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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 10/08/2000
Column 71

In some of my more recent columns I've discussed the decline in the comics field and offered various suggestions, for good or ill, hoping that the publishers might pick up on them. It was a very slim hope at best. I've also pretty much run out of stories and reminiscences about my experiences in comics. And from the responses on the Round Table, I'd judge that those experiences, dating back to the beginning of the forties were of more interest to most readers of this column than any of my other notions and philosophical ramblings.

The truth of the matter is, my comics career ended a long time ago. I haven't kept up with the field, so I have very little to say about what's happening today. In fact, these days, I don't read comics at all. I'm afraid that can also be said about a lot of onetime comics fans. We all know how short-sighted editorial policies have driven them elsewhere.

As for myself, by now, I can't even get interested in most of it. I'm sure there's good work going on somewhere, but I've already moved on to another career. I have another book coming out in the spring, and three books up on my Literary Annex which I expect will ultimately find their way into print. In the meantime, I'm working with my epublisher to help bring about that explosion in which the web will finally displace print publishing. In 1998, ebooks had about 2% of all book sales. By 1999, that figure more than doubled to 5%. Not only I, but my present print publisher, a new venture called Olmstead Press, developed by a large Chicago book distributor, is clear headed enough to make sure they also have a strong presence on the web, if only to be there when publishing ultimately makes its total shift to the web, since everybody knows it will. That will depend to some extent, I think, on the development of multiple-use hand-held readers like the Palm Pilot. My feeling is that the Rocket Book will not make it. It's too limited by being merely a book reader. Also, it's part of a system that takes far too much from the pockets of authors, without recognizing the enormous decrease in publishing costs the web has made possible. This is also the position of The Authors Guild. But these are all speculations about tomorrow. For the present, I am continuing to work in the novel, but the stuff I'm writing requires that I spend a great deal of time in reading and research on what I might here refer to as "ultimate things." So I've no time to read comics at all. And considering that I'll be eighty-four next month, and I feel I have a lot to do on the novel, I don't think I can continue this column as a comics column especially.

However, this site, while largely frequented by comics fans, is still essentially an entertainment site. It is interested in books, movies and people involved in working at some form of fiction that may gradually shift away from comics as that medium continues to fade in its present form. In order for me to continue doing this column, I would need a signal from interested readers that my writing is helping to contribute to the sale of my books. As I said, doing those books is now my chief preoccupation, while I really have nothing more to say about comics. I've said it all already. What I haven't really addressed is the fact that comics has never really sustained its writers, most of whom have always had a hard time surviving unless they went to other media. Bill Finger's tragedy is not just a result of his personal problems. He was one of the best but comics simply didn't support him. Every other comics writer I knew who survived did so by doing other kinds of writing. For the artists, especially for those who were also writers, it was a different story. Most of them managed quite comfortably in the comics medium. Yet considering that the medium is ultimately dependent on story, it simply isn't a good place for writers to be, if they work in comics almost exclusively. I consider it absolutely outrageous that someone, for example, like Tony Isabella, should have to scrounge so hard in order to find work in comics despite his genuine talent as a writer and his understanding of the medium. But that's the way it is. And it's time somebody said so.

For myself, I can do two things. I can continue the column on this site if readers show enough interest by visiting my Literary Annex and supporting me by buying my books. There are now three choices available. Very soon there will be four and then five. On the other hand, if I get little or no response here, then I am surely in the wrong place. I will then set up my column on my Literary Annex where those of you who are interested in my work and my ideas can find me. At the present time, the e-pub 2000 site carries detailed descriptions of each my works, along with reviews and some commentary from me. Whether it will carry this column too depends on whether readers indicate that they want me to remain here by providing some support for my books. I'll also watch for your comments on the Round Table.


<< 10/01/2000 | 10/08/2000 | 04/23/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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