Strange Avenging Tales #1

Strange Avenging Tales #1 cover

Story and art by Steve Ditko

Like Ditko's World, Strange Avenging Tales is primarily a collection of short stories related only by Ditko's Objectivist worldview. Unfortunately, none of the stories is any good. Ditko is so focused on getting from point A to point B that he doesn't attempt to establish character or tone, or build up any sort of dramatic tension.

We've got a tale of "The Baffler," one of Ditko's strange faceless crimefighters, who hunts down a jewel thief and drives him insane, though honestly I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care. In "Clyde and Claude" a nebbish with multiple personality is driven to commit murder by one of his personas, but there's no tension because you know he's crazy from the first panel. We also get two installments of "The Spoilers," which are basically cranky revenge fantasies crossed with "They'll Do It Every Time."

The best story of the lot is "In Due Time," where a petty thief gets his mystical comeuppance. The story itself is thoroughly pedestrian, but the storytelling, which is fantastic...

Strange Avenging Tales #1 p.12-13Strange Avenging Tales #1, p. 12-13

These are mostly very basic moment-to-moment transitions, which would normally be very dull. But Ditko manages to create composition al and thematic unity by making the watch face the focus of each panel, and tying everything together with a circles-in-circles motif. Also note how the panels move from dense solid blacks to heavy hatching and then to light stippling, before fading out to blank white. None of these techniques is very complicated or ambitious, but because they've been coordinated with great care the overall sequence is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Unfortunately, those two pages are the only thing in the book worth studying.

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