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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 03/17/2003
Volume 2, #70

The way things are going these days, I thought I'd just turn away from the whole mess for a while and try to resolve another kind of problem. Funny thing is, no one has asked me about it, and I haven't given it much thought myself, but yesterday, I got a call from a friend of mine.

"You're the guy who created Bizarro. So maybe you're the guy who ought to be able to come up with some answers about the Bizarro square world. I went to the Planetarium the other day and it was right up there among the outer planets, the big square Bizarro world, floating around like it really belonged among all those other nice round normal heavenly bodies, as they're called.. So what gives? I realized, of course, that the Planetarium was putting on a fun show for its younger visitors, but even so, why is it that no one ever really investigated how a square planet could possibly work without defying all the laws of gravity, not to mention Einstein's general theory of relativity."

My friend had a point. Even though I was responsible for Bizarro, the fact is that I never came across anyone who tried to resolve the implications of that planetary squareness. Now maybe I missed something. I don't follow comics the way I used to, and have had little contact with Bizarro until last year when they asked me to write one for the new Bizarro hardcover book.

But, on the other hand, I've thought about it. With a square world, there have to be corners equilaterally laid out. And sharp edges where you could drop off into space if you're not careful. In fact, how is it that I've never heard of any accidents, and there should have been lots of them among that bumbling Bizarro population on their square world?  I decided it was time I dropped all the other things I've been occupied with these past years and looked into it once and for all. 

As mostly all of you know from my recent book, An Unlikely Prophet, I have a kind of personal connection with Superman. To put it simply, I have ways of getting in touch with him, and I did just that. In fact, we had a meeting. I'm not free to tell you exactly where, because there may be copyright laws involved but I put the question straight to him about what that squareness must be doing on the Bizarro world. And how come no one has ever really talked about it?

"Tell you what," Supes said. "I think it's a good question. But the answer is a little tricky. Instead of my telling you, it might be better if you went to Bizarro World and did a little direct investigating yourself."

"And how am I supposed to get there? Jump up and down three times and say a magic word?"

"No, no, it's simple. I'll take you there myself. How does that grab you?"

I never expected that kind of offer. Actually, it scared me a little. But I figured Supes knew how to do these things and I'd be all right. So, just like that, on the spot, I agreed. And next thing I know, I'm there. Supes just wrapped me up in some kind of stuff that protected me from the rigors of flying through space and promptly dumped me in front of a topsy turvy house on the square planet that just happened to belong to Bizarro One himself.

I knocked on the door and waited. A minute or so passed, and silence. I knocked again.

This time a voice from within said: "Don't come in."

I was about to turn away when I suddenly realized where I was and understood that I had actually just been invited inside, Bizarro fashion. I hastily accepted the invitation and pushed my way through the door which opened from the top and slid down to form an entry ramp.

Bizarro One was alone, lying across a small table and nibbling some food from a bench just within reach.

I went right to it. "Living on a square world must cause a lot of problems," I said.

"Why?" said Bizarro One as he chewed on a peach pit after spitting out the peach.

"Because people can fall off the edges, that's why.  I'm sure that's been happening all the time."

Bizarro grunted. "You too smart. Smart people not understand square Bizarro world."

"Maybe you can help me, then?"

"No-no, me also too smart for that kind of question. But here on Bizarro world we have wise man. He lives on top of mountain in cave. His name is Bizarro Minus One, because he is most stupid Bizarro ever to be created on this planet. You talk to Minus One. Me, Bizarro One, will take you there."

A cave on top of a mountain? Only in Bizarro World, I thought. But Bizarro One, true to his word, whisked me to that unlikely cave and left me on a mat on a leaf strewn floor facing Bizarro Minus One who nodded his head sagely, stroked his hand with his long grey beard and signaled me to shut up with his other hand every time I tried to say a word or to explain myself.

"Round is square and square is round," he intoned. "Bizarros not able to have square world unless it be round. That's why we build square world. So edges get rounded off. This is something we all understand because we stupid. You too smart to understand." Apparently he had been asked this question before and developed a rote answer for it. In any case, he never let me ask my question.

So I summoned Supes who got me back to earth, and for the first few hours I couldn't stop thinking and found myself getting more and more confused, like, maybe it was earth that was really square and Bizarro world was round, and the reason we didn't fall off the edge, but, hey, wait a minute, wasn't there a time when people believed they could really fall off the edge of the earth? But Columbus disproved that. Maybe on Bizarro World, they also had a Bizarro Columbus who proved that you could fall off a ROUND world, so for self protection, the Bizarros decided to keep their world square. Or something like that.

Logic is a tricky thing. My logician friends tell me it often works both ways. I wasn't sure what they meant until my visit to Bizarro World. I don't really know any more now than I did before the visit,  but I think I understand a little better. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's it.

(For those really interested in such matters, the above was written in an effort to encapsulate the basic notions of post-modernism, as well as to demonstrate how my creation of Bizarro was really intended  to adapt superhero comics, which,  born out of the urgencies of war and depression, needed by the year 1958 to acquire a new relevance by drawing closer to the radically different mindset of the post-modern age already foreshadowed by the oncoming sixties.)

Alvin

<< 03/10/2003 | 03/17/2003 | 03/24/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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