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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

Current Installment >> Installment Archives | About Alvin | Alvin Store | Round Table

AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 10/14/2002
Volume 2, Number 53

Last week, I wrote about a guy who was credited with writing some of my Batman stories, five in particular in Batman Archive #4. He went by the name of Joseph Greene and somehow managed to write in my style and used character names that nobody around DC comics had ever heard of except me. So with all that, I began to suspect that this Joseph Greene was a misnomer for the man whose name was Charles Greene, who also happened to be the one who first got me involved with writing for DC. Since then, I've been provided with a kind of literary biography of the mysterious Mr Joseph Greene, and I find, among other things that he really existed and that he was also credited with writing The Phantom Detective!

But first, let's note that he was credited with writing Batman from 1942 to 1945. 1942 was the very year I started doing Batman, along with Finger and Cameron, and also the Daily, starting in 1945. Not a Joe Greene in sight anywhere. Hidden in a box under editor Schiff's desk, perhaps?

Now I also know very well that a number of people wrote The Phantom Detective for Standard Magazines, especially my friend Charles Greene, because, as I've previously explained, I spent an awful lot of time with Charley plotting The Phantom Detective. Nobody ever mentioned any Joseph Greene at that time. So where was this guy hiding? But wait-- there's more.

I also wrote stories for the slicks some years before I came to DC. But I used a different name. I did NOT use Alvin Schwartz. For one thing, I considered myself a serious writer. I had written think pieces for The Lion & Unicorn--edited and published by my friend Ken Giniger, later President of Hawthorne Books. Ken, by the way, is part of an old high school triumvirate which consisted of himself, myself and Will Eisner. We knew each other through the DeWitt Clinton High School literary magazine and our paths have continued to cross at intervals over the decades. So when I had my first slick story published through my agent at a Condé-Nast magazine called The Woman, I changed my name to Vernon Woodrum. If you were a rising literary critic, novelist and poet, would you have wanted your real name as a byline for a story called Detoured Sweetheart?

Okay--well, neither did I. I came by Vernon Woodrum legitimately enough. It was my then wife's name. And her first initial was V for Vivienne. Fair enough?

But wait--the story gets even crazier. According to the mysterious Joseph Greene, he also wrote slicks. But he did so under the name of--you're not going to believe this, but we got it from Jerry Bails, who possibly got it from our friend Joseph. Greene claimed that he wrote slicks under the name of Alvin Schwartz!

Very very strange. Maybe he was a shape-shifter. But hold on, folks. It gets even stranger. J. Greene claimed to have written a whole number of scripts for DC characters I also wrote for and at about the same time, but somehow our paths never crossed. Nor did I ever hear any mention of him at the time.

However, there's incontrovertible evidence that J Greene was an editor at Grosset and Dunlop. Suddenly, he becomes real. No tulpa he! Someone sent me the following report on Greene's tenure there where he apparently had something to do with Space Cadet. This time there seems to be some question, while Joseph was at G&D about - well-here's the clip. See for yourself:
Joseph Greene's Tom Ranger, Space Academy and the "Space Cadets" ideas are early influences of the Tom Corbett TV show. The Grosset and Dunlap books published two years after the first TV show, would be patterned after Heinlein's Space Cadet. The rest is history. Or is it? What other influences have contributed to Tom Corbett?
In fact, the author and the entire article can be found at http://www.solarguard.com/greene1.htm

There seems to be some question here about whether the Space Cadet idea was Greene's or Heinlein's. There does seem to be no doubt, however, that Joseph Greene was a real writer, but what he really wrote is still up in the air. Apparently, Greene's son is working out what his father's credits really were. As for Joseph's contribution at DC, we shall probably never know. Editor Jack Schiff kept very careful records of the work of all writers and artists and the stuff was left in a series of well-maintained notebooks stored in a DC warehouse in New Jersey. Now we already know that the Donnenfeld-Liebowitz axis had a strange and unexplained passion for secrecy. The papers in the warehouse were taken out one day and burned. Not a note, not an iota remained. And this was the kind of event that historians like Rich Morrissey and Jerry Bails had to surmount. They did as well as possible with what they were given. As for myself, I've also tried to do my share. For example, when I was first drawn back into the world of comics by Rich Morrissey, there were several other fans or historians who doubted whether I had ever existed. Someone said as much in the pages of Comics Buyers Guide. His name was Greg Myers. He ran something called "a clipping service."

Now listen to what historian Gene Reed had to say in response.

"Greg Myers mentions that his research could find no mention of Al Schwartz as a writer for DC. He just didn't look in all the right places. Al Schwartz was also known as Vernon Woodrum. Jack Schiff mentions him as one of several writers who wrote for DC in the 40s in "Reminiscences of a Comic Book Editor".... Also Arnold Drake mentions Al Schwartz in an issue of The Comic Reader, published some years back (that is, prior to 1983)... I can't verify that Schwartz wrote "Superman's Search For Clark Kent" but I can verify a few of the stories and features he scripted for DC.

Foley of the Fighting Fifth: Duel of the Indian Chiefs, in All-American Western #214 (Feb-Mar 1951)

The Runaway Indians in All American Western #214. May-June 1952

Oh well-that's really enough. They're all westerns, and there's quite a list of them, and I DIDN'T WRITE A SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

The only western stuff I ever wrote besides Vigilante was.... oh my gosh... I just can't come up with the title. But I'll give you a clue, since I already mentioned it among these columns when I put in a detailed description by the anthropologist Herbert J. Spinden on how a shot tower was made and used. I know as soon as I send this in, I'll remember it. I'll write it down and cover it next week. Just old man's temporary aphasia. More to the point is the awful mess that we're in because the most well intentioned and careful researchers have made such mistakes in attribution. All because that warehouse stuff was burned. And maybe that's why Joe Greene's record is so murky too. Who can say?

But there are still those five Batman stories Joe didn't write. Nor did he know Benny the Gimp. I also wonder how he chose to use my name for his slicks when it simply wasn't the kind of moniker that slick magazines went for. Joseph Greene was passable-but could he really have used Alvin Schwartz? Why not something more appropriate like J. Paddington Wordstole, or even Vernon Woodrum? Oh yes-what was the name of some of the slick stories he wrote? They certainly couldn't have included Detoured Sweetheart. Or could they?

--Alvin

<< 10/07/2002 | 10/14/2002 | 10/21/2002 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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