An overview of Ditko's life and art, this book covers a lot of familiar ground (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange), but also details how Ditko's embrace of Randian ideals has isolated him further and further from the comics community, leaving him paying the bills with work like a Transformers colouring book. While they're philosophically quite different I couldn't help but think of Ditko as something of a forerunner to Dave Sim. But, while his beliefs are a lot less offensive to many, he lacked Sim's skills in getting his work out there regardless of what others think. Ditko's problem wasn't his beliefs, but his growing inability to work well with others. And he demanded more and more control, even as his skills diminished.
The book is surprisingly comprehensive. Though only a couple of hundred pages long, it covers a lot of his early work, his work for Charlton and Warren, his work for fanzines, and his self-published Randian tracts. As the years went by, and the admiration for him among a new generation publishers grew, he got one opportunity after the other to put his career back on track, only to turn it down for some obscure principle or other. In the end he was using old, original art to cover his drawing board, because he couldn’t afford a new one and wouldn’t let any one buy him one. Living on a government pension, he hasn't been published in years. The Spider-Man movies gave him new fame, but he seems to feel that using it to make a case for owed royalties (as the Seigels did) would be tantamount to accepting charity so he won't. Bell describes himself as a Ditko scholar, and he runs a site devoted to the man, but I was left with the impression that Ditko was largely the author of his own misfortunes. Still, the work he did in the 60s remains impressive. I have his Spider-Man and Dr. Strange runs, in one format or another, and I put down this book thinking its time to haul them out and put them on the to-read pile.