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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 10/01/2000
Column 70

On Fields...

I have a friend who does healing. Not ordinary healing but healing of the psyche, of the mind, or, if you prefer such words, the soul. She has all the academic degrees needed for being a psychotherapist, but she doesn't always work that way. However, for several hours a day, she fills a full time job as a licensed therapist. But she also has what are quaintly known by many people as psychic healing abilities. She heals broken souls, minds and psyches. She does so by means of a well-trained group of psychic gifts. But I have no intention of explaining what these are or how they work in this column. I want merely to mention that one of her means of healing is by working through the energy field. My reason for bringing up energy fields, what they are and how they operate has a very direct bearing on the superheroes of comics, most especially Superman.

But we'll get to that. Let's first take a step back and find out something about energy fields. How do they work? What are they? And how do they have relevance to the present state of comics? Because they do have such relevance. Quite a bit, as you'll see.

Let's start with what I mean when I speak of an energy field.

All fields are simply centers of influence. Magnetic fields, electromagenetic fields, gravity and energy fields are all, in various ways centers of influence.. To quote from the explanations of my healer friend, energy fields are really the living element of matter. They form matter, direct matter, and create matter. Every scientist knows this today. So all true healing HAS to take place through the energy field. When you take a pill, you can trace its chemical effects, and its molecular interchanges- yet, in the end, what you're talking about is the way the pill acts on the body's energy field.

Some people, who have learned how to activate and manipulate their own energy field can affect matter directly.

Instead of the roundabout method of the pill or physical manipulation such as surgery, they can, in many cases, produce much finer effects by energy to energy actions. A lot of modern healers have in various ways, by searching out both new and ancient methods, learned how to strengthen their energetic gifts by techniques and studies that are considered by some to be spiritual in nature. Since that is a loaded word, let's stick to the more modern notion of "psyche". Within the psyche are found mind and energy activities that add a dimension of sensitivity to the act of healing. And even an expansion of consciousness.

Some people, like my friend, have very strong psychic and energy centers, (which are no more remarkable than such psychic gifts as an ear for music, or an eye for color, or any of a number of gifts that vastly enhance the senses) and have applied all that to healing. So by a combination of natural gifts (and all of us have gifts of one kind and another) plus study and practise, some have learned to analyze a whole host of problems, not just emotional and psycho-somatic maladies directly through the energy channels.

But energy fields go way beyond that. According to the great and widely recognized biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, they really should be called morphic fields. Morphic is from the Greek word meaning form- and his meaning lies in the fact that there are many kinds of forms that give shape to different kinds of energy. A simple energy field around the body (known as the aura) is one type of energy field. The bonds that hold a family together is still; another type. There are morphic fields for nations, groups, ideas and even what we call evolution is the result of a long existing morphic field that habit and continued use tend to strengthen. By way of example, let me tell you about the hundred monkeys syndrome.

It started when one female monkey was observed to take a bit of food found on the rain forest floor, and wash it in the sea. Another monkey, watching her, decided to do the same thing. Then another and another. After a time, the action attained a critical mass. Suddenly, it was noticed by anthropologists that similar monkeys on islands all around the globe, with no direct contact with the island where it all began, were washing their food in the water. Now if you think this was just sort of a telepathic thing, consider the following.

For a long time, a major chemical company in Europe was trying to develop a crystal with certain properties. After much trial and effort and some years, they succeeded. They made a fair number of the new crystals after that. Suddenly, in places all around the world, similar crystals began to develop, almost without effort. Some researchers thought that "seeds" of the original crystal had somehow been carried by traffic and winds and currents to these other places. But then, people began to observe that whenever a group of people anywhere set out to learn something, once they succeeded, it turned out that in various parts of the world the process got easier and easier. Sheldrake's explanation is a field explanation. A morphic field. You can't see it and touch or set its bounds anymore than you can a gravity or magnetic field. But habit seems to make it stronger.

Now I've no intention of going into this in greater detail. Read Sheldrake for more on this remarkable phenomenon. You'll even discover that his theories provide a much better explanation for something we've been calling "evolution" ever since the voyages of Darwin.

So for now, accept what I'm presenting, or go look it up. Among leading world biologists, morphic resonance and morphic fields have earned high respectability. In introducing these ideas here, I want to apply them in a field much more familiar to you. That is the field of the modern comics superhero! Let's take a quick look back at how Superman, after much delay and reluctance by publishers, first appeared and suddenly burst on the scene, not only spreading its own popularity, but spawning a host of very popular imitators, each embodying a different aspect of what I call an energy-idea. Batman, for example, represented a kind of vigilante/revenge archetype. Superman represented a more universal idea of a savior or guardian angel. I've already discussed these factors, but I haven't ever talked about the powerful morphic field that these characters generated.Their rapid success and wide acceptance and enormous sales all pointed, however, to just such a powerful morphic field.

That Supermanic field had certain distinct characteristics. We all know that. Last week, I discussed the importance of the earth-based characteristics. Today, I think its time I pointed directly to the fact that the original character has been so vastly changed in terms of looks, character, abilities, relationships and even style that it bears little resemblance to the original. In short the morphic field has been so violated that its unifying mass appeal has slowly dissolved. Its original readership is disappearing faster than a snake down a gopher hole. A lot of editors and writers couldn't figure out why. After all, didn't they try all sorts of new ideas, new appeals, new twists to make the character over?

They did indeed. Everyone who took over had a new idea about making the original idea better and only succeeded in making it worse. In fact, they mostly destroyed the original morphic field. Now let's step back. When an aura builds around a film star, whether she's great or not, it's because of the sudden development of a morphic field. A president like Kennedy generated his own morphic field, even though many people, including myself, can't think of anything special he ever did. But there it was- Camelot! And I challenge anyone to give me a good reason why. Morphic fields existed for years and sustained old comics like Mutt & Jeff, Bringing Up Father, Gasoline Alley. . . They went on and on and on. Day in and day out, the same.

When Superman appeared on the scene, there was a big empty space caused by war and depression. By stepping in to fill that space at such a time, Superman generated a morphic field that then went on by itself for a long time- until tinkering with the original idea, ungrounding it, creating Superdogs, girls and other characters, as I've already said ad nauseam, broke up the morphic field. The energizing factors slowly vanished. Can this be reversed? I really do not know. What I do know is that the further we get from the original character, the more circulation is lost. So perhaps trying to get back to the original character may be the the best, if not the only option that remains. Comics as we got to know the field, beginning in the late thirties, was built around superheroes. But to the extent that those superheroes have changed, so have the audiences diminished. Morphic fields have nothing to do with the rational. They are created by habit, by redoing and reliving the same basic features over and over again, with gradual changes bringing gradual results. Such an idea does more to explain the questionable elements of evolution than anything we've yet come up with. They account for the irrational and sudden rise of the superheroes, just as the breaking down of the morphic features explains the decline of comics.

Hey- I've got a great idea that may not work at all anymore. It may be too late. But why not go back to the original? Too many things in the way? Not necessarily. Just ask me. I have a few ideas. Anyone at DC listening? All you have to do is contact me at The Round Table.

And don't forget to visit my LITERARY ANNEX at


<< 09/25/2000 | 10/01/2000 | 10/08/2000 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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