Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Number 1903: Reversing Ditko

I admire Steve Ditko’s art and the effects achieved on this story for Charlton’s Out of This World #4 (1957). In getting the effects, Ditko had the line artwork photographed and then photostats made from the negatives. You can see the initial stage in the process by looking at the original art of the cover. I found the scan online.

The story seems fairly typical for the time, though. Invaders come to Earth and of course we smart Earth people are smarter than people who can travel from another dimension. After tricking the invaders the Earth people dust off their hands and say, confidently, “They won’t be back.” But next issue there would be yet another menace. That’s not a negative...that’s just the science fiction comic book biz!


Daniel [] said...

I couldn't help but notice the odd feet on the woman in 1:1. It seems that Ditko bailed on drawing the shoes and on drawing what of each foot would have gone in a shoe.

We might also ask why there were an assumption that all would-be invaders were engaged in the mission to steal the plans. It seems to me that it would have been better to take one alien prisoner, and then to send the other home (with the infra-red light), telling him only that his companion would suffer our wrath!

The story's treatment of the bank guard is rather uncaring. With a theory of impending invasion and without a knowledge of the psychology of the invaders, there would be little assurance that the guard would not be killed. But, then, in the old Boston Blackie radio programme, Blackie would sometimes set-up guards for certain death in order to lure criminals into traps. The past is another country.

It is not, however, another dimension! I really regret what happened in science fiction to the word “dimension”. Somewhere along the line, writers who didn't know what it meant incorrectly inferred a meaning, and other writers just imitated them in that, and “dimension” came to mean various sorts of alternatives to the space in which one group recognizes itself as living.

Brian Barnes said...

I all appreciate Ditko, and the work he puts into everything he does, but the plot of this thing, yikes. Ditko goes a long way to saving it, but without him, this would have been a great entry for your next turkey day!

It's very hard to look at a lot of Ditko art and not think "Was this from Dr. Strange?" He's so associated with it that every time there's a photographic trick or collage, or just some wacky alternate world, I just think about those wonderful Ditko Strange issues.

Ryan Anthony said...

Well, Ditko cleverly got his name on the cover. He did it again in the first panel, not as cleverly, and then in the third panel, as if to remind us. "By the way, did we mention this is drawn by Ditko?"

The CCA block's mention of "good taste" reminded me of when the committee on delinquency asked Bill Gaines if a Johnny Craig-drawn decapitation cover was in good taste. It's been said that many of the rules in the Comics Code were designed specifically to drive Gaines's EC Comics out of business.

This must have been a script-first production, rather than produced like the "Marvel Method," because the woman on pages 1 and 2 "narrates" every panel as the man becomes a negative and dissolves, suggesting that the writer didn't trust the artist to get the idea across unaided.

This could've made for a really creepy horror story, rather than just a weird sci-fi strip. When the photographer looked at his negative, he could've seen a small image of the strange man (NOT dressed like a costumed hero or villain, as in the artwork) far behind the posing woman. Then he would've looked at the next negative he took and found that the strange man was larger, as if moving closer to the front of the picture. Might've been more compelling than what we got, though the premise was rather clever. I also would have preferred to hold the explanations until the end of the story, rather than having the scientist theorize (correctly) in the middle. The unknown is always much scarier.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

These tales for "Out of this world" show a great, neat and very detailed art.
Maybe I'm swearing, but I daresay Ditko's work is slightly less accurate in Spiderman and Dr. Strange.
His method is interesting. It shows that he was not only a graphical visionary, but also inventive, and willing to experiment.
The plot reminds me of some early Dr. Strange stories. Extra dimensional aliens disguised as a house, or something like that.
This story could also provide a fascinating and not too prosaic explanation for the "Solway Firth Spaceman" mistery, a case familiar to all the kids who loved to read books about UFOs in the 70's.

Pappy said...

Ryan, the GCD equivocates with their use of a question mark after Joe Gill's name as scripter. As I recall he wrote much of the Charlton output for years using traditional scripts. The "Marvel Method" was not used until the sixties, and I don't know if it changed any of the other publishers' methods...but probably not.

You are right the Comics Code appeared to be written to punish Bill Gaines. From the Code itself: "No comic magazine shall use the words "horror" or "terror" in its title. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited."

That pretty much meant a death knell for horror comics.

I don't know if it is any coincidence that in the late fifties the so-called "Shock Theater" was shown to local television stations, and the old Universal Monsters were introduced to young audiences, leading to the monster magazines of the late fifties-early sixties. Probably too big a topic to go into here, but it must've frustrated comic book people who were prohibited from showing popular creatures that oculd be seen every weekend on late-night television.

Pappy said...

J D, as much of the UFO literature as I have read, I have never seen the "Solway Fifth Spaceman." But I don't believe it is anything more than what someone in the article suggests, that it is the photographer's wife's back.

It's why I like the in-your-face stories that mystery comics are known for. The Negative people are from another dimension, and no other explanation is needed.

I agree that Ditko had the imagination for experimentation when it came to this other-dimensional stuff, and that certainly helped Dr Strange a few years after this science fiction story was published. I lost interest in Dr Strange after Ditko quit.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I don't know when Ditko started sharing studio space with Eric Stanton, but he could have shown Ditko how to draw a shoe. Nothing that a human being could actually walk in, but it would have been well-rendered.

Now that you mention it, I don't know exactly what scientists mean when they say "dimension." I suppose I have been misled by the science fiction context of what is another dimension, or even alternate dimension.

Pappy said...

Brian, damn! That's two stories then that I could have saved for my annual Turkey Award, along with the story I showed in April.

Oh well, there are still lots of issues of mystery, love, science fiction and horror comics to go through to find a turkey.

Daniel [] said...

In science, the word “dimension” refers to an attribute that may be treated as quantified, and typically to an attribute that may be treated as part of physical geometry.

(Physicists had long presumed the quantifiability of time,* but when they began speaking and writing of time as a “fourth” dimension, it was with the idea that time were not as distinct as had been imagined from the three dimensions used to characterize space. Questions of when involved presumptions about where, and vice versa.)

When scientists and mathematicians refer to “hyperspace”, they are referring to a space containing all of the dimensions (quantified attributes) of another, and then still more. So, for example, if you imagine a two-dimensional space (as in plane geometry) and then add a third dimension, the three-dimenisonal space is a hyperspace of the two-dimensional space. Any plane within the three-dimensional space (including that of the original two-dimensional space) is a sub-space of the three-dimensional space. Any line on a plane is a one-dimensional sub-space of that plane and of any hyperspace containing the plane. In a hyperspace of more that four dimensions (counting time), a different subspace from the one that we occupy would conform to what many people now mean by an “alternate reality”, “alternate universe”, “parallel universe”, or “parallel time”.

One might additionally imagine alternate universes not connected to our own by anything like a spatial dimension, though it's then puzzling how they might be connected at all (and there must be some connection for these alternate universes to be real).

Using “dimension” to mean what is in fact a multi-dimensional system (or systems) makes it hard to discuss any of these things coherently.


*Helmholtz in fact claimed that our understanding of quantity were founded on our experience of time.

Grant said...

The strangest LITTLE thing about this story is that they bother to set it in ' 72, and there's nothing really futuristic about it (at least when it comes to THIS world).

I couldn't help liking J_D_La_Rue's comment. I don't know the Solway Firth Spaceman story well, but I always like some "Fortean" reference in a place like this.

"They might have been safe against beings of their own dimension, but not against us." -
The moment afer I read that, I somehow heard Kang and Kodos laughing in some SIMPSONS Halloween episode.