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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 06/23/2003
Volume 2, #82

Time to Turn the Corner

The contemporary weltanschauung of the United States of America is sitting in a state of frozen crisis. Nothing is the same anymore. Everything is undecided. This august and lively and inventive nation which once consisted of businesses, commercial, scientific, financial and political enterprises, growth in multitudinous directions--is experiencing a shrinkage to a kind of meaninglessness. Swindles and chicanery represent the highest calling of those who run our free enterprise system. There is a cutting back on everything--freedom, access to information, access to medicine...

In the almost ninety years of my life which included World War II, the Nazis and the Great Depression, as well as McCarthyism and the Viet Nam War-- I have never seen such a steady--drip-drip-degeneration. Not that this has gone completely unnoticed. The political cartoonists are having a field day.

Indeed, what a time for a political cartoonist to highlight the comedy of the missing Iraqi weapons, the absurdities from congress on both sides--sides in name only as they resemble each other more and more. Except for the Roosevelt days, I remember all too well how most of the more perceptive politics-watchers labeled the two parties --tweedledum and tweedledee. Except that tweedledum is stealing a march on tweedledee and the latter is mostly fading into faint noises in the distance.

And where is comics? Let me state here and now that comics, from the beginning of the fifties, has become the greatest self-censoring body in history. Anything to hold onto those vanishing circulation gains. Just like the self-censoring Democrats in Congress. Don't offend anybody. It's risky. For the Comics, it's Patriotism by the yard but in terms and language of so long ago that anything happening today is non-existent in the world of the twin giants--Marvel and DC. Justice Leagues? For what and about what?

Stories spread into wilder and wilder dimensions as they sedulously avoid touching on anything that's happening today! It's really freakish. The stories themselves get more and more ingenious in their way--since the more worlds they encompass in the way of other planets and dimensions and other levels of fantasy, the more "justice" they prate about, the more flags they wave, the more they deal with nothing that really matters very much.

And those remarkable superheroes? Why they're still playing games of cops and robbers. Maybe they've been slipping in a few totally neutered terrorists once in a while. I'm behind in my reading, for good reason, so I'm not sure. Well--the strips DO have to look as if they're still alive.

So what am I suggesting to make comics more interesting than video games?

Hasn't it yet occurred to anybody that comics are the best way to spread real information among the youth of this country. They don't read newspapers, they don't watch TV news or listen to talk radio. But they do read comics.

Get political! Heavily political!

Think of it--at this late date--one third of the US public believes that WMD have been found! The news media haven't been totally derelict as much as the fact that Americans never have been focused on political news. In fact, Americans know far less about the rest of the world than anyone else anywhere else in the world. We're the most insular people on the globe. Think of the opportunities, if the comics start doing stories that bring facts, controversy and information to its readers. Think of the sudden surge of circulation when Supes or Spiderman reveals the stuff that's been going on and how we're bungling the peace in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I have some great controversial story ideas. I even know of a great way to call attention to them. There's a bonanza waiting for DC especially. Reveal the whole thing through the eyes and perceptions of the Bizarros.

In fact, it's such a Bizarro world, and the Bizarro's are so "cute"-- that their revelations made in their own way not only won't create a backlash, but open the way for all your other superheroes to become relevant again. And your circulation will skyrocket. And you will really have done something for your country.

This is for you, Paul Levitz. Persuade your bosses at Time Warner that this is the one guaranteed and genuinely patriotic way to turn the corner on the declining comics industry. If I could advise Ford and GM and General Foods and hosts of others-- why not the comic book industry which I know so much better?

--Alvin Schwartz

<< 06/16/2003 | 06/23/2003 | 06/30/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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