That was certainly interesting.
The main draw of this trade, beyond the fact that it would be nice to have if I sell 52 1-4, was the first Question story that it reprints. While there are some other really nice stories here (including a Gerber/Simonson Metal Men story and Animal Man #16, which I had forgotten about and is one of those effective one offs Morrison peppered in with all of the meta), getting a chance to read Ditko’s Question was what made me finally pick the thing up.
So, yeah, it’s an interesting story on a number of levels. Interesting to see Ditko’s long talked about Objectivism expressed in a comic book story. Even if my experience with objectivism is limited to an aborted attempt reading the Fountainhead in high school (well, that and Bioshock), I picked up on how much it informs Ditko’s characterization.
Vic Sage is an exemplar of “proper values” who never wavers and is so rigid he walks like he has a pole up his ass. The few other sympathetic characters in the story stand by him without being sycophants (or else he’d slug ’em; or at least tell them they disgusted him). Anyone else who advocated compromise is a complete bastard, a bum (in one case literally), a villain, or a spineless weakling. That’s pretty well in line with what I remember of Ayn Rand’s worldview and fiction.
It’s also interesting to see how far he can take the “one man against the world” routine from Dr. Strange and Spider-Man on his own, with a character that represents his personal ideology. Hell, it’s really just interesting to see him do a comic without Stan or anyone else to share the spotlight with. It’s less visually entertaining; there’s only one really memorable splash page. The writing also makes this only barely a superhero (or even adventure) comic; there are a couple of dynamic action scenes, but it’s really more about the polemic of Vic being right and everyone who disagrees with him being wrong, with people occasionally getting punched. It’s almost like a Chick Tract at times, except no one sees the light or goes to hell (but that would be anathema to an objectivist, at least as I know it).
Waid compares Ditko to Eisner in the story’s intro, which is apt, because is the most dense self contained comic I’ve read since I was really in to reprints of the Spirit. Except more so, because even at 22 pages, it packs a lot in, and because of Ditko’s style, it’s never breezy; it’s almost oppressive in its single mindedness and intensity.
So, this was definitely a comic worth reading. I wouldn’t call it a fun one, or one of my favorites, but definitely something I’m glad I read. I finally got to see the personal work of an artist who has created pop icons I enjoy a lot (y’know; Spidey, Strange, Speedball) and has always impressed me with his idiosyncrasy. It’s nice to finally see some of his really personal work. That I got it in a collection that also had a Silver Age Elongated Man backup was just a bonus. A wonderful, cognitively dissonant, bonus.
One last thing; if Ditko had written this comic now (or if he’d just made Sage a foot taller), the main character could pretty much be Bill O’Reilly. Think about it.*
*Okay, the fact that he doesn’t spend most of the comic screaming, calling his opponents “loons” and “pinheads”, or shilling merchandise makes that a really facile comparison, but I have to think that you could shoe horn some conservative pundit in there and it would be a similar story. And if I’d said Hannity I would have had to throw up.