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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 09/22/2003
Volume 2, #95

Take Your Time on this One!

It's a lot easier to simply say Shazam and get on your way than have to find a phone booth especially in an era when public phone booths are becoming obsolete. Does that make Captain Marvel better than Superman?

Actually, when the superheroes came, they came in all shapes and sizes. >From a spider bite to a magic ring. Only Superman was just born that way. I'm not sure whether that was good or bad, because in some respects he was as rigid as the Old Testament out of whose culture his creators had emerged. Yes, Supes had no feeling for the niceties of law or any mitigating psychology or sociology. Bad guys (and girls) had broken the law and they were tossed in the clink. In fact, I don't remember any courtroom scenes in-between, where presumably the culprits should have been tried before getting locked up. It was all law and order, with the emphasis on order. It's why, during those heady days of the rise of a new left wing, 2nd international, 3rd international, wobblies, protest marches and slogans of revolution against capitalism and wars against fascism, there seemed to be two sides, although the radical side was, in fact, many-faceted. And most were idealists and anti-fascists as well. So growing up in those times, it was hard to tell who were the idealists and who were the baddies exploiting the people under the rubric of patriotism, law and order. Almost a little something of today, right? Homeland Security, nicht?

But there's no doubt where Superman stood. He was the old fashioned Old Testament vigilante. The law was the law and supervened everything else. Of course, in a sense, it simplified things. Fight fascism, fight bad guys, make the world nice and neat and wave the flag and sell Liberty bonds, which was what Superman did. At least he started out that way, the simplest of all morally, and the biggest guy on the block, physically.

Now he didn't stay like this all the time. He shifted around after the war, showed real streaks of humor, and real feelings of humanity. It even got to the point, under different writers and editors, where Superman's powers went a little limp, became less absolute. At this writing, after having demonstrated Supes' mortality, nobody's quite sure whether he's super-super Grade AAA, or just Super Grade A. (Hey--it's a real problem buying even meat these days).

Even new ideas of the sources of his power developed, such as psi power. Nothing physical, you see. Because Supes surpassed physical law, and physical law, with the rise of the new physics, was being taken very seriously by now. But psi power was coming into its own too as was the new age and Carlos Castaneda who had still another kind of Superman in a shaman called Don Juan. But even the CIA was taking that kind of thing seriously, having learned it from the Russians, and so they were actually conducting experiments in remote viewing, something which was demonstrably successful often enough to make a mere Superman look second rate.

But these sorts of problems were reflections in the comics of what was going on in the real world where men had acquired such physical powers that they could explore space, transmute physical matter, look into the mysteries of DNA, and so you began to get a splitting up among scientists themselves about how powerful man really was, and whether God was all that powerful after all, or even existed. The Bright Ones, led by Daniel C.Dennet, told us that there is no God and this is a new enlightenment, which is why even Supe's powers have to be mitigated. And then you have breaking out all over that enormous dispute between evolution and creationism. Not like the old days of the Scopes Monkey Trial. The creationists have a much more sophisticated vision these days. They do indeed pack something of a punch because essentially they have taken over a lot of the evolutionists' ideas and reshaped them just a little so they look almost the same. And you know, I really do think that's the case--they look somewhat the same because they ARE the same. Opposite sides of the same coin.

The evolutionists say that man just evolved? The creationists say God created them But both these notions are based on time; they both assume the idea of a beginning. In fact, one is almost forced to ask who created the Creator. If he/she was just there all the time--then what was the creator doing before creation? Spinning cloth? Daydreaming? Playing the lute? On the other hand, for evolutionists, if life evolves from something, then it must be toward something, which means that that something was already conceptually present, but doesn't mean the evolving something is necessarily better, unless there really was a plan or at least a standard. Otherwise--what does "better" mean? So then--did natural selection have a plan? Then it really couldn't have been natural selection, could it. Okay, so what was it then, really?

The true opposing view is that consciousness neither evolved nor was created by a deity but simply is and variously emanates different states..So said Plotinus long long before with his doctrine of emanation.

The problem is, we think boundary concepts. We think reality can't even be described without a boundary. So instead of saying, well, sometimes Superman has all these powers and sometimes he doesn't, we fix it for all time. But some of us are finally learning to think of systems rather than boundaries; and a web of systems that makes all the old theories irrelevant. In fact, many believe that even universes are simply arbitrary boundaries, the toys of consciousness. Think of that phrase, "the toys of consciousness."

I could write a whole book on the subject. In fact, I've a great deal more to say about it. But before I go plunging ahead, since we have all the time there is, I'd like to hear what some of you may be thinking about all this, so I'll hold off for a week or so hoping to fill in with your opinions. Remember, this is a subject that takes in everything. It especially wants to take in the readers of this column

Alvin

<< 09/15/2003 | 09/22/2003 | 09/29/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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