Quote:I am genuinely looking forward to a Ditko biography after reading your site. I read a bit more today about the high school question on your page. It seems a lot of myth built up around Ditko, and we have to openly ask whether whole Objectivism took over his life theory was wrong too.
Oh, Ditko was an objectivist and it did take over his life. That much is clear. The question for me has always been about "when".
Like when did Ditko become a serious Ayn Rand fan, a serious Ayn Rand devotee, and what was the process between his reading of Rand and his "radicalization"? Because the obvious fact is that Steve Ditko was born in 1927. Ayn Rand's major success and the work that most fully embodied her "ideas" and popularized Objectivism was Atlas Shrugged which came out in 1957. By which time Ditko was thirty and already working at Atlas comics with Stan Lee on several anthology stuff. So obviously, in terms of Ditko's life, Rand was a recent influence, not a childhood influence. He wasn't raised a Randian. At some point he remade and reinvented himself into a Randian. So there's a Ditko before-Rand and a Ditko after-Rand and so far no serious study on Ditko has really grasped that. Blake Bell's Strange and Stranger does that somewhat but even it falls into simplifications.
The major problem with Ditko and Rand is that too much is centered on Spider-Man, when at the same time he worked on Spider-Man he was working on Doctor Strange. Yet nobody looks at Doctor Strange and does Objectivist readings of that comic, even if that was actually a title Ditko had far more of a say over, given that it was an idea generated by himself whereas Spider-Man was a failed Simon/Kirby project he bailed out. Like during the 1960s, Doctor Strange was popular among counter-culture and hippies so it's not like Ditko was seen as a Randian by readers of Marvel during his time there. Right after Ditko left Marvel, he worked on horror comics for Warren under Archie Goodwin, and those black-and-white horror comics are considered among his best work, and it was in 1967 that he published Mr. A and became publicly known as an objectivist.
Blake Bell's biography mentions that Stan Lee was the one who recommended Ditko to read Ayn Rand's books. Lee was a fan and admirer of Rand, and Riesman's biography confirms that Lee censored a Jack Kirby comic in Fantastic Four that would have spoofed Rand. So that does mean that Stan Lee was the one who dropped Ditko into the vat of acid, so to speak. And to the extent there's objectivism in Spider-Man it's not entirely from Ditko.
Psychologically this stuff is fascinating but also deeply toxic. Lee could read Rand and like stuff and take ideas there, and then move on to some new fad author whereas Ditko committed himself to Rand for the rest of his life. There's something tragic to that, like Ditko both relied on Lee for intellectual ideas and yet sought to better Lee by out-Randing him, and that ended up ruining his career basically.