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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 09/29/2003
Volume 2, #96

Here it is, Sunday, October 28, and George W. Bush is singlehandedly turning the US into a debt-ridden second rate power. And what can I do about it? So I decide, maybe it's time to get away from the whole mess for a while and get back to the 1940s when we were in a real war against the Nazis and the comics were full of heavies and bad guys and superheroes punching them out, because we really were in a punchout with the worst baddies history has produced, that is, since the beginning of the Christian era, even though Genghis Khan was no choir boy. But the Khan didn't have things like nuclear weapons and buzz bombs. And neither did Saddam Hussein, so there never really was a threat. So, go figure. I think maybe it's time to jump into the old Nissan and go for a ride to an era when things were nastier but far less muddy.

It was evening when I arrived at the Sixth Avenue Cafeteria in Greenwich Village. Not many loungers at the tables tonight. But over to the left, I saw my friend, the painter, deHirsh Margolies in a heated discussion with Clark Kent.

"So my question to you is," deHirsh said, pounding the table, "if Superman is real, as you say, why doesn't he just go over there and clean up Hitler?"

I joined them, well aware of the fact that deHirsh didn't know Clark Kent's secret identity.Clark gave me a friendly nod of recognition and turned to the painter. "I'll ask you one instead, how come God doesn't go over and clean up Hitler? Ninety percent of Americans believe in God and I don't hear anyone yelling for God to handle the mess."

"I don't know about God," deHirsh said. "I'm not a believer. But if Superman's real, as you say, how come--?"

"Believer or not, why do you think the Americans aren't asking God to do it? And if they are asking, how do they explain that he's not doing it?"

DeHirsh shrugged. "God's temperamental. Everybody knows that who's read the Old Testament. I think most believers understand that. But what's Superman's excuse?"

"If I may put in a word," I said. "I get asked that question all the time. And I think the answer is that Superman is real, but not in the sense you mean where he can just go in and give Hitler the boot. There are different kinds and levels of reality, "

"Don't give me that," deHirsh said. "You're like these scientists who question the fixed rules of the universe, the guys who keep insisting that there's no reason why the speed of light has to be the top limit in the universe. You know about how Einstein answered them? You familiar with the Einstein-Podolsky Rosen thought experiment?" DeHirsh was actually a very learned guy. He knew how to ask hard questions. But I knew better.

"Eventually, in about thirty years from now, the world will know that the speed of light is only a figment of the belief in time," I said.

"Oh, so now, you're a time traveler."

"Not exactly," I said. "But Superman is."

"Oh sure, and he told you."

"Am I right, Clark?" I said.

Clark nodded in agreement, although he knew I really was a time traveler, but only because the universe was essentially timeless, as was to be shown a few decades after that moment in 1948 in the Sixth Avenue Cafeteria. It started with something called Bell's Theorem, followed some years later by an actual experiment by a French scientific group led by Alain Aspect who took the EPR thought experiment and found ways of testing it by measuring the spin of photons that had once been united and were subsequently separated by millions of miles. The changes in spin between the separated photons correlated precvisely as though the photons had not been separated at all, or could still signal back and forth. But more importantly, Aspect's group found that communication was instantaneous, something that would be impossible in a time bound universe but not in a universe without time.

The successful experiment demonstrated that ultimately all happenings are non-local. In other words, they didn't happen in a space-time context. This was heady stuff and Clark took quite a while trying to explain all this to a very puzzled deHirsh.

After a time, deHirsh backed off and gave Clark a chance to turn to me with a change of subject. "You know, I read your book, the Prophet one, with your whole story about seeing me in that Chock Full-o-Nuts diner and then deciding to accept your editor's offer to write the Superman strip."

"I never said I saw you'. I saw someone who reminded me of you." I protested.

Clark shook his head. "It was me, all right. I knew what you were up to and I thought a real good look at me would help you make up your mind, and it did."

"I don't understand. Why would you want to do that?"

"Because I thought it important that you in particular should take over the Superman strip."

"Why?"

"Because I saw important changes coming that only you could write. The world would soon be reaching the end of the whole ‘punch and slam' superhero style. In the US, in the fifties, there would be a huge buildup of unheard of prosperity. A more educated population, thanks to the GI bill, a rush from the cities to the suburbs and a demand for a wider range of significances than superhero comics is offering now during the war. I wanted to see Superman saved. But he also needed some adjustment of his reality to the more complex vision of the next few decades. He even needed some kind of fragmentation, I think the term that developed was ‘deconstruction', which you managed so neatly when you developed the Bizarro character."

"That's all very flattering. But can you be more specific in how my particular brand of story related to all that?"

"Sure, glad to."

As Clark started to explain, we both noticed that deHirsh had surreptitiously drifted away to another table, leaving us free to talk more freely.

Tune in next week for the rest of Clark's explanation of the way I attuned Superman to the post war changes.

--Alvin

<< 09/22/2003 | 09/29/2003 | 10/06/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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