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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 05/29/2000
Column 55
May 29, 2000

This column may be considered explosive in some quarters. It comes at a time when the US is seriously contemplating the deployment of a limited missile strategy against so-called rogue states. But as others have already pointed out, as soon as you have a limited number of missiles prepared to stop a limited number of incoming missiles, (assuming it's ever possible) you immediately up the ante. The rogue states will increase the missiles, or at least the decoys. so that the US will have to expand its so-called limited defense in a constantly uprising arc such that the project, limited at first, grows naturally into a full scale missile defense, violating the anti-ballistic missile arms treaty to such an extent that we are immediately plunged into a new arms race. And this at a time when the United Nations has just formulated a new policy aimed at eliminating all nuclear weapons. The policy also rather disingenuously assumes that rogue states will attempt such attacks even when delivering them by courier and suitcase would be far easier and less detectable. A magnificent boondoggle for the arms-makers? Well, there's that too.

I don't claim to be a specialist in this area, but I do have some personal connection with the first nuclear attack on Japan because of something that happened when I was writing the Superman newspaper strip just before that first terrible weapon was dropped. The bare details are to be found in my book, still available at most bookstores and at Amazon-An Unlikely Prophet. Just turn to pages 146 and 147. It's all there-how I wrote the script that foresaw the atomic bomb-or at least enough of it to worry the secret service. So they used some pressure on DC to censor the story, except that for most papers, they stepped in too late, and the story came out anyway. Now there was actually nothing in the story that could have given away any atomic secrets. I had no idea about what was going on at Los Alamos and the other centers of feverish activity in an effort to develop the bomb. But there was one thing that happened to me as described in the book that represents one of those extra-dimensional experiences (I don't think I can find a better name for it without venturing too far beyond the bounds of scientific plausibility)-but in writing down that last part about Superman stepping into the cyclotron, I had this sense, this complete inner awareness, of an explosion so great that it seemed to make the whole earth tremble in its orbit. But because of the way it came to me, I felt uncomfortable associating it with my Superman story. Besides, I didn't consciously know anything about the government working on the bomb. So I couldn't have made any conscious connection.

It was the FBI who made the conscious connection as soon as the first part of the story came out. And they arrived to question-whom? The man they thought was actually privy to their secret-Jerry Siegel. After all, Jerry had his name on the strip, so he must've been writing it. But of course, he wasn't writing it. I was writing it and I would have remained in perpetual anonymity except for a very revealing interview in the New York Times Book Section (Jan 14,1948) about my first novel The Blowtop, today regarded as the first in a long line of novels known as "the beats". Today, they're saying I started the "beats." But that's another story.

That interview also uncovered the fact that I had for years been the anonymous writer on Superman for several years.. But that was already after Hiroshima. It didn't matter anymore. However, it turned out to have been a big thing for the major newsmagazines very early in the game. No one told me about that either. No one told me because as far as the editors of those days were concerned, there was no reason for the writers to know anything. They remained anonymous and would be kept anonymous to allow the company, then owned by the Donnenfeld Group, to manipulate people and payments in whatever way it pleased them. However, since they could no longer credit Jerry Siegel with the story, Independent News, the powerful distributor for National Periodicals, as it was then called, rushed out with announcements to the trade pointing out how important Superman was, using highlighted snippets from lead stories in both TIME and NEWSWEEK, which however only appeared in 1945, after the bomb was no longer a secret.

Superman Strip Gives Office of Censorship Atomic Headache
click for larger image

But then again, no one knew anything about my powerful subjective experience of a huge bang that I associated with writing the story but somehow felt I couldn't then mention. It was certainly a powerful intimation of something big-clearly it was a prevision of the actual atomic explosion. A warning? Why did I keep silent? Because I had nothing to go on but a powerful premonition. And premonitions are a dime a dozen. Besides, I didn't even know what it was actually being premonitored.

But this I know-that in some ways, both through experience and careful attention to events that tend to appear somewhat out-of-focus so that most of us ignore them, we are bombarded with various sorts of occult phenomena most of the time. Thousands of intimations reach us every day, some relevant to our lives and others merely picked up in passing. But I know now that we see more, sense more, are in contact with more aspects of reality than most material science allows us to believe. So we screen them out. I've revealed much of this in my memoir, mentioned above. And it's the screening out that I would like to put an end to. I would like people to become more aware of what their own sensitivities actually provide. It would enrich our lives immeasurably. And maybe bring us all closer together.

I find it interesting that I've been able to express and present these thoughts in a medium allied with comics-this particular column. Now, having just received the congratulations of readers for having completed a full year of these columns, I would like to make it possible for them to be gathered into book form so readers can examine them, add personal footnotes and more comfortably absorb the secrets that a long life and a tendency toward contemplation have enabled me to pass along in these pages. Believe nothing, but try out everything. Then tell me what you've discovered and we can go into it more deeply. Perhaps on the round table.

But to do this, I'd like to see these columns gathered into a book that can be read at leisure, away from the computer, with large margins where readers can write their own comments. It really needs to be done or these columns , like so many web phenomena will "disappear into that smoky spring that fills the suburbs, where they will be lost." Let's use the round table for discussing such a book, how you'd like to have it and how we can perhaps set it up through Justin and a Print-On-Demand publisher.

Alvin Schwartz

<< 05/22/2000 | 05/29/2000 | 06/05/2000 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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