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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 05/21/2001
Volume 2, Number 5
May 21, 2001

To this day, I am unable to explain what the personality of Roy, or of any channeled personality consists of. One of the most famous, most credible and most acceptable to many serious scientists and thinkers, the character known as Seth, channeled by the late Jane Roberts, enjoys a following among intellectuals, physicists and respectable thinkers. But Jane Roberts herself, a skeptic to begin with, was never ready to say that Seth, whose remarkable writings she channeled are still available from many published sources and are maintained in the Yale University archives, Ms Roberts was never sure whether Seth was some form of her own larger self, that is, part of some vaster reach of her own consciousness or an actual disembodied spirit. The fact is that careful investigation has shown that while others have claimed contact with the Seth personality, according to Jane Roberts, and to Seth himself, these are spurious. I can also say that Roy, in the absence of Waldemar, has never appeared to me or anyone else. So in some sense all these personalities seem to be linked to a very earthly living personality. This is also stated by Robert F. Butts, Janes' husband, her assistant in the Seth seances, whose learned and careful commentaries also seem to establish that Seth is in some way inseparably linked to his wife. Butts, interestingly enough, is an artist whose early career involved a considerable stint in comics. At one time, he drew Captain Marvel for Fawcett.

I should add here that I stumbled on the Seth writings in a way that seemed directly related to my Roy experience. I seemed, without going into details here, to have been led to them by some special inner circumstance, as though they were meant for me to be a continuation of the Roy experience precisely because I was not able to act on what appears to have been Roy's major tutelary intention, to stop seeking through such outward mirrors as himself (he described himself often as my mirror) and continue seeking through my own inward mirror. Accepting that notion, that of finding guidance within one's own self instead of looking outside for it, has been a work of decades, and in many respects, by different words and ways, the Seth personality ultimately offers the same direction. It's not unlike trying to understand "the sound of one hand clapping."

It may be of some interest to readers that the mirroring effect of Roy's teaching revealed itself in the very questions we asked. That is, as our questions became more serious and more about "ultimate things", the Roy character seemed to change and also grow stronger and more serious. In the end what we wound up with was certainly not a someone who was merely "the brother-in-law of Waldemar" but an independent personality-essence, capable of anger, of moods, of action at a distance. There was the time when, to demonstrate his "reality", he abruptly turned off all the electricity in the house. On another occasion, he put Waldemar into a trance where he began to moan in a strange tongue and I hurriedly called in John (whoops, that was the Greek scholar's first name. It just came to me. I almost remembered the last name, but, alas, it fell back from memory.) Anyway, John listened to Waldemar's trance uttrerances which proved to be not some uninterpretable glossalalia but a poem by the ancient Greek poet Anachreon.

But now, it's time to ask, what has all this to do with my work in comics and my struggles with Weisinger? The answer is that Roy showed me that Weisinger, as I experienced him and as he affected me, was my own creation. In Volume One of this column, way way back about a year ago, some of you may recall that I described how, sitting in a shopping mall, I met an interesting lady who looked blurred, a lady who told me to try an exercise in watching people as they walked past to discover how my subjective reactions colored the way I was seeing them, and how, by first trying to refocus on them, without that subjective coloring, I could actually see them glowing. I'm not saying that Roy showed me Weisinger in a glowing light. Hardly, but he managed to let me see my situation separately from Mort, as though Mort had nothing to do with it. It concluded in the form of a statement one night from Roy, in which he declared: "If a man is pursued by insoluble agonies and while running from them finds himself cut off by a steep cliff, he can leap and land safely, if his necessity be great." The key was, "if his necessity be great." It was great enough such that comics had somehow reached a nadir in circulation by the year 1958, and I could no longer support my family on them. Certainly not with Mort's hostility and endless demands for rewrites. In fairness, I should add here that in my own anger, I knew precisely how to rub Mort's various childish sensitivities the wrong way. Bill Woolfolk, in his article in Wizard describes Mort much as I do, but reveals how he artfully managed to rub Mort's sensitivities the right way. He also used a surrogate, sending in his wife, Dorothy Roubichek, as though she were the writer and not Bill, although as Bill reveals, she was merely his messenger. I remember Dorothy and recall that she handled her role and Mort superbly.

Other editors were less harsh with other writers so they were surviving but under circumstances that led them, only months after I left DC, to go on strike. I think every reader here knows that one outcome of that strike was to provide name credits to every creator of every story from that time on. I'm not sure of the financial emoluments that may have accompanied that change. Comics wasn't doing well and monetary gains were probably meager. As for myself, my family of five kids had no income for about two months. We got by with difficulty but with an odd expectant confidence. And then, one day, a friend of mine suggested I drop in on a company called The Center For Research in Marketing. They were looking for interviewers for one of their market research projects, a temporary thing that might, if they took me, at least bring in some needed cash. During the interview, without realizing it, I took my comics experience with me.

What was that experience? It was an ability to plot, an ability to construct a story in a special way. At the same time, I was to discover on the day of the interview that every product was essentially a story. Story was its reality, much more than its use or its mechanical purpose, at least from the marketing point of view. During the interview, a number of products were put before me. I was asked to comment on them. I suddenly found myself plotting, that is, seeing the products in terms of the stories that could be told about them. I was, in a sense, offering up a new kind of qualitative as opposed to quantitative research. In the end, instead of a temporary interviewing job, I was enthusiastically offered a position as Senior Study Director at a salary far greater than anything I had ever made in comics even back when I was writing the Batman and Superman dailies and comic book stuff as well. I had landed safely, but, in a new way, I was back in comics.

More next week.

Alvin

<< 05/14/2001 | 05/21/2001 | 05/28/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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