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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 08/16/2004
Vol. 2, #136

Real characters and imaginary characters and how they interact! That was the theme I had for this week's column because I've come to some interesting conclusions. Everyone I know, as I know them, are really imaginary. They are a combination of sensory input milled by my experience and type of vision, reshaped by my dreams and thought processes as personalities which accord in one way or another with my own attitudes and values. That would also seem to be the case for each one of us. We are monads, and our entire world is within our heads. Think about this for a few moments. Consider that no one else can get behind your eyes and see the world (or create it) precisely as I (or you) do.

My next realization had to do with the fact that sometime back in the nineteen thirties, the modern superhero, Superman, and all his imitators were born, and became a powerful and widespread feature of our culture, spreading from the comic book to all our arts and letters, but particularly the movies.

As it happens, while I spent my eighteen years writing Superman stories of one kind and another, I was also trying to come to grips with the Superman idea, asking myself why it had seized the whole culture in the way that it did. And at the time that it did.

Consider the fact that mankind had actually taken an evolutionary leap. Or perhaps a leap into a different type of consciousness. We had somehow, from the twenties onward, with the blossoming of quantum theory, entered new kinds of cosmic awareness. Powers had become apparent in the universe of man that were instantaneous, incomprehensibly vast, and the universe itself had surrendered a good portion of itself to human study and analysis.

While I still think we have a long way to go, and not necessarily in the same direction, a revolution in our self perceptions had occurred. We were suddenly far beyond the helpless and often hapless victims of an all powerful environment or even, for that matter, of an all-powerful God. In many ways, we found it possible to dispense with such an idea, thinking that we ourselves were, at least to a significant degree, the creators.

In any case, this is how it all came to me whose life so far traces almost the full reach of the past century, although I missed the first sixteen years.

So it was inevitable that Superman would break into our culture, in a sense, summarizing it. We are all supermen as we participate in this new world of ours, but we project it, as we do with all our important historical valuations, as a symbol of our times. Even now, when the internet and remote sensing and the Hubble telescope and instantaneous satellite oversight of our globe give us superpowers of our own.

Superman is really today's cowboy, the latter being the projection of our pioneer past. And his having come from another planet makes more sense and is more in keeping with our current reality than say, a spider bite. That remains true even though it seems that the spider-bite superman is doing a better story job at the moment than Superman's current inheritors at DC.

Worth discussing, wouldn't you say?


<< 08/09/2004 | 08/16/2004 | 08/23/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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