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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 08/01/2005
Vol. 2, #170

Where Is Your Other You?

Someone asked me recently whether there can be a superhero without a double identity. My first thought was, there can be no identity for anyone without an accompanying super-self. That's right, we all have super-selves capable of actions beyond our wildest imaginings. But unlike Superman and his kin, we tend to live in our lesser identity, our Clark Kent self, if you like, almost all the time. Nevertheless, we couldn't survive if we somehow didn't sense the presence of our super-self. The knowledge of that inner super presence gives the everyday a kind of panache. What's this? We're all really superbeings ourselves? Is this a joke or some special kind of Schwartz paradox?

No joke and no paradox. You probably wouldn't make it past thirty without your super self.

So where is this hidden super-self?

You know it and you don't know it. If you knew it, you'd find things pretty dull and uninteresting. You'd have no drive, no ambition, no hope for anything. Because you wouldn't really have any problems. And if you didn't sense deep within somewhere that you had a super-self, you wouldn't be up to handling the simplest emergency, and believe me, there are plenty of those to keep you from ever making it to thirty. What's more, you'd find life far too unbearable to put up with. Just too much, believe me!

Now when I told all this to my recent questioner, he simply blinked and decided I was putting him on. All right. He can shove the truth out of sight. Most people get by very nicely without knowing directly that they have a super-self. Some even point out that plenty of people do die young and short of that get into some awful messes, so what's the super-self good for anyway, if there really is one?

First, let me remind the skeptics reading this that even in comics, superheroes are always getting into awful messes. I know of one who even got himself killed (sic!). But the fact is, practically all of you reading this wouldn't have come through this far reasonably unscathed without that super-self.

All right, then. Uncover the mystery, Schwartz. Where do we find this super-self?

Not as difficult as you might think. Let's start with a few simple facts. There's the you that you know, from the inside. For the rest, everything is all outside. Effectively, you're in the inside of you, looking out. On the other hand, if there were no outside, where would you be? Do you know of any way of getting outside, so you can look inside at your self, or your super-self, for that matter. The best you can do is look in a mirror, that is, see yourself from the outside. And don't tell me that at some time, once in a great while, you haven't actually caught a glimpse of something super, besides all the other versions of yourself a mirror can turn up.

But, in the final analysis, the mirror is not a solution. But something else is. Do you drive a car? If you've been on the road for a few years or more, you know very well that you've experienced life threatening moments that required a response far too fast for any normal human to have made.

I can vividly recall two. One rather recent. The other, some years back when I was trapped in the wrong lane of a two lane highway with brakes that wouldn't work so I could pull back, and facing a certain headon crash until I felt my car move almost by itself, go into a strange skid that brought me safely and unscathed onto the left hand shoulder. What lifted or moved my car in just that precise way? Pure chance? When it happened, I knew it hadn't been chance. I didn't know what it was then. Today, I realize it was my super-self. Oh yes, I've heard dozens of similar stories under all sorts of conditions, even from my wife. An impossible situation. Huis clos! No Exit!

And somehow, coming out unscathed. But think back to dozens of other incidents in your own lives where you experienced insoluble problems that mysteriously righted themselves. Be honest and admit you've had them. Of course you did. And it wasn't because of the tooth fairy either. Some people like to think it was God. Maybe so. Call it what you like and believe how you must. I myself prefer not to bring God into it as though I were something special. Just my own super-self. That's as far as I'll venture here.

However, I'm so sure of all this by now that I'm equally sure that many of you, reading this column, have stories of your own in which you experienced your super-self. In fact, a few of you have already revealed as much on the Round Table. I invite any of you, all of you, to come forward with stories of your own. I know you've had them. Now we need to hear about them from you. So tell us about them on the Round Table and from there, we'll take this subject up again in more detail.

--Alvin

<< 07/25/2005 | 08/01/2005 | 08/08/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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