Dec 19, 2021 • 43M

Podcast: Spider-Man's Libertarian Roots

Joe McCulloch on everyone's favorite webslinger in his battle for individualism

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Jeet Heer
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Steve Ditko cover for Spider-Man #18 (1964)

In an earlier podcast, I discussed the political philosophy of Steve Ditko, the primary creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. In that podcast, I pointed out that Ditko’s Ayn Rand-flavoured libertarianism could be seen in the creator-owned work he started doing in the late 1960s, beginning with the character Mr. A, that stern vigilante who insists on a stark black and white morality.

But the distinction I drew between Ditko’s commercial work and his auteurist work was perhaps too blunt. Some aspects of libertarianism can be seen in the work Ditko did for commercial publishers like Marvel and DC.

To map out Ditko’s politics more carefully and also provide a detailed analysis of his work, I sat down with Joe McCulloch, an editor of The Comics Journal and one of the best critics to write on Ditko’s work. Joe and I decided to focus on Spider-Man #18 (1964 and reprinted in many forms) and the first Mr. A story from Witzend #3 (1967 and available here).

From Spider-Man #18
From Spider-Man #18

First page of first Mr. A story from Witzend #3 (1967)

Panel from first Mr. A story. Compare to cover of Spider-man #18

Last page of first Mr. A story.

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