Monday, April 03, 2006

Up and away

Last week, the always entertaining and occasionally reliable and unbiased comic book gossip columnist Rich Johnston wrote in his weekly column for Comic Book Resources about a talk given by Alan Moore at the Tate Museum in London, relating to an exhibit on Henry Fuseli, William Blake and the Romantic movement entitled Gothic Nightmares. Johnston's report included the following:

Moore stated that he suspected he'd been asked to do a talk over the superficial similarities some people see between Blake's work and that often featured in comic books. Any other similarities Moore dismissed citing Blake's artistic intent and life experiences, placing all comic book creators below him. Moore would only allow two comic creators to be compared to Blake, Jack Kirby and Al Schroeder. The former, for his simple bold romantic religious strokes in both art, theme and story, and the latter for his eventual belief that Superman existed in a very real sense.

Moore's comparison of Jack Kirby to William Blake is a well-deserved compliment, one feels, to both men and does a lot to confirm my generally high opinion of Moore's artistic judgement. But the other name in that equation caught my eye. I knew the name Al Schroeder from my early days in comics fandom as another member of the amorphous mob of comics fans through which I circulated. I don't know that I ever met him, but I know he was active in fandom at the same time I was just beginning to discover that scene...and he wasn't the person Moore was talking about.

I dropped Johnston a line pointing out that Moore must in fact have been referring to Alvin Schwartz, one of the classic Superman writers and more recently author of the exceptional memoir An Unlikely Prophet: Revelations on the Path Without Form which explores Tibetan mysticism by means of (imaginary?) conversations between Schwartz and a tulpa in the form of Superman himself. The book was dedicated to an old friend of mine, the late Richard H. Morrissey, and I'd like to think he'd have been pleased that I was writing in his memory to make sure his pal Alvin Schwartz got the appropriate credit.

Anyway, the column was amended within a couple of hours; I don't know if it was my message or a note from someone else that prompted Johnston to make the correction...but it felt better to see Schwartz given his due.

In this week's edition of Johnston's column, I see the following:

Alvin Schwartz, known most for his Superman work in the 1940s, got in touch by e-mail. Seems the book that Moore cited, "An Unlikely Prophet" is getting a reprint shortly and Schwartz has written a sequel for publication later in the year. Schwartz asked me to put him in touch with Moore, which I've done. Who knows what the two will cook up together?

"An Unlikely Prophet" is an essential text for anyone interested in the history of American comics, the principles behind fiction and many of the themes Alan Moore has been exploring of late. Consider it "Kavalier & Clay" meets the Superboy from Earth Prime.

So it's possible, though I grant by no means definite, that my note to Rich Johnston played a role in getting Alan Moore in touch with a legendary comics writer who Moore has compared to William Blake. Whether it was me or someone else writing in with the same correction, the moral is clear either way: obsessively reading blogs and online columns and writing in with pedantic corrections of obscure errors can make good things happen and increase the sum total of goodness in the world. And I feel very good indeed about that.


  1. "I... am... Blogman!"

    Wait, Keith Olbermann already does that schtick, nevvamind.

  2. Oh, yes I am.

    I don't JUST do MINDMISTRESS. I also do Schroeder's Speculations which has, among other things, a "biography" of Superman, linking him with Philip Wylie's Hugo Danner and many another fictional creation. It's all done in jest, a la Baring-Gould's SHERLOCK HOLMES OF BAKER STREET or Philip Jose Farmer's TARZAN ALIVE...

    And in a sort of "preface" I claim to have met the "real" Superman. It's an old convention---Edgar Rice Burroughs claimed to have found out Tarzan's story from another individual, (claiming Tarzan was a real person) and to have met John Carter. H.Rider Haggard claimed to have met Allan Quartermain. Philip Jose Farmer, building on that, claimed to have an interview with Lord Greystoke...

    I'm not sure whether to be delighted or appalled that Moore might think I was doing anything more than a literary trick to build suspension of disbelief. That he might think I'm insane enough to believe...(however, in the episode mentioned, the suicide attempt is absolutely real, and anyone digging into my life would discover that.)

    I refuse to believe that Moore, familiar with 19th century literature as shown in THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and THE LOST GIRLS was taken in. But I did want to...just as Farmer did for Tarzan, with his exhaustive TARZAN ALIVE---leave just a hesitation, a suspension of disbelief, a nagging, "What if--?" about Superman's reality.

  3. I did a little more research. (Or actually, a friend did for me.) Alan Moore evidently never had a personal computer, and doesn't go on the Internet, so it HAS to be Alvin Schwartz instead.
    As you were. *Grin*


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