Tales of The Mysterious Traveler #36 by Steve Ditko. $5 48 pages
I'm very proud and excited to be able to offer some current Steve Ditko publications to DOMINO readers. Ditko is both an iconic figure in comics and a genuine master of the form. He has worked in the field for over half a century, producing hundreds and hundreds of stories. Of the many that I've read, there is always a creative and intellectual idea expressed that is totally unique to Ditko's language of imagery. No story is wasted. His early superhero stories left such a mark on me as a young reader. The storytelling was crisp and inviting in a way that many other early superhero comics never were. Something about the inward inkiness of it all made Ditko my favorite. The language of his marks and hand gestures suggested the potential of comics subconsciously to me: something can be expressed within the template of comics that is greater then the story itself---by maximizing all the tools that the form offers for expression, the language of cartooning becomes a versatile tool. That seems like an obvious conclusion to an adult, but as a kid I first felt that with Ditko's Spider Man. His superhero stories were well told but there was a seething world of thought and emotion hovering around every line.
Despite always brimming over with ideas both visual and language-based at once, Ditko's work is never self indulgent. Characters hand gestures, the placement of text---all of it is utilized purposefully and no area is wasted for expressing ideas and concepts, but Ditko's work (and this is rarely discussed) is incredibly elegant. If his work is to be described as poetic, it's not skronk jazz but rather composed and restrained containers with something often jabbing out at you to punctuate the refined nature of it all.
Ditko is approaching his 90th birthday and for decades now he has been producing work in comic book format editions with black and white covers, black and white interiors. These volumes, published by Robin Snyder, are a mixture of short stories, visual essays, continuing sagas, and so much more. It is rare for a legendary artist to produce some of their most thrilling work in their later years but I believe these volumes by Ditko are beautiful works of art with with few rivals. They are not easy reads---the dialogue functions almost as notes for things people would say rather than things actual human beings say (a good observation by comics critic Bill Kartalopoulos). And, fair warning, the content of all the stories is colored by Ditko's extreme Ayn Rand influenced worldview. The combination of avant garde artistic tendencies and highly conservative messaging is a rare one, and might catch readers off guard. But I'd urge all readers to look into these books---they are some of the most incredible comic books being made today.