Batman” comics writer Alvin Schwartz dies at 84

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Alvin Schwartz

Alvin Schwartz

Comic book writer Alvin Schwartz died Octo­ber 28 from heart com­pli­ca­tions, the Cana­dian Comic Book Cre­ator Awards Asso­ci­a­tion announced Wednes­day. He was 84.

Schwartz wrote the adap­ta­tion for the half-hour 1983 CBS car­toon spe­cial The Leg­end Of Hiawatha. Pro­duced by Atkin­son Film-Arts, it was orig­i­nally pre­sented as a Ken­ner Fam­ily Clas­sics special.

Born in New York City on Novem­ber 17, 1916, Schwartz moved to Canada after his con­tri­bu­tions to comics. He was best known for writ­ing Bat­man and other strips for DC Comics, and is cred­ited as the cre­ator of Bizarro. Schwartz lived in Chester­ville, Ontario for decades, work­ing mostly with the National Film Board and writ­ing reports for the Fed­eral Government.

Schwartz wrote his first comics for Fairy Tale Parade in 1939, and wrote exten­sively for Shel­ley Mayer, then an edi­tor at Max Gaines’ All-American Pub­li­ca­tions (later pur­chased by National/DC in 1944). He had also done a short stint at Faw­cett on Cap­tain Marvel.

Schwartz wrote his first Bat­man story in 1942, and his first Bat­man news­pa­per strip in August 1944 (an assign­ment he con­tin­ued on until 1958) and his first Super­man news­pa­per strip in Octo­ber 1944. He had a long asso­ci­a­tion with Super­man as the writer of both the Man of Steel’s news­pa­per strip and many of his comic book appear­ances, and one of his many endur­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the Super­man mythol­ogy was the first tale of Bizarro, a char­ac­ter who became a part of pop­u­lar cul­ture, quite apart from comics. While writ­ing most of DC’s news­pa­per strips between 1944 and 1952, he also went on to do sto­ries for many of their comics mag­a­zines, work­ing on char­ac­ters such as Aqua­man, Vig­i­lante, Slam Bradley, Date With Judy, Buzzy, House of Mys­tery, Tom­a­hawk, Won­der Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, News­boy Legion and numer­ous others.

After his 1958 depar­ture from comics, Schwartz took on a whole new role in the cor­po­rate world, using the knowl­edge of plot­ting gained in comics to open new direc­tions in mar­ket research, devel­op­ing the now well-known tech­niques of psycho-graphics, typo­log­i­cal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and oth­ers, until, as research direc­tor for Dr. Ernst Dichter’s famed think tank, The Insti­tute for Moti­va­tional Research, he pro­vided struc­tural and mar­ket­ing advice to some of America’s largest cor­po­ra­tions, rang­ing from Gen­eral Motors to Gen­eral Foods. He was sub­se­quently appointed to an advi­sory com­mit­tee of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Adver­tis­ing Agencies.

Schwartz also authored three nov­els for Arco Press, one of which, Sword of Desire, a detec­tive story, won praise for its suc­cess­ful take­off on Reichian orgone ther­apy, a pop­u­lar psy­chother­a­peu­tic tech­nique dur­ing the ‘40s and ‘50s. His Beat Gen­er­a­tion novel The Blow­top was pub­lished by Dial in 1948. Under the title Le Cinglé, it became a best seller in France. He also wrote and lec­tured on super­heroes at var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties and received a pres­ti­gious Canada Coun­cil grant for a study on the reli­gious sym­bol­ism in pop­u­lar cul­ture, using Super­man as a springboard.

Also in Canada, he wrote fea­ture films and did numer­ous docu-dramas for the National Film Board for nearly 20 years and did a num­ber of eco­nomic and social stud­ies for the Cana­dian government.

His last two books, writ­ten in his 80s, were An Unlikely Prophet: Rev­e­la­tions on the Path With­out Form (pub­lished in 1997) — a mem­oir deal­ing with some very off-the-wall expe­ri­ences gen­er­ated by his years doing Super­man which led him to a unique under­stand­ing of Superman’s sig­nif­i­cance as well as some life-enriching pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able to every one of us, and the sequel A Gath­er­ing of Selves: The Spir­i­tual Jour­ney of the Leg­endary Writer of Super­man and Bat­man (pub­lished in 2006).

Schwartz received the first Bill Fin­ger Award for his con­tri­bu­tions to comics via writ­ing in 2006. The Fin­ger Award was cre­ated by the leg­endary cre­ator Jerry Robin­son to honor his friend Bill Fin­ger (the uncred­ited co-creator of Bat­man), and is given to comic book writ­ers as part of the Will Eis­ner Comic Book Indus­try Awards each July.

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