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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 03/26/2007
Vol. 2, #196

Last time I talked about crossing the boundary--into the advanced age of the nineties. Then I lost a dear friend--Arnold Drake whom I first met in the early fifties after WW II let him go and he got through GI school and wound up as one of us--working for DC just as it was emerging from the war and with no clear direction to take. Fortunately, we all had our private ideas about that so we managed to keep going. Then--my thinking turned to the various ways I now (POST 1945) felt we should be doing Superman--especially the Dailies and Sundays which clearly should have been telling their tales to a different kind of world--one in which America First was gradually slipping away from the original high-patriotic Superman purpose as a new vision took over the nation's youth. The beats were on the way.

But not quite yet. First I had to write THE BLOWTOP--then I had to get it circulated despite the fact that Dial my then publisher was breaking apart with left over wartime blight, suicide and general disaster. But the war had definitely changed our consciousness--at least for most of us. But speaking for myself, I had bypassed the beat era almost before it found its way up from my first novel, THE BLOWTOP, into the newly bohemian arms of people like Ginsberg and Kerouac--especially at Columbia U. I was already on another track, having foreseen the short, quick, demise and transformation of beathood into beatitude--another story altogether-- and was caught up in a new and radical change of consciousness--just as the new science--quantum theory--was about to shake up everything.

I won't go into detail here. It's too much. But it led me into something as removed as Newton had been from Aristotle and had me going around experiencing a really strange new world--where I was discovering something I called "consciousness visiting." It solidified by the time my second book, AN UNLIKELY PROPHET came out in its first edition. Consciousness visiting--preternatural--beyond or transcending nature (or what we thought was nature at that time). Slots of consciousness--discontinuous speeds--in serial order--along with Gurdieff's Sufi-inspired "being awake"--or a sudden interest within this country in Buddhist mindfulness--sleep as multiplex consciousness...

Yes--to me it involved nothing more nor less than "consciousness visiting." My arcane subject for today. I first became aware of it after I quit Superman--no more Mort Weisinger for me. I walked despite having no income and a family of six. It's about what I did and why I did it. Which brings me to the nub of this "consciousness visiting" story.

In some earlier columns, I described fooling around with a friend of mine whose psychic gifts included an ability to channel. Please note that this word did not exist in those days. It simply started when my friend W suggested one evening while a guest in our home that since we hadn't anything special to do or talk about, that he pick up a pencil, sit in front of a pad at a small table, while I sat facing him, grasping his hand holding the pencil.

I've elsewhere described how after some hours of trying, the pencil began to write. W was convinced it was all his "unconscious" and in any case, a lot of interesting stuff came out via this "channel"--but what pertains most to this column was the statement, clearly directed to me--"If a man is pursued by insoluble agonies and there is nothing ahead of him but a cliff, he can leap and land safely--if his necessity be great."

At that time, with a wife and five kids and Mort seeing to it that barely any income came dribbling my way, I decided to leap. Did I land safely? Not for the first two months. I walked out of DC and wound up in a tiny slum apartment in lower Westchester where we tried to make do with the help of friends and some paltry savings for all of three months until- as though waiting at the very bottom of that cliff I jumped from-- appeared a friend whom I'd gotten to know as we contributed our parental share of sweat and effort to the local cooperative nursery school in Yorktown Heights, New York.

N, my friend, also happened to run a small ad agency in New York City and occasionally got wind of things and so--he showed up one afternoon and informed me that a "think tank" in the nearby city of Peekskill was looking for interviewers and suggested I go there and try to pick up a few bucks as an interviewer, but added that I keep in mind that these were "big degree people. real smart so keep that in mind when they interview you." The place called The Center For Research In Marketing had some major clients including manufacturers like Du Pont, Ford, Chrysler, General Foods Corporation--and stuff like that. And when I got there, they seemed to want more than an ordinary interviewer since I found all five top execs of the company sitting around a long table laid out with an assortment of consumer test packages, concept products and mockups ranging from test packages of toilet paper, a variety of the then new plastic housewares, several blownup ad pages and packages of cake mixes bearing brand names like Pillsbury, Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. And with scarcely any ado, they began asking me questions about each and all of the items--what did I think of them? Who would buy them? What was wrong--or right--about them. What was good about them. And also tell us about yourself while you're at it.

What they were asking of me was something that in a concrete way I had somehow possessed for a long time. It was like an additional sense. But it had a kind of depth that the other senses don't have. That is, as I became familiar with it, it was something like a kind of clairvoyance. But not seeing into things far ahead or far away. Not seeing even into any kind of personal consciousnesses. It was a seeing in which I saw the objects they presented me with as emitting a kind of aura--not a statement, not a claim--truly an aura in which I could actually sense quite vividly who and what kind of person each object was making an impression on. I discovered, in fact, that these admen and designers "broadcast" a kind of presence and evoked a particular response in particular kinds of people. In short, I was sitting there and suddenly aware of the fact that I was, in effect, visiting the "consciousness" of these branded products without ever having dreamed that such a "consciousness" existed. I won't try to explain more at this stage.

Consciousness visiting, as I was to learn over a period of time, just happened to be a unique talent of mine, and certainly a few others as well, and made itself felt in a variety of ways that, even unrecognized, had already played a significant role in my life--, especially my life as a writer, and certainly in the way I wrote comics--although that latter was effectively cut off by the crippled Weisinger ego which was trying to get something quite other than good stories out of his writers--some kind of unrelated personal fulfillment, a substitute for complex personal inadequacies that a very few, in various ways, managed to provide. But this is a sidetrack I've been down before. Let's get back to my sudden discovery that morning of my own mysterious talent--consciousness visiting.

Some years later, in my memoir AN UNLIKELY PROPHET, I was able to demonstrate advanced forms of consciousness-visiting under a variety of unique conditions. But on this particular morning in 1958, at the Center For Research, I was just becoming aware of it. Confronted by the questions of the "master manipulators of the human mind" as someone once called them, I became very loquacious.I saw an aspect of myself emerge that I hadn't really been aware of before--certainly not in the comics environment.

-- Alvin

<< 12/25/2006 | 03/26/2007 | 04/02/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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