Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Now that's MAGIC!

Screen grab from the BBC website.
The BBC are reporting that a bound collection of DC Thomson's pre-war Magic comic has sold for £15,600 at an auction. See here for the full article:

While I'm pleased for the seller in gaining that amount I always think that the problem with such news reports is that they put the focus on monetary rather than artistic value. Naturally when comics do sell for high figures then it's news and worth reporting, but it would be good to have more of a balance.

The attitude I've often encountered over the years from non-collectors is that the only reason an adult would collect comics must be for financial investment. Some people just can't get their heads around any artistic or historical merit a comic could have. To some, if collectors buy comics and they're not for profit then those collectors must have arrested development. 

This way of thinking isn't entirely the public's fault of course. It's been encouraged by the media and its 'cash in your attic' mentality whilst at the same time hardly ever promoting comics as an art form or as socio-historical documents. It's the old adage about 'knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing'. If Britain respected comic art in the same way as France for example perhaps a more balanced attitude would be the result. 

I may be preaching to the converted here but if you have any opinion on this please leave a comment. 


Phil Boyce said...

Couldn't agree more Lew. I haven't a huge collection, I've the 80s/90s Transformers UK collection, Oink! (naturally) and a few more obscure ones from childhood like Ring Raiders. Anytime someone sees these they would always ask if I'd ever sell them. The answer was always no, which was followed by a strange look, as if to say "why else do you have them?". Thankfully in recent years there seems to be a sea change in people's attitudes, more people my age of both sexes are getting into comics and going back and collecting older issues and classic series simply because they want to read them. So hopefully (fingers crossed) it's just the media, as usual, being behind the times and not having a clue, as these articles are never written by anyone who knows anything at all about comics. They're certainly not written for comics fans.

Phil Boyce said...

Oh, and a quick question too - that logo mascot looks awfully familiar... any relation (for want of a better word) to The Beano's in its early days?

Lew Stringer said...

That's true, Phil. One reason they don't cheer on comics too much is because they know nothing about them.

I'm also reminded of the news stories when The Dandy folded. Comments bemoaning how it wasn't like it used to be but very little celebrating the fact that it had lasted for 75 years!

Phil Boyce said...

Yes, and people seem to forget it wasn't being written for them anymore but their children, or even grandchildren. I do remember when it changed (and I even became a regular reader for a while, I enjoyed it!) there were news articles complaining about how Desperate Dan had changed now he was being drawn by Jamie Smart, even though he'd already been doing it for a couple of years at that point. The good ol' British press, never letting research or facts get in the way of a good moan.

Lew Stringer said...

You may be thinking of The Dandy's original bellboy mascot. Probably by the same artist.

Yes, their focus of blame was too narrow, ignoring the fact that sales had been declining on all comics for decades and that The Dandy was one of the great survivors for years.

Hibernia Comics said...

I think the 'worth' thing attached to comics is not peculiar to comics. A lot of people think that because something is old it has a monetary value, be that records, books, furniture etc.
Something only has value if someone wants it, The current 'boom' in value of '70's comics is coming into being because a people of a certain age have money and want to revisit their youth or are serious collectors/fans of the comics. This will pass as people fill their collections and revisit their youth and eventually these collection will be sold off again cheaply as these people move to smaller accommodation or unfortunately pass on.

Comics from the fifties including the Eagle can now be bought relatively cheaply and if you go back further, comics and story papers from the twenties and thirties and cheap too, the sad question is 'who wants them?' beyond a passing interest in one or two issues to see the tone or art of the comics.

Lew Stringer said...

That's true. I've bought pre-1960s comics very cheaply on eBay because sometimes no one else has bid on them! There is sadly very little interest now in the work of Roy Wilson, Bertie Brown etc. It'll happen to us all eventually. But my point is that these comics and creators are being forgotten because the media have never encouraged an interest in the art form, only monetary value. It's the British attitude to any creative form sadly. Not helped by publishers refusing to credit the creators for decades.

Manic Man said...

The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde (I'm always in two minds when people think they are quoting a person when they are infact quoting from a persons works).. Lord Henry to Dorian Gray, "I went to look after a piece of old brocade in Wardour Street and had to bargain for hours for it. Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Often misquoted and I can't fully say, in context, how it should be regarded. Wilde was an interesting writer.

Problem with peoples attitude of money for everything is there are some things people are unable to get anymore because of it. sometimes there are Reprints of stuff around but often, not even that. I have some (not many) pieces which have great value to me, like an original Kitz and Katz strip by American artist bob Laughlin, who sadly died in 2006. the price I got it for was basically peanuts.. but it's worth a fair bit to me.. he was a great and very unstated artist.. collecting his work (most compiled in self published books in the 80s) is very tricky and very little has been reprinted else where.. I kinda pride myself on a fairly large collection of Kitz and Katz stuff (Large in the sense that I have MOST of what was released, baring tons of issues of Comic buyer's guide'. American stuff is normally easier to come by then UK stuff cause it had a much higher print run, but it's a shame people can't get access to stuff because of collectors at times and 'money'.. Sure, they have reissued Dandy #1 quite often, but how many people have been able to read #2 or #3? reprints are often only issue 1 or 'selected' strips..

now that would be an interesting 'part works'... each week, the first issue of a old UK comic.. fully reprinted (gee, I wonder the cost of getting the rights for all the various adverts and times?)

