comics. And I love that he's doing exactly what he feels like doing, critics/sales be damned.

For ordering info (I don't think I've seen one of Ditko's books in a comic book shop in years) go to: http://ditko.blogspot.com/1990/01/ditko-books-in-print.html

Frank Miller's new title has a somewhat higher profile, but there are similarities between Holy Terror and A Ditko #14. Holy Terror started life as a Miller passion project post 9/11 that was basically "Batman VS Osama." Not quite sure what editorial futzing happened after that, but suddenly it's not with DC Comics or featuring Batman. Miller's turned Batman into "The Fixer", the Catwoman character into "Nellie Stack, Cat Burglar," Gotham City into "Empire City", and we're off!

So Batman (sorry, "The Fixer") and Catwoman (sorry, "Nellie") are romping around the city (I think she's stealing diamonds) when terrorists blow up a building. After our heroes tumble around in the blast, The Fixer says "No. Not on my watch." Nellie says "Not on my turf." and they go after the terrorists. There is a very Ditko-esque multi-page wordless spread showing (I think) a terrorist woman with a missile launcher, Michael Moore, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Condi Rice, a suicide-bomber's vest, an Arab woman with a machine gun, a (I think) helicopter crashing, and finally someone holding a silhouetted severed head.

The Fixer exclaims that he is "at war," calls his friends in the police department for clues, muses over how he can never fall in love with Nellie, then goes on a rampage against the generic terrorists while trading some of the lamest superhero quips ever committed to paper, like "let's get some killing done."

The Fixer tortures a terrorist by snapping his spine and threatening to gouge out his eyes. He wades into a handy gathering of terrorists guns blazing, snapping all THEIR necks with brutal kicks (caption: "We engage in postmodern diplomacy."). He takes care of a terrorist yelling "JIHAD!" by kicking him in the gut and sending him flying across the room, etc., etc. It makes Team America looks like a John Le Carre novel... and closely resembles the 80's Missing In Action movie series with Chuck Norris, or the second Rambo movie, where studly American heroes got to kick Vietnamese ass in a little post-war revisionism.

The art-style shifts half way through the story, going from relatively finished to something looser... sort of the way Ditko's art has gone from a more finished style to something much looser. A cynic might think that the looser style is quicker and faster to produce, but thank goodness I am not that cynical!

Anyhow, Holy Terror is less a superhero book than a crazed polemic on terrorism and Miller's visceral reaction to 9/11. I can't tell if it's meant to be taken seriously or as some looney satire (it more or less works on both levels). Like with Ditko, I don't agree with Miller's world view and frankly I think Holy Terror is a mess on all sorts of fronts -- but there's still something glorious about a world where he has a venue to produce his own unvarnished work. This one was a king-sized miss in my book, but I'll buy his next one!

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