Spider-Man and the return
to the honorable hero
by Fred Martinez
Steve Ditko, the
original artist and co-creator of the Spider-Man
comic, is the Greta Garbo of comic books.
Spider-Man 2 again ready to break records, Ditko
is still refusing to give interviews after 20
years. He refused interviews for major articles
about him by the Los Angeles Times and one
of Canada's leading newspapers, the National
Post during the cinema run of the original
however, explained his philosophy of art in a
narrative on a 1987 video titled "The
Masters of Comic Book Art," hosted by author
Harlan Ellison. In his introduction, Ellison
dismissed Ditko's plea that heroes in art and
literature be measured by the moral courage shown
in objective good vs. evil choices.
now seems prophetic for saying in the show that
if we glorify the anti-hero in art, then
anti-life and violence will come into our
culture. The anti-heroes of the Columbine-like
killings in public schools and the Sept. 11
terrorists seem to justify his claim.
American and global culture needs are heroes as
models. In the program, the artist and co-creator
of Spider-Man says, "Aristotle said that art
is more important than history. History tells how
man did act. Art shows how man should and could
act. It creates a model.
self-flawed and anti-hero provide the heroic
label without the need to act better. A crooked
cop, a flawed cop, is not a valid model of a good
law enforcer," Ditko said in the program.
"An anti-cop corrupts the legal good, and an
anti-hero corrupts the moral good."
as a model for good
The power of Ditko's art has in fact
influenced youth toward good. In the Fall, 2001
issue of The Jesuit, a teenager named
Pedro tells how he was inspired to go to college
by Spider-Man's message.
got his power when he was a teenager and wasn't
sure how to use it," Pedro explains.
"So his grandfather [actually uncle] told
him, 'With greater power comes greater
responsibility.' That's the way it is at Cristo
Rey. We're learning to make the world a better
place. We're going to go to college and give a
whole lot back from what we've been given."
saying that Spider-Man is even a type of Christ.
In his essay for the video, Ditko seems at times
to be describing Spider-Man as well as the second
person of the Trinity. He said, "Early comic
book heroes were not about life as it is, but
creation of how a man with a clear understanding
of right and wrong and the moral courage to
choose acts even if branded an outlaw."
Internet, I found the testimony of a man who used
Ditko's art to turn to God. Mark Dukes, now a
deacon of the African Orthodox Church, said:
father wasn't around. My mother was a single
parent. It was a vacuum in my life. Who am I
supposed to be? How am I supposed to be?
me, Spider-Man really resonated. Spider-Man's
alter ego was Peter Parker, who was a nerd. And I
didn't feel like I was a cool guy either.
Spider-Man was disliked and feared. Everyone
thought he was a crook, but he was a good guy. No
one gave him any respect but he continued to do
good even in the face of all that.
would sacrifice himself, get beat up and then
people would say 'Ahhh. Spider-Man! Run. He's
going to do something to us!' And really he had
just now saved the world. That is very saintly.
me, Spider-Man was a type of Christ. He went
through suffering just to do good. And he
continued to do it even in the face of everyone
misunderstanding him and hating him."
icon art and invisible realities
Dukes is an artist of Orthodox icons for
churches, an artistic pursuit similar in some
ways to Ditkos own work.
creator of Ditko Comics Web site, said:
Ditko had what most people would consider a
cartoony style, but his work was far more real
than the photo-realist comic artists
that would appear on the scene in the following
was more real because the visual laws defined in
his universe were so real, so consistent, that
one suspends disbelief to its maximum."
historian Andrei Navrozov, in the June issue of Chronicles,
agrees with Bell that art can either be about
"gaining a deeper understanding" of
reality by symbols or can "mimic"
was first invented in 470 B.C. by Agatharchus as
a means of "geometric illusionism" to
mimic reality in stage sets for theater,
according to the icon historian.
said the "theater set is conceived as a
fiction, whereas [an icon] is born as an attempt
at truth of life, an attempt that in no sense
compromises the integrity of the original
[reality]. ... They are symbols of real life, not
lifelike imitations of reality.
is no deeper conflict in history than that
between these opposing views of art. 'Is art to
serve reality and the individual under God or is
it to serve [materialistic] realism and the
masses under communism?"
shows us that the modern battleground against God
and reality is imagery and the imagination.
Michael O' Brien, in his book A Landscape with
Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind,
said that the imagination is the way that mankind
comprehends "God's territory" and his
created "invisible realities."
imagination, according to O'Brien, has lost
"God's territory" by returning to its
"pre-pagan split in consciousness,"
which is the Gnostic rejection of the
"sacramental" unity of spirit and
matter, the addiction to occult tales of will to
power like Harry Potter, and the relativistic
denial of good and evil with ends-justify-the
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is for
O'Brien a prime example of a return to the
Western Christian epic tradition of the moral
imagination, which comprehends "God's
territory" and his created "invisible
wrote: "The discernment of the right paths
that must be taken, if good is to triumph, is
dramatized in the myriad geographical, emotional,
spiritual, and symbolic choices faced by the
questers. In each of these, Tolkein's world is
faithful to the moral order of the universe, to
the absolute necessity of freedom. Middle-earth
is a "sacramental" world, an
"incarnational" world. ... Spirit
[invisible realities] and matter are never
portrayed as adversaries."
culture based on reality and God
The Western Christian culture was rooted in this
service to reality and God. Reality was the
belief in the objectivity of things that are both
material and spiritual. During the last two to
five centuries, materialistic modernity has been
the adversary of this spiritual and matter
"incarnational" reality was rooted out
and refilled with the lone materialistic science
and "realism" in art worldview in which
reality was contained only within material
objects that could be tested or seen.
