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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 04/30/2001
Volume 2, Number 2
April 30, 2001

Last week I used the phrase, the door opened wide, to explain how my feelings of outrage and frustration (which I shared with many others) at working with Weisinger, finally got dissipated.

But first, some background. On our return from Chicago, (Marjorie and I and son Alan) we moved back to the tiny Westchester hamlet of Shrub Oak where some former Greenwich Village friends of ours had inherited a large property and had built a large studio apartment at the other end of their three acre lot specifically to rent to us. The distaff side of the couple owning the property was, like Marjorie, an abstract expressionist painter. Her husband Hans was a Freudian psychoanalyst, rather recently from Vienna, who had arrived in the US through the distinguished sponsorship of Freud's daughter, Anna. We four were constant company for each other, with many things in common besides our Village roots.. Hans' rather interesting background, apart from his psychoanalytic bias about which we had many long but friendly disagreements, lay in the fact that he had studied logical positivism with Witygenstein in Vienna and was at least an interesting disputant for our differences on the various topics of the day. At that time, let me add, we were not so far apart, except that I tended to accept the validity of some metaphysics while, the essence of logical positivism was its fundamental objection to all metaphysics. Put simply, logical positivism held the position that no statement could be regarded as true unless it was verifiable by experiment. To me, a narrow and short-sighted view, especially when held by a Freudian who had never to my satisfaction been able to show how the Freudian notions of id and ego were anything but metaphysical constructs. On the whole, though, our shared notions of reality expressed not much more than an academic difference at that time. It was my frustration over what I came to feel was my condition of slavery at DC under Weisinger that helped bring about not merely a change in outlook, but a much broader vision of reality.

Again, let me step back. Because of our shared background and interests, we four in Shrub Oak often had guests and visitors from the Village, the arts, and the academic world, especially in the fields of sociology and psychology. And sometimes a promising young writer would arrive and stay for a few days, usually sleeping in the larger quarters of Hans and his wife, Penny who was still actively painting and from time to time preparing works for exhibit.

One of those literary visitors, a young man by the name of Waldemar , turned up one day to become the unwitting usher of my entry into a totally new vision of reality. But there was something unusual about Waldemar, something that turned up one evening when, sitting around the ancient old mahogany table in that converted farm kitchen of Penny and Hans, Waldemar proceeded to amuse everyone by pulling out a deck of Tarot cards and offering to read everyone's fortune. He did us all with the exception of Hans who objected for what seemed to the others a strange reason. "It's blasphemy," he tried to explain. I think I was the only one who understood what he meant by that. In his way, he was trying to express the idea that any peering into the future involved an unjustified breaking into the causal roles that life had laid down for us. It was a logical positivist position tainted perhaps by some secret metaphysical belief in destiny. But after that moment of confusion passed, Hans could not help but comment on the remarkably accurate perceptions that Waldemar brought to his reading of the destinies of the other three of us. I don't remember exactly what that reading was. It meant little to me, but I was more than a little amused to hear Hans comment that it was "a remarkable projective technique." In short, though he was impressed by the accuracy of the reading, he was making it plain that there was a well organized psychological method being used rather than anything occult or parapsychological. He needed to make sure that we understood that though Waldemar sounded metaphysical, there was a simple "kosher" explanation.

In addition, among the things we discussed that evening, was my own discontent over my work, about which Waldemar said, in his card reading that there would eventually be a radical leap to something vast;ly different, but I would first have to undergo a major change in the way I looked at the world. Let me add here that Waldemar, in announcing this, admitted he hadn't the least idea what it meant. To which Hans simp,ly added to me: "You've got to get out of that business, out of comics."

All right. That's the foundation. Fast forward to the following afternoon. Marjorie and I were back in our own studio at the other end of the property. Waldemar had stayed overnight with Penny and Hans. There was a loud knock at the front door. I opened up and there was Waldemar looking white, angry and upset.

"What is it?" I asked, inviting him in. He looked at us both. "It's Hans. He's driving me crazy. I had to get away."

"What happened? What do you mean?"

"He kept insisting that homosexuality was a neurosis. That I had to get analyzed and get rid of it. I didn't know how to answer him. I felt choked and overwhelmed by his heavy syllogisms and logical barrages. I just had to get away."

I laughed. "Don't you know they think we all have to get analyzed? That the essence of Freudianism is to reduce everyone to a nice uniform and comfortable blandness? Come on, don't take that seriously."

"Just the same, I really had enough. I'd rather not go back there. Not just yet. Mind if I spend the evening with you folks?"

That's when it started. That same evening, the beginning of the change that Waldemar predicted I'd have to make before I could break free of the Weisinger shackles. Waldemar himself was the instrument of it, although it hap pened in a way he himself never could have imagined. This really is a very strange story. Even now, almost fifty years later, that element of strangeness clings to it. Yet I remember it in remarkable detail, as you'll see when I continue with it next week.

Alvin

<< 04/23/2001 | 04/30/2001 | 05/07/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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