F. Simon Grant
I'm a fiction writer and a collage artist.
Steve Ditko's Vision of Eternity in Dr. Strange
Steve Ditko will be remembered most for co-creating Spider-Man and Dr. Strange with Stan Lee (and may deserve more of the credit than Lee, depending on who you ask). He drew some of the most loved Spider-Man stories but some of the absolute best Dr. Strange stories. That's rare for creators—most later artists try to one-up the creator and many succeed, but only with Dr. Strange do all later creators merely present inferior imitations of Ditko. This is perhaps the biggest difference between Ditko's legacy on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Spider-Man became the face of Marvel, but Dr. Strange has remained a relatively obscure specialty title about which you might say, "Spider-Man is great standard superhero stuff, but if you want a real advanced, mind-blowing experience, you have to check out Ditko's Dr. Strange." Since Ditko perfected it right out of the gate, I'm tempted to say Ditko ruined Dr. Strange by being so good, but I don't want to belittle the other great artists who worked on the title. Gene Colan and Frank Bruner are iconic; Paul Smith, Michael Golden, Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, and Chris Warner are all magnificent; Chris Bachalo and Peter Gross are two of my personal favorites—the list goes on and on. I love most of the artists who have worked on the title, but I think even they would admit they're merely shadows of Ditko.
The Wasp Who Never Laughs
The most unbelievable and dream-disrupting moment in Ant-Man and the Wasp is when Hope Van Dyne, in her first costumed appearance as the Wasp, delivers a hurrincanrana to some nameless villain minion. Far more than all the growing and shrinking gimmicks, far more than the moment when characters breath heavily in sub-atomic space through their lungs which are smaller than oxygen molecules, this hurricanrana moment made me want to say, "Are you kidding me?" My response to this small moment mirrors my response to a lot of moments in the MCU: I forgive it because it's a cool moment and looks awesome while at the same time the hardcore comic book nerd in me has to say, "Are you kidding me?" Black Widow performed the exact same move in her first appearance in Iron Man 2. Again, it didn't bother me too much when Black Widow did it because it is a cool-looking move, but imagine Evangeline Lilly didn't have a mask and had long red hair, how would you distinguish her from Black Widow (other than a few wacky shrinking tricks here and there)? Honestly, as a wrestling fan, I always mark out a little when I see a hurricanrana in a movie, but it's a silly move for a trained combatant to employ: to throw oneself crotch-first at an opponent just to flip him upside down. It seems slightly less efficient than using one's arms (or any part of the body other than the crotch) to accomplish the same thing. Surely, the silly choice in attack maneuvers is rooted in remnants of a sexist Hollywood where it made sense, for example, for Xenia Onatopp to kill people with her thighs in Goldeneye, but it may never be a problem if Black Widow was the only one who did it for that one second in that one movie. Maybe she was a big fan of Lucha Libre, and she's so cocky she thinks she can get away with luchador moves in the middle of a mortal battle with gun-toting enemies. This might be a compelling and unique part of her character except we barely know anything about her other than some "red in [her] ledger" which nobody has bothered to explain or develop. Making Black Widow the most badass character in most movies seems to be a bulwark against feminist criticism, but giving her a few unique likes and dislikes would have been just as effective. We know she has an eye-rolling intolerance of Tony Stark's man-child silliness, but so does Pepper Potts. In Iron Man 2, what makes her anything more than the Pepper Potts who fights? I know she occupied some of the most hated parts of Age of Ultron, Natasha's romance with Bruce or the revelation of her infertility, but these came off more like wrongheaded, awkward attempts to make her a unique, fleshed-out character, and they rolled her back to blandness in subsequent incarnations as, perhaps, a response to the feminist backlash. Sure, there were so many other things that could've made her unique other than infertility and romance, maybe the whole red ledger business could have finally been a thing, but their response was to make her less of a character instead of risking more awkwardness. What is her journey in Infinity War other than punching a hundred more monsters? The Wasp's indistinctiveness seems to be a manifestation of the mistaken belief that this one early version of Black Widow is the only female character who won't garner feminist backlash.
Blockhead :oR: Leaps Away “The Blockheads that haunt this apartment complex will kill you the worst way, worse than any other ghost,” said Sister Mary Michael (whom Eve Eeny called “Sister Mary Michael Jackson”). “But don’t worry. They’re easy to spot and leave alone.”
E-Jo the Bull Mountain was ten feet tall (when he decided to be that small) and billed as being from the mysterious sounding L’Ile de Pieces Inconnus and composed of stone like the Easter-Island-like island statues and empowered by the same gods of otherness. Thus, E-Jo at the beginning of his professional wrestling career elicited the first type of heat.
Duck Duck Goose
For Jesus and William S. Burroughs on the occasion of their birth. Duck Duck Goose was a comedy show starring a duck and a duck-billed platypus, both uncreatively named Duck by the show’s creator, a scraggly old bush pilot and ornithologist named Goose Faberbacher. The gimmick was Goose taught the two animals to talk, but the duck as the token dummy of the show failed to learn, so Goose and the platypus would pingpong quips and jabs and puns while the duck remained a stupid duck.
Myrmidon :oR: The Organ Damage of Puppet Shows Dexter Opopanax Jr was a ventricle who suddenly gained sentience and burst from the chest of his father, Dexter Opopanax Sr., splitting off from the other three fourths of his heart through blood and bone to be born two days before Christmas, killing his father instantly, on his birthday by coincidence, now the birthday of both beings. Cecily Opopanax, who’d been checking ovulation charts for optimum fertility, now splattered with blood from the emerging ventricle, heard the eviscerated organ speaking, tube edges coming together as a mouth: “You are my mom. What adventures you must have planned for me!”
The Forgotten and Undying Ones, Part Seven: Dr. Strange in the Original Infinity War
The funny thing about Dr. Strange being featured so prominently in leaked imagery from the set of Avengers: Infinity War is the weird and randomly truncated appearance in the original Infinity War miniseries, the sequel to Infinity Gauntlet (which was the story that made me fall in love with comics generally and Dr. Strange specifically, but more on that later).
The Forgotten and Undying Ones, Part 5: Dr. Strange and Spider-Man
One of the best easter eggs in the Dr. Strange movie is a Spider-Man reference (essentially, indirectly, if you fudge it a little), and one of the first superheroes to be mentioned by name in a Spider-Man movie is Dr. Strange, but Dr. Strange and Spider-Man have been crossing over since early in their mutual existence despite significant superficial dissimilarities. This is because they were both created by Steve Ditko, and putting them together is a nod to Ditko’s two greatest creations. In Spider-Man 2, Ted Raimi’s character briefly considers “Dr. Strange” as a name for Dr. Octopus, just a trivial throw away joke, but the more significant Spider-Man easter egg in the Dr. Strange movie comes in the form of the Wand of Watoomb, Wong’s weapon of choice in the final battle, which first appeared in Spider-Man Annual #2 in 1964. The oldest floppy issue of Dr. Strange I own is a reprint of this story under the Dr. Strange title that came out in 1969. It’s also the Dr. Strange floppy I spent the most for: a whopping $5. One of the greatest things about Dr. Strange is that most of his comics are very cheap. You can get some real masterpieces for a buck, and this classic was a steal for five bucks. This first meeting between the two great sons of Ditko sets the pattern for many meetings to come, most of which involve the Wand of Watoomb and Xandu as the villain.