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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 05/07/2001
Volume 2, Number 3

As I try to get on with my very strange story, the story of how I freed myself from Weisinger's weight (pun intended) in my writing life, I find myself flooded with all sorts of ideas, unorganized, detailed, connected in a variety of ways.

One notion that keeps intruding is how my friend, Tony Isabella works out many of his frustrations in comics and elsewhere by transferring them to the political sphere, most of which, by the way, I agree with. That is, Tony pretty well speaks for me too. And it even occurs to me as I think about his frequent diatribes against the "religious" right, how fully and completely the latter contrradict themselves by first, attacking evolution, and then proceeding to support a politics of competition based almost entirely on the basic evolutionary principle of natural selection, in which all of life competes against itself for survival, when, in fact, Christianity and most other mainstream religions offer a basic teaching that relies on cooperation, caring for one another, "do unto others. . ." etc., much closer, in fact, to socialist principles than current Republican ones.

Gorsh, how can this be? What kind of a strange world do we live in? What about "the Protestant ethic", doesn't that foster competition? Well, not exactly. And anyway, what does all this have to do with Weisinger?

Okay, back to the strange story, and you'll see. I told you how Waldemar came to stay with us overnight because he couldn't put up with Hans' heckling him about his homosexuality. So, we spent the evening discussing all that wizardry Waldemar had performed so well with the Tarot cards the night before. When asked, Waldemar found he couldn't explain it. So we exchanged various stories we'd heard about other kinds of parapsychological events, everything from seances with trumpets, ESP, Remote Viewing, and other personal experiences, except that it all came from Marjorie and Waldemar. I myself was really rather sceptical. But I still remained somewhat open and curious because of that very odd experience I had shared with Marjorie only a few months earlier. I describe it in detail in AN UNLIKELY PROPHET, but just to recall it again, Marjorie had started to do some automatic painting just as a number of other abstract expressionist painters had attempted. And while just letting her hand do what it liked, after some preparatory motions in the air with her brush, there suddenly began to appear on her canvas a whole series of tightly drawn images which I recognized asbelonging to the Hindu Pantheon, images of the elephant god, Ganesha, images of Shiva, details that reading had familiarized me with but about which Marjorie knew nothing.

Puzzled by what was happening, she began to get instructions relayed by an unknown voice, to undergo certain rituals before proceeding, none of which was heard by me, and which, in fact, the voice instructed her not to reveal to me, which she promptly did anyway. And as a result, she suffered a strange kind of shock.

We were both terrified by this macabre series of events. Marjorie felt as if she might be having a heart attack. We went rushing off to the doctor, and while we sat in his waiting room, I had this sudden thought , whose source I cannot explain, that if she were to cross her arms and then let me grasp her hands in mine, it might help. And sure enough, as we tried it, I felt something like a surge of electrical energy (I don't know how else to describe it) drain off into me and simply get grounded. That is, in me, the power dissipated and Marjorie's strange symptoms vanished. At this point, we looked at each other. What were we going to tell the doctor? Probably he'd think we both ought to be certified as schizophrenics on the loose, especially back then in the early fifties. So, we just picked up and left.

Actually, this is a very sketchy review of what happened. But I'd like to add here, just for the record, that in the new movie about the painter Jackson Pollock, there's a scene where Jackson suddenly discovers the magic secret of "drip" painting, and this proves to be the basis of his later great canvases. The fact is that "drip" painting was widely known all over East Hampton at that time and, in fact, almost everyone I knew, artists, criticxs, writers, all used drip methods to paint their floors. No, what Jackson actually discovered was that when he poured color onto his canvas tacked to the floor from the little cans of house-paints he used, the paint did not fall according to the laws of gravity, but seemed to be moved by another mysterious force that was more akin to the unpredictable movements of a Ouija board than anything else. Pollock, like many of his abstract expressionist contemporaries, had finally discovered "automatic" painting.

So, given that knowledge, and given my recent experience with Marjorie's own strange automatic productions, my scepticism about paranormal phenomena was somewhat tempered. I was, at the very least, open minded about what was to transpire. And that began when Marjorie, having retired for the night, Waldemar said to me, "I have this very strong feeling that if we take this drawing pad and sit across from each other and you hold my hand while I hold a pencil, something will happen." He didn't say what would happen. He really didn't know except that probably we'd be doing some klind of unconscious writing.

I remember that it was a November night. It had gotten cold outside. In the country, there wasn't much to do in mid autumn except maybe make popcorn balls or sit and watch the logs burn in the fireplace. We really had nothing better to do, so I decided to give it a try.

This week, my first novel, The Blowtop, is being republished in a new edition after 53 years. Why now? Well, to put it briefly, through a chance word, some follow-up scholarship, a matching of significant dates and places, it seems that the beat movement of the fifties, started by Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac, might never have happened except for The Blowtop. Am I then the true "father of the beats?" The Blowtop has a new introduction where I lay out all the facts as they were presented to me. Or to find out what this book is all about, just click on the cover shown on the side panel alongside this column. It'll take you right to the Amazon site. Then, scroll down a bit and you'll have a detailed description of what this work is all about. Of course, if you can't resist buying this seminal work after that, well, go for it.

I'll be back next week to introduce you to Roy, the most mysterious personality I ever encountered, and the personality who showed me the way to my freedom from Weisinger.

Also please note that there were important other writers at DC who had to learn ways to trick, bamboozle, or in other ways work around the Weisinger problem. I especially recommend the piece that appeared in Wizard a few years ago by William Woolfolk, who not only used a surrogate to get around Weisinger's infantile quirks, but found a number of ingenious and rather creative ways to outwit W's childish and arbitrary behaviors. Sorry, I don't recall the issue, but maybe a search for Woolfolk under Wizard will turn it up.

Alvin

<< 04/30/2001 | 05/07/2001 | 05/14/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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