(invisible) realities like God, love, beauty,
responsibility and free will were neither
seeable, material nor testable, so they were not
within modernity's realism.
attacked the primacy of realistic philosophies
such as Thomism and realistic symbolic literature
like Dante's spiritual epics and Shakespeare's
dramas contrasting persons who were symbols of
the conflicting real worldviews of modernity and
the older realistic philosophy.
"To be or not to be?" illustrates what
the two cultures were in conflict about. In our
time, Bill Clinton ("What is the definition
of is?") is the symbol of modernity's
denial of "to be" or objective truth or
in its desire to stamp out the Christian culture,
dislodged Thomism realistic philosophy and
realistic symbolic literatures with Pavlovian
behaviorism as well as the materialistic
reductive studies and application of art, which
represented only material acts. Such as Freud's
deterministic reduction of all symbols of the
mind to represent only the physical acts of sex
and Picasso's sexual anti-art.
cramped reality of only the materially seeable or
testable led to rootlessness and alienation,
which was so unbearable to modern man that there
was a reaction. According to philosopher Allan
Bloom, Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy of
disbelief in all reality, seeable or unseeable,
material or spiritual, became the language of the
Nietzsche's values philosophy led to the
subjectivity of all concepts of objective truth,
which included good and evil.
remember when President Reagan called the USSR
"the evil empire"; he was roundly
criticized for violating the new language of
"beyond good and evil." This language
of value relativism allows for neither the words
nor the symbols of evil and good.
anti-reality philosophy of "God is
dead" led to the anti-heroes of politics and
this led to the denial of the concepts of
absolute truth and the law of identity in reality
by modernist artists such as Pablo Picasso and by
politicians such as Clinton. This rejection of
good and evil in turn led to the degrading of
women and sexuality.
In the case
of Picasso, E. Michael Jones in Degenerate
break with the traditions was an index of his
hatred not only toward the spiritual values of
the West but toward the human body and spirit
that the West prized as good. In the end, the
only thing that Picasso portrayed realistically
was the woman's crotch. Modern art had returned
to its roots, and the gaping crotch was the only
thing now that could keep the aging Picasso in
touch with the real world."
On the other hand, the hit Spider-Man movie may
be a sign that our society wants to go back to
the culture that Nietzsche, Picasso and Clinton
rejecteda culture that was able to see the
objective reality of God, love, beauty,
responsibility, free will and the honorable hero.
climax of the movie, at the top of a bridge, the
Green Goblin's hand holds up the woman that
Spider-Man loves and in the other hand he holds a
cable with a tram full of children dangling at
the other end. Then the villain lets them fall to
their deaths. As he does this, he gives
Spider-Man a choice by saying, "You can save
either the girl or the children."
almost miraculously, saves both. For some, this
is symbolic of the need in our society to return
to the Christian tradition of men retaking the
heroic responsibility of showing love by
committing both to his woman and the fruit of
their love through "better or worse"
As our hero
slowly lowers, by the cable, his love and the
children to safety, he is repeatedly knocked
around by the Green Goblin.
taunts him to let go and save himself, which
would mean the deaths of those he is lowering.
But as the villain zeros in for the kill,
Spider-Man is ready to give his life for others,
as another hero did 2,000 years ago.
help of New Yorkers, Spider-Man saves his love
and the children and defeats the Goblin, who
finally begs for mercy. As our hero is about to
give him his hand, the villain sends his
high-tech vehicle to kill Spider-Man from behind.
Spidey avoids the vehicle and it ends up killing
This is the
Christian message in a symbolic nutshell. God
will forgive anyone no matter what the offense,
with only one exception. The only offense God
can't forgive without destroying our free will is
one's choice to reject mercy. By the Judas
choice, one freely sends oneself to where God is
not, which is the definition of hell.
the classic anti-hero
The Democrats and their public relations
agency, the media, are at the other end of the
symbolic spectrum, as real-life anti-heroes who
use the seduction marketing trick of association
to sell lies.
in Catholic books, association meant personal
relationships with good or bad
companionsfriendships that led to either
depravity or honorable lives.
now means creating the false impression that a
product, place, thing or politician is like the
symbol he figuratively stands next to. Nike shoes
are "good" because stars like Michael
Jordan wear them, or toothpaste will make you
popular because that's what happens in the
It's a con
job to sell products and politicians. Sadly, the
shadier part of our economic culture is based on
this tactic. This shallow magician's trick, as
with all lies, leads to meaninglessness and
despair. The selling of pornography to the masses
by associating it with constitutional freedoms
would make our founding fathers turn over in
is not only bad, it is also an empty evil that
can only mimic reality. It's men having imaginary
relationships with glossed-over images of what
was once a picture of a real woman, betraying her
most intimate self and future relationships. The
emptiness keeps multiplying.
Porn is not
symbolic of real life, but a lifelike imitation
said, "There is no deeper conflict in
history than that between these opposing views of
art. Is art to serve reality and the individual
under God or is it to serve [materialistic]
realism and the masses."
marketing and selling of pornography brings us to
Bill Clinton, who, despite promises to the
contrary, disrupted the "obscenity
prosecution" of Ronald Reagan's task force,
which had the porn industry in "serious
trouble in the late '80s and early '90s."
Clinton lived like a presidential X-rated soap
opera star for the $10 billion per year
was willing to accept a degenerate like Clinton
as an anti-hero. And as Ditko said, "[A]n
anti-hero corrupts the moral good."
Martinez is the author of The Hidden Axis of
Evil: The Clintons, Sex Abuse, and the Aborting