Lew Stringer said...

Getting the rights to reprint the old ads might not be so much a problem but certain publishers charge a lot to reprint the comics they own the rights too, which is why there are no reprints of really old stuff.

I can imagine DC Thomson being up for it but the main drawback is - would it sell? Twice in the 1970s companies released facsimiles of old comics (compiled by Denis Gifford) but sales never warranted further issues. If they didn't sell then, when many children were into comics, then I don't think they'd sell now.

I've often thought it'd be great to have a partwork along those lines with a different facsimile comic every fortnight, but I really don't think there are enough collectors and interested kids to make it viable. Even amongst UK comic collectors tastes are diverse. Some only collect specific things such as story papers or comics from their own lifetime.

It'd be nice if a publisher would try though but I can't see it being considered to be a good business move.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew,
Thought I'd add my own two pennyworth on comics values. I've collected comics for 50 years and have a few favourites but mostly a fairly esoteric collection as I enjoy American Superhero comics and also British comics from Victorian times to the early seventies. In my experience, and it's probably fairly obvious, but comics are worth what someone will pay for them. A number of my sixties Batman, Superman and Flash superhero comics are apparently worth between fifty and ninety pounds even though they had a circulation of hundreds of thousands. I have copies of Boy's Own and Chums story papers that are over 120 years old, in excellent condition (not previously bound)that must surely only exist in their low hundreds yet they seem to sell on auction sites for about a fiver apiece. The illustrations alone are worth more than that in my eyes. It doesn't seem fair that something so fragile, that has lasted well over a century, is eclipsed by what was thought of at the time as disposable media.

Dave Taylor

Lew Stringer said...

Good points well made, Dave. Thanks for commenting. Yes, what some people think of as 'rare items' seem relatively plentiful.

Kib Lloyd said...

There is so much to value about these old artifacts, regardless of rarity or prestige. Obviously (to the likes of us) there is the beauty of the cartooning, and the production values - I have some old 1930s Crackers and was intrigued to find the inks on the colour cover were black, yellow, blue and red, (rather than black, yellow, cyan, and magenta) which gives them a peculiar vibrancy that you wont see thesedays outside of specialist publications (plus the red ink is on top of the black). There's also the insights that can be gleaned about social and cultural context - these Crackers issues have a 'Your Adventures' section where readers sent in accounts of their own exciting escapades and about half of them involve people on river-boats falling in the water, so I can read into this that river-boat jaunting was a popular pastime in 1936, or at least one that caught people's imagination. You can add to these dicoveries any number of popular obsessions and broad cultural assumptions that get filtered through the lens of humourous comic strips.
It's all very well for me to try and convey such experiences verbally, but when you hold these things in your hand - seeing the real ink on the real, rough, broadsheet paper - you feel like a custodian of some precious, fragile, under-appreciated treasure - even if you did pick them up for a couple of quid each.
I think British vernacular culture suffers from an unneccessarily self-deprecating inferiority complex, always tugging at the coat-tails of our Cadillac-driving, Colt-45 toting cousins over the pond. Sure, we don't need to be imperiously over-the-top nationalistic about it, but if we had the basic level of affection for the distinctive patina of our own humble, everyday backgrounds that so many other cultures so responsibly do for theirs (and not just the stuff that still sells bucket-loads today), then... then... well, maybe Egmont would sort out some proper reprints - and people would actually buy them the way people buy Popeye and Peanuts - or something.
Ah well. Never happen. Good job there's blogs like this one. Cheers.

Lew Stringer said...

Interesting. Regarding the inks used for the covers of those issues of Crackers, Kib, are you sure black was used? Some comics would just use blue, red, and yellow to save money, with sometimes all three colours used for the 'black' bits. (Although the one issue of Crackers I have from 1937 definitely uses black, red, yellow and blue.)

I can't see the point of using red on top of black, unless perhaps it was to strengthen the line if they thought black might print too grey.

Kib Lloyd said...

Definitely black, yep. I don't know if the red going on last was done for any purpose at all. The effect is that where there is red and black in the same place the red actually slightly weakens the black, due to the slight opacity of the ink. Maybe they though the black would be strong enough to show through the red - like Cyan shows through magenta shows through yellow - without considering the black as a seperate entity from the other 3 inks. I imagine that printing photos would be ok that way but of course more 'graphic' kinds of work, especially line-drawings, conventially treat black as the dominant ink, which must always be clearest and most present.
However it happened, these comics look different to most others as a consequence - redness running rampant, and what a comic-y colour red is - in a way which is quite material and concrete, almost percievably 3D.
Gorgeous things.

Lew Stringer said...

Very strange, but no doubt they had their reasons.

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