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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 10/18/1999
Column 23

The Superman newspaper strip went whimsical in 1945. At least, that was my mood with the ending of World War II. No real need anymore for apocalyptic superheroism of the sort Superman represented for so many. Especially overseas, where fifty percent of circulation had been going to the armed forces. So I lightened up considerably myself. Instead of the usual stuff, I wrote a story in which Superman hears an S.O.S. from somewhere out at sea. He quickly locates a fishing vessel named The Mustard Plaster run by an old salt named Catfish. The vessel is in the midst of a bad storm and would have gone down had Superman not gotten there as quickly as he did.

In gratitude, Catfish makes Superman a present of a pair of creatures he calls "Ogies."

Catfish: Ye saved me an' my baby, Superman, an' Catfish ain't the one to be beholdin' to no one. So I'm makin' ye a present of my ogies.

Supes: Your ogies? What's that?

Catfish: Ahoy, ogies-tell him.

A couple of dialogue balloons appear at the level of Superman's knees.

First balloon: I'm an ogy.

Second balloon: I'm an ogy too.

Superman: (bewildered) But I don't see anything.

Catfish: ‘course ye don't. Ogies ain't things yer supposed to see. Ya only hear ‘em.

1st balloon: But we can see you.

2nd balloon: And we like you.

Supes breaks into a wide grin of understanding as he tells Catfish: You almost fooled me, Catfish. You're quite a ventroloquist.

No, Catish declares. Them ogies is real. And I'm makin' ye a present of them.... Fine pets they make. No feedin' an' no license required.

To make a long story very short, Superman, still thinking Catfish has been somehow pulling his leg, arrives home-that is, arrives at the apartment that's supposed to be Clark Kent's pad and suddenly hears the ogies squeal with delight at being there. Since hearing voices means you're crazy, Superman isn't exactly thrilled. He's confused. And even more so when he realizes that since the ogies can follow him around and see him switch to Clark Kent, they're really going to disrupt his life- which they proceed to do in a number of ways. Since they enjoy zipping around with Supes and he decides to deny them that pleasure by staying home, they proceed into Metropolis and using their voices very effectively, they soon get people punching away at each other and in no time at all start a good sized riot. So Supes simply has to get into action and stay in action to keep them happy. Worst of all, they start saying sweet things to Lois in Superman's presence and she thinks they're coming from him. When he tries to explain about ogies, she's convinced he's even using baby-talk on her. It gets to be a big mess, all around. Of course, in the end, Superman does resolve the problem. He always does, so I won't go into it here. Mainly, I wanted to talk about ogies.

Actually, you can't draw an ogy or show one. You only have an empty dialogue balloon. But you can do all sorts of things with dialogue balloons. In fact, the balloons in this sequence proved so appealing that cartoonist Al Capp adopted them and turned them into his famous schmoos. But the empty balloon that represents an ogy has acquired a new counterpart- a counterpart that has only come into its own with the arrival of the internet. And these new critters have taken the empty dialogue balloon one step further. They don't even use their voices as the ogies did. In fact, they never say anything at all. But we all know they're there. We call them LURKERS. I know about lurkers because I've often been one myself. So, in a way, a lurker is really a new and improved kind of ogy. They like you. They follow you around. They pay attention to you, but they never really let you know they're around. Why not? All sorts of different reasons. Maybe the territory is a little strange to them. Or maybe it's more fun being a disembodied watcher. Or maybe they're not sure what they want to say and don't want to embarrass themselves. Okay. Whatever the reason, it leaves me with a small problem.

I know I'm writing a kind of oddball column. Maybe even a little heavy sometimes. I'll admit I kind of lean toward the heavy stuff, but not always. Just ask my dog, Angus. But anyway, because of the kind of column I write, I'm beginning to wonder whether I have much of an audience. I know it's not too bad. I've been getting some new visitors to my own web site since I started, but not exactly a flood. and a few other signs, like a modest increase in sales of An Unlikely Prophet. But I suffer from insecurity. Maybe they don't like me out there. I'm not really your standard type comics buff. Or just think of how insecure Superman got with the ogies hanging around.

So, to provide me with an incentive to keep this column going, I'm going to ask you silent ogies, and I hope there are many of you, to simply end your silence. Just send me a message. You don't have to say anything special. All I want is a signal. Like "grrrf" or maybe just plain "yowks." Anything you like, so long as it's a message. And then I'll know, if I get enough of them, that I should keep this column going. In which case, next week, I'll tell you all about The Chef of Bohemia and what life was really like for various other friends of Superman in the Greenwich Village of the early forties.

Alvin Schwartz

<< 10/11/1999 | 10/18/1999 | 10/25/1999 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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