‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’

Link to Today’s Post.

I thought Phil said he needed someone to ‘write it to life’, but apparently he already has dialogue written for this story. So he’s not really looking for a writer but an editor.

And whooo boy, that is some old timey sexism there. It’s so bad that all the background men have disappeared. Mindy looks grumpy! Which is nice to see, because she’s done nothing else but smile blandly for an entire month.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt though. Maybe Phil meant that line as a really weird homage to the Rankin-Bass Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer special.

But, darling, you’re a reindeer?

I can think of plenty of contexts where that line would still be acceptable. Maybe the speaker is an anviliciously sexist villain or otherwise flawed character that needs to be punished and educated. I mean, comics today seem to be nothing but virtue signaling and navel gazing. The twelve people that still read modern superhero stuff would love to see puff-pieces on The Mary Sue about how brave Phil Holt is for burning his past self in effigy. The Subterranean is obviously a monstrous stand-in for the basement dwelling creatures, fueled by misogyny, destroying comics by complaining online about ‘the feminist agenda’.

To be sure, the old Marvel comics Kirby and Lee created back in the day were laughably sexist. But you know who was writing the dialogue? Stan Lee. So why is the Stan Lee stand in correcting Kirby?

Still not as cringe as the Fan4stic movie.

And you know who Jack Kirby created? Big Barda, the wife of Mr. Miracle. A character where literally the gimmick is she is stronger, more prone to violence, and more physically imposing than her husband. Apparently the interplay between them was inspired by his relationship with his wife, Roz.

Maybe if Phil Holt wasn’t a cantankerous hermit with only a single friend he would be better at writing women. It’s funny how that works, knowing other people helps you understand other people. And understanding other people helps you understand yourself. Cutting yourself off from engaging with other perspectives, even ones you fundamentally disagree with, can take you to some pretty strange places.

I said yesterday that I thought Phil Holt was too antisocial and reclusive to be pure Jack Kirby cariacature. If I wanted to give Batiuk credit, I would say that he intentionally infused his Kirby Clone with a bit of essence of Steve Ditko. (Like 90’s Superboy having a bit of Lex Luthor DNA in him, gahIamsuchanerdgah.)

Ditko was the artist and co-creator of, among others, Spider Man, Dr. Strange, The Question, and The Creeper. Like Jack Kirby he had a falling out with Stan Lee over author credits and creative direction, and left Marvel to freelance for Charlton and DC. But unlike Jack Kirby, Ditko was an intensely private man, who didn’t give interviews, or go to conventions, or converse with fans.

This is one of only three or four confirmed pictures of Ditko. THINK.

Some of you more comics savy may be thinking, “Oooh, The Question! That’s who Alan Moore based Rorschach on!” And you would be mostly right, except that The Question was really a watered down version of another character that Ditko created. While Ditko made his living doing freelance work, he also created superhero comics with smaller indie publishers. Like Mr. A.

I mean, I like objective reality as much as the next philosophical conservative, but this is taking it a little far.
Angel was a delinquent who stabbed the lady being carried btw. He just fell off a building and died. Yay!

Yup. Ditko was a Randian Objectivist that would make Andrew Ryan blush. His principles, combined with his anxious and shy nature, made it easy for him to alienate everyone around him. In many cases it seemed he wanted to. He never married. He broke off friendships. He surrounded himself with the few he thought he could trust not to betray or challenge his ideals. To quote Flash Freeman, “He spent most of his time at war with the world and everyone in it.”

I read two informative articles, and watched one fascinating documentary about this weird, weird, strangely admirable and slightly pitiable guy.

This Vulture article was the most negative, but also the most psychologically insightful. Vulture writers are a bunch of liberal pantywaist hippies who hear the word ‘objectivist’ and rear back like Dracula at a Crucifix, (sorry, channeling the spirit of poor Steve for a moment) but lots of good facts there.

This article was a little more even-handed, very focused on his work output, and covered the characters he continued to create for Marvel and DC into the 90’s.

And finally, this charming BBC4 documentary was probably the most sympathetic to Steve Ditko. Several comics creators, including Alan Moore, weigh in on his art, philosophy, and legacy.

56 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

56 responses to “‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’

  1. Epicus Doomus

    “Uh yeah Phil, nowadays you have to let the girl characters do things, like stand in the background making disapproving faces when a male character says something totally reductive. Otherwise they get all pissy about it.”

