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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 02/03/2003
Vol. 2, #65

Dark events occupy the world as I put this column together. In the light of the Columbia disaster and the overweening menace of a dubious war, it's difficult to focus any attention on the world of comics, although, the current state of affairs does provide a field day for our cousins, the political cartoonists. Only the ugly shadow of terrorism which remains pervasive as ever offers grist for the comics mill, calling the superheroes forth to do battle with this now familiar enemy. In fact, we've been here before, many times-often enough to understand that with comics, the villains are merely shadows and can be disposed of. Beyond that, comics can only comment on the way that struggle is conducted in the real world.

In the Golden Age, we helped dispose of Nazis and other world-menacing scoundrels, and it worked out all right because, in the end, those villains were defeated and comics merely recorded various interesting minutiae of the battles. But tragedies that are not large in themselves, such as the Columbia's loss, are nevertheless vast in their symbolic significance. Vast enough to reach toward and threaten that pinnacle of human ambition as revealed in its current cosmic outreach. We can mourn the loss and understand that this setback will not, in the long run, end the process of thrusting ourselves beyond this tiny globe of earth we call home. In the meantime, we try to gird ourselves to set forth once more, understanding that along the way there will always be setbacks.

But this is not material for superheroes to deal with. It's stuff we, in our privacy, in our smallness, have to integrate into our world view while continuing to support our daring ventures into the cosmos. But comics can also play a role, and, in fact, always has, by providing a view of the cosmos that goes beyond the standard model, making its own imaginative stabs at ideas of other dimensions, other realities and deeper significances than the ones that for the moment occupy our minds.

That's because comics has its own type of prophetic function and is capable through the imagination of looking beyond the tragedies of the day to profounder levels of reality which, by broadening the meaning of our existence as humans makes the current hour of mourning and imminence of war but a blip on the vast canvas of the universal.

Let us mourn then, and let us be concerned with the dogs of war. But let us also remember that our vision is one that looks beyond these temporal catastrophes toward an ineffable something that transcends them all. We need to be of two minds simultaneously-mourning the moment and celebrating its always higher aftermath.

Alvin

<< 01/27/2003 | 02/03/2003 | 02/10/2003 >>

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