Sunday, May 25, 2008
Mr. A #1 (1973)
Mr. A is a fictional comic book hero created by Steve Ditko. Unlike most of his work, the character of Mr. A and the Mr. A stories remain the property of Ditko, all of which were written and illustrated by himself. The character first appeared in Witzend #3, 1967. Mr. A's name comes from "A is A", a popular way to represent the Law of Identity used often by Ayn Rand in particular.
Rex Graine is a newspaper reporter for the Daily Crusader. He is known for his uncompromising principles and incorruptibility. In order to fight crime Graine will wear metal gloves and a steel mask that resembles a placid face, thus becoming Mr. A. In keeping with the hardboiled detective theme, both personas typically wear suits and fedora hats; Mr A's outfit is completely white. There is no origin story for the character, thus it is unknown why Graine decided to become a vigilante or why he sometimes disguises himself, as both his identities are equally threatened by criminals and sometimes hated by the general public. Mr. A uses half white-half black cards to signify his arrival, as well as to represent his belief that there can only be good and evil, and no moral grey area.
Mr. A is one of the clearest examples of Ditko's belief in Ayn Rand's Objectivism. Typical stories will have one character convince him or herself that doing just a few illegal acts to get ahead in life will not make him or her a bad person. This character's crimes escalate when they must either take action to cover their previous misdeeds or are now too closely tied to more dangerous criminals to simply walk away. The stories invariably end with Mr. A confronting the criminals and telling them that they are all guilty, including the character who had wished to remain good. A staple for most stories involves this character trying to justify his or her immoral actions to both others and him or herself, blaming things such as environment and society rather than taking responsibility.
Almost every character speaks about the ideological reasoning behind their actions on every panel, thus showing that the adventure story is not meant to be just entertainment, but is to show an ideological dialogue and hopefully sway readers over to Objectivism.
Not all of Mr. A's stories are crime adventures. Some are allegorical representations of the guilty trying to explain why they compromised their values. Mr. A, on a white platform, denounces their explanations. These stories typically end with the guilty falling into an abyss off of their black platform. This representation often occurs at the end of the adventure stories as well.
Detractors have said that Mr. A is an unfeeling character who offers no remorse or mercy to criminals. In the stories themselves Mr. A says that he feels only for the innocent and victimized. His brand of justice might seem harsh to some, but on the other hand his punishments for criminals arguably fit the crimes they committed. People who commit "just one crime", such as accepting dirty money are turned over to authorities to stand trial for what they have done. Mr. A refuses to overlook their transgressions, even if they profess they will be good from then on. Killers and would-be-killers generally find themselves in situations where they need Mr. A's assistance to save them, but since they had no respect for innocent lives then he offers no aid for their guilty ones. It is only when an innocent life is directly threatened that Mr. A will kill, and when he does so it is without remorse.
Ditko responded to his critics in a Mr. A essay titled "Violence the Phoney Issue", printed in Guts #5 in 1969. This essay was reprinted on the web site "Dial B For Blog" #298.
Mr. A became the subject of the song "Goodbye Mr. A" by the British indie band The Hoosiers in late 2007, the lyrics talk about Mr. A's uncompromising values and the character's lack of popularity. Also, in The Hoosiers' music video of "Goodbye Mr. A", Mr A is launched into the air by a rocket and the band becomes superheroes in his place.
The Question, originally a Charlton Comics character and currently owned by DC Comics, is a hero very similar to Mr. A. Both men are uncompromising reporters who operate as vigilantes when wearing masks. Both characters also follow Objectivism, and it is often believed that the Question is a softer, more marketable version of Mr. A.
Ditko’s H Series and J Series (standing for "hero" and "justice" respectively) tell the stories of men who never compromise their beliefs, even when their futures or lives are at stake. At the end of H Series, the hero’s brother is distraught because he is disgusted by himself when compared to someone like his brother who never bends to the will of others and never does wrong. This is another common theme with Mr. A, and the heroes in all these stories could easily be interchanged with him.
Download Link (Hosted by Rapidshare)
Mr. A #1 CBR file