    “Really? Man, things sure have changed since I last left the house! I hear they’re even allowed to vote now!”

    Coming tomorrow: the girl characters decide to get the men folk’s attention by swiping their credit cards and doing some frivolous shopping. Meanwhile, Boy Lisa continues to ignore his wife, again.

  2. William Thompson

    They all need help. I hope they get it. This could become the birth of tag-team psychotherapy.

  3. J.J. O'Malley

    So that’s why Phil is still single.

    Unseen panels four and five must feature Ruby Lith and Mindy walking out of the House of Holt into the front yard, where they promptly upchuck their lavish celebratory lunch that (one presumes) Chester the Chiseler paid for in hopes of landing the chance to add The Subterranean to the Atomik roll call of retreads (Anyone care to wager if in Sunday’s sideways cover Subby will be either a rocky Thing rip-off or a dead ringer for the original ’60s version of cereal mascot Quake?).

    Also, I wish I had an envelope full of Mighty Marvel No-Prizes to offer you, Harriet, for the encyclopedic trips down Comic Book Memory Lane you’ve taken us on this week, and for how you’ve shown the ways Battyuk twisted the lives and foibles of actual creators to create some truly unlikeable caricatures.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Ha! I remember Quake cereal. Quaker Oats had those silly cereal votes, Quake versus Quisp. Kids voted on which one they liked better. Loser got pulled from the market. It was the same cereal in different shapes! Quisp won. I guess kids preferred cross-eyed aliens with propellers on top of their heads.

      For those who don’t know, the ’60s cereal mascot Quake was a muscle-bound redhead who wore a lighted miner’s hard hat and a cape. Inexplicably, he was brought back in the ’70s slimmed down and with an Australian bush hat.

  4. Those were different times
    The poets, they studied rules of verse
    And the ladies, they rolled their eyes

  5. RudimentaryLathe?

    So…
    Batty created Ruby Lith specifically so he could soapbox (in a tone-deaf and apparently inaccurate way) about the plight of female comic creators – during the Silver Age he loves so much. This arc began with Ruby getting her long-overdue recognition from the Comix Hall of Fame (because Mopey told them to, because his girlfriend nagged him) only to have her moment hijacked by the two bickering old men, who magically end their feud because some other feckless male said “Your (Flush & Phail’s, not Ruby’s) comix give my life meaning.” And now she stands silently in the way way back while Old Man 1 lectures Old Man 2 about sexist writing.
    This may be the most perfectly bad thing I’ve ever read. There’s not an atom of self-awareness, not a shadow of ambition, not a sliver of unintentional humor. Just dreck in its purest form.

    • Epicus Doomus

      In the Funkyverse even the trailblazing female characters play second fiddle to their male counterparts.

      “And the CCCBHOF is proud and honored to at long last recognize a true trailblazer in the comic book field, Ruby…HOLY SHIT IS THAT PHIL HOLT???”

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Well, he WAS dead. So seeing him in the crowd would be a valid reason to change topic.

        • hitorque

          I’m still trying to figure out why if he was “dead”, the crowd didn’t automatically assume Phil was an imposter or a cosplayer getting a little too much into his ‘role’ and had his ass thrown out by security…

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Because of the Westview Hive Mind. Every character in the story gets a copy of the script beforehand, so nothing will ever surprise them.

            (I realize Comic-Con is not held in Westview – yet – but I’m keeping the name anyway.)

    • be ware of eve hill

      It’s sad and pathetic. Only Batty can create a plot device character like Ruby Lith. She’s introduced as the living embodiment of female comic book creators that have been ignored by the comic book industry. Batty then proceeds to completely ignore Ruby in the middle of the story arc where she finally gets inducted to the SDCCHOF. (Knocking on Batiuk’s skull) Hello? Hello? Batiuk? Is there anybody in there?

      Ruby hasn’t been part of the plot since 07/22, when she exclaimed, “Exactly… Miss American belongs to me now”!

      Mission accomplished. Have a seat, ma’am. A driver will take you home.

  6. William Thompson

    So we aren’t going to see the Hall of Fame induction ceremony? Damn, I was hoping for a human sacrifice, or even better, one of these characters.

