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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 01/20/2003
Volume 2, #63


Maybe for this week, it's time to offer a statement of policy--some directional information on the aim of After The Golden Age. It would help if readers understood that I'm chiefly concerned with turning up unexpected and hitherto unrecognized sides of reality as it relates, for the most part, to comics as a field of action.

It's directed at comics connoisseurs rather than fans, but trying to reach them in a way that goes beyond most analyses and commentaries on the field. It is less concerned with comics history, or details about comics people about which there are plenty elsewhere. More broadly, it is concerned with elements that constitute comics but are present in other narrative forms. In that sense it seeks to de-ghettoize comics from arbitrary story boundaries like high brow, lowbrow, literary, etc. No medium by itself is any of those. All media reveal all aspects of the above designations in their individual expressions.

Like every art form, comics achieves its influence by all possible paths. If I chose comics as my base-line, it's because of the years spent doing it, and also because my work on Superman over many endless days and nights gave me a special sense of all the possibilities embedded in this particular character. My roots in philosophy as well as my work in other literary fields were also an influencing factor. One reader recently suggested in a Round Table comment that I had an almost religious interest in Superman. Not quite. It was more of a gambler's insight. Or perhaps something that jumped out at me from a comment by the mathematician and physicist, Richard Feynman who noted that "...when an electron travels from Point A to Point B. it goes through all probable paths-" reinforcing my own belief that all probable paths are merely aspects of the path actually taken.

But let's take the gambling image of a die being cast. As described by the philosopher of science, Norman Friedman:

"By observing a single face, the one facing upward, we limit the dimensionality of the event. Through mutual agreement of the parties involved, the dimensions (all faces) are restricted to one." *

Nonetheless, the other five faces are there. And some people can sense them or be aware of them. Sometimes in dreams or visions or what we call paranormal experiences. So that the latter aren't paranormal so much as they are the product of a wider vision. They remind me of different religions asserting absolute truth, in which one absolute truth is different from another. Yet each believer stakes his life on his religion. Similarly, people question my assertion that Superman is real.** He is not real in the one facet chosen. But, in actuality, all thoughts are things-and conversely, all things are but events-and in one of the five unrecognized faces of the cast die, Superman's reality is certainly an event. Does that sound mystic and complicated? But-it's really simple. Just ask yourself: "How can an idea have so much influence and interest, spawning the whole comic book industry and a generation of variegated superheroes-that whole train of events-without ! having a reality-even though we te d to think of reality as defined by the fixed narrow contract we've made that reality is what we become aware of in a specifically defined way?"

In a particle accelerator, we get evidence of particles with a brief, almost instantaneous life, and others with longer lives and different paths, and many kinds of particles whose reality we were not before aware of. Because they didn't exist? Or because our visual-event apparatus was not tuned to seeing them? Even the cast die may have more invisible sides than five. But we haven't set up any apparatus for experiencing them. That's because we think in three dimensions. But what about just the dimension of time. Try seeing the die as appearing in different time slots, and we'll see the other dimensions-six more for each time slot.

Also, when it's being cast-and no one can tell which will emerge as the topmost sixth side, how many dimensions are there? All probable dimensions. That is-all probable paths. a la Feynman. Also, keep in mind, that matter itself is made up of pulsing or vibrating fields-so that what we call things are effectively, as I've just described Superman, events.

Having said that, let's connect this all up. In an earlier column, I suggested that readers try the experiment of thinking back to a time when they had to make an important decision-to marry or not to marry-to take a certain job or another-to go to one school or another-to betray a friend, a loved one, an ideal-to take a major risk or choose the safer path.... I also suggested that whatever the path one actually chose, the path not taken would continue to exist in the form of a probable self. And that probable self would continue on its own way in a reality of its own. I also asserted that we could test this out by thinking back to the moment when the choice was being made and then trying to follow in imagination what might have happened had the other path been taken. Some of you, trying this, may have experienced a kind of gray unrolling of a memory, a kind of grainy recollection of a different set of experiences connected with that other choice-as though an echo of that re! cently created probable self linge ed with us for a time and we could actually follow it.*** In other words, every action chosen also continues as a probable action not chosen, following a path of its own which, to some extent, affects and reacts on the action chosen. So, a personality is always influenced to a degree by the paths not chosen. Precisely as Richard Feynman said.

You can, indeed, see further and far more than you allow yourself to see presently. It took something like that even to have written the Superman strip as I chose to do it. If DC ever gets around to doing the whole set, you'll see what I'm talking about. Let's hope that happens. Copies are hard to get hold of, and credits didn't exist, but some libraries do have copies of the strip in micro-fiche. I had heard from the late Rich Morrissey that the Boston Library was among them.

Last week, I had promised to discuss Hayfoot Henry. I'm still working on it. Had some trouble trying to locate a copy or two. But be patient. Next week, for sure.


* Bridging Science and Spirit by Norman Friedman, The Woodbridge Group 1990

** An Unlikely Prophet, Alvin Schwartz, MacMurray & Beck 1999

*** The suggestion originated from the Seth character as variously recounted in the series of books written about Seth by the medium and author, Jane Roberts.

<< 01/13/2003 | 01/20/2003 | 01/27/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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