  7. Epicus Doomus

    The “strongest” female character in the history of the strip died of cancer. The (arguably) second-strongest female character in the strip was mysteriously exiled away to Kent State. The most conventionally successful female character in the strip is a narcissistic and incredibly vain nitwit with a vicious jealous streak. I’m just saying is all.

    • billytheskink

      I’d toss in a vote for Act II Holly, before TB forgot everything he wrote about the character between 1999 and 2008. She beat breast cancer off-panel and worked hard to help Lisa do the same on-panel.

      She also did this:

      • William Thompson

        The amazing thing is that Batiuk hasn’t found a way to perpetually remind us that Holly had a mastectomy.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          I never even knew that Holly had a mastectomy!

          • ComicBookHarriet

            Ditto!

          • William Thompson

            Now if it had been a man* we’d never have heard the end of it.

            *–which is a thing-that-happens. Three risk factors for men are old age, obesity and alcoholism, so Funky may have something to look forward to.

        • batgirl

          Even more amazing, it was once possible for TB to pass the Bechdel test!

          Also – Still Alive Lisa is talking about her own feelings & fears, not about how this will affect Les. Dead St Lisa of the Tapes thought only of Les. Hey, are we absolutely sure it was actual Lisa on those tapes, and not Les in a bald wig?

      • Gerard Plourde

        This part of Act 2 is one of the reasons I continued to follow FW. Holly and other characters had some depth. The story held together (maybe in hindsight it seems melodramatic but no more so than current TV fare like Gray’s Anatomy, for example). It even gave FBOFW a bit of a run for the money.

        Now we get this banal and clueless nonsense. I wonder if Lisa’s second bout with cancer was a sign that he was running out of ideas.

      • I like Act II Holly, even if she was an exhibitionist (was Lisa really going to demand proof?)

      • batgirl

        I can’t find the strip to make sure, but in the infamous “Les runs the imaginary bases” episode, wasn’t the scene he was writing about Holly telling Lisa that she (Holly) would be there for her?
        If so, Les was giving himself a huge pat on the back just for describing something that someone else (a woman) did. Not surprising, of course.

        • billytheskink

          It was a similar scene with Cindy rather than Holly that Les was writing, but your analysis is spot on.

  8. Sourbelly

    It’s pretty obvious that we’re not going to see a single panel of Phil Holt’s artwork. Because that would take effort. Instead, we’ll be treated to Flappyhead reading Phil’s horribly inferior writing. Because that takes no effort at all. Maybe a sideways panel on Sunday, drawn by…who cares?
    If Batcrap is trying to turn me on to Comic Creators and their Books, he’s failing miserably.

    • Mr. A

      Sorry about this. a) I didn’t intend it as a reply, and b) I thought the spam filter ate it, so I submitted it again. (See below.)

      Actually, if someone could just prune this, that would be great.

    • hitorque

      Who the hell is Livinia? And where is she now in the Funkyverse?

      • billytheskink

        Livinia died on the way back to her home planet or something, if these strips are to be believed. I cannot recall ever getting any details about her demise beyond these reunion memorial boards.

        Livina may well have pulled a Phil Holt and faked her death, though. To get away from the people who populate this strip? Who could blame her?

  9. Mr. A

    I’ve mentioned this before, but for the record: I did not name myself after Ditko’s character. Nor am I a fan of Randian Objectivism. Though while we’re on the subject, I did enjoy this video where a guy talks about how he naively misinterpreted The Fountainhead as an elaborate metaphor for the creative process.

  10. Suicide Squirrel

    I wish Batyuk would admit he needs help with this strip.

    Another comic book documentary? Sweet!

  11. Banana Jr. 6000

    This is what happens when you hire 90-year-olds to make all your creative decisions: you get content from 1955. When these people draw the American flag, I wonder how many stars are on it.

  12. hitorque

    Big Barda is a sex machine, tho…

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Not wrong. She’s a big imposing woman done RIGHT. She’s not just drawn as a muscle man in lipstick (See the new Masters of the Universe reboot)

  13. hitorque

    Wow… So now we learn Phillip Holt has been living under a freaking rock since 1962… I’m surprised she didn’t slap Melinda on the ass when she walked in the door…

  14. Perfect Tommy

    I enjoyed the walking tour of comic book history. Well done.

  15. Fuck Liefeld, Give Me Chew

    This comic needs to stop referencing Jack Kirby: He was a highly creative, witty and intelligent man whose comics redefined the medium and set the precedent for decades of classics. I read through his Fourth World recently and it was amazing, a masterful work that really developed upon the D.C. Universe. Ditko is a better choice: A Narcissist referencing a sociopath, how appropriate. Ditko must have been a hateful, joyless man if he had such a horrible view of reality, just like Tom Batuik.

    • Gerard Plourde

      I agree that Phil Holt in personality seems to more resemble Steve Ditko than Jack Kirby. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to label Ditko a Narcissist or Rand a sociopath, though. Ditko was definitely a recluse and Rand apparently found that unadulterated Objectivism, like pure Libertarianism, was unworkable in the real world.

      • batgirl

        Rand admired sociopaths, though. She may have based aspects of Roark on serial killer William Edward Hickman – I guess Ditko never knew about that, because his Mr. A would surely have been protecting poor little Marian Parker, or at least summarily killing Hickman.
        (I know male serial killers always seem to get fangirls, but one doesn’t usually find one of those fangirls later taken seriously as a thinker and philosopher.)

    • Jimbo Madison

      Batman artist Jerry Robinson taught Ditko at what is now the School of Visual Arts. He found the young student “a very hard worker who really focused on his drawing” and someone who “could work well with other writers as well as write his own stories and create his own characters”, and he helped Ditko acquire a scholarship for the following year. “He was in my class for two years, four or five days a week, five hours a night. It was very intense.” (excerpt from wikipedia)

      Don’t call somebody hateful and joyless when you know nothing about them. He just didn’t like doing interviews. Not a crime.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I think Ditko was a complex person. If I was to psychoanalyze him, I would say that he was an anxious but kind man, who found in Randian Objectivism a way to shield his ego from his anxieties and explain the problems in a world he wasn’t comfortable in.

        I have respect for people who have sincere and solid beliefs they’ll hold to no matter the social situation. Too often people are afraid to ask themselves what they really believe. They prefer to stay in the judgementless grey area of agnosticism and not risk disagreeing with others they like or respect because it gives them better a better sense of social security.

        That being said, I respect most of all people with solid concrete views who, at the same time, are able to maintain social relationships and emotional ties with people they disagree with. And that’s something that Steve Ditko, especially later in his life, seemed unable to do.

        • Gerard Plourde

          “I think Ditko was a complex person.”

          I would agree. It’s simplistic to attempt to capture a person in a single label. I should have said the Ditko became reclusive, which accurately describes his behavior and his later life interactions with the world at large. What aspects of his makeup that behavior masked is sadly lost to us.

    • The Duck of Death

      Whuh? Ditko was “a hateful, joyless man” even though he worked with some of the greatest creators in comics, creating so much work that has brought joy to so many? And I’ll go a step further: There’s no need to insult Batiuk on a personal level, either. I’ll allow that Batiuk was a competent gag-a-day cartoonist who lost his way when he tried to do work that was far too complex for him. I’ll allow that his opinion of his own work is laughably overinflated. But I don’t see how you can make these categorical, highly personal condemnations — hateful and joyless — about men you don’t even know, like Batiuk and Ditko.

      • Gerard Plourde

        I would go so far as to say that his early attempts at serious storylines worked. They aren’t undying literature for the ages but they were generally competent, if melodramatic. They weren’t too different from the fare offered up in contemporary prime time TV. I followed them.

  16. I am not going to say what I think that Darrin and Pete are doing with their copies, because I suspect that we’re all thinking the same thing.

  17. Banana Jr. 6000

    Oh, goody. Look who’s back in the banner. He’s been gone five months, hasn’t said a word yet, and just from that expression I want to cave his skull in with a tire iron.

  18. Hannibal's Lectern

    I confess that I initially read Panel Two as saying, “The sediments in that wine have not aged well.” In my defense, I will point out that makes as least as much sense as what Battocks wrote.

  19. beware of eve hill

    If anyone missed it, a new Bloom County/Hobbes comic strip came out yesterday.

    Unlike Phil Holt, Funky Winkerbean is beyond help.

  20. hitorque

    I’m beginning to think that Phil’s reputation as an industry legend is grossly overstated…