Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dust in the Attic

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a journalist for the Mail on Sunday about an interview. They were going to run a 'Cash in your attic' type of feature about British comics and wanted my input. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to dispel the myth that old comics are worth a fortune.

I should have known better of course. The Mail had its agenda and it rigidly stuck to it. Today's issue of Event magazine, inside The Mail on Sunday, has a one page feature entitled Laughing All the Way to the Bank. The alarm bells went off as soon as I saw that title. Sure enough, it tells readers "you might be sitting on a small fortune". The lengthy interview I gave is condensed to one quote: "A tatty comic is practically worthless". At least they got that right. 

Here are some other things I said which didn't make it into the article:

"Don't assume that every old comic is a collectors item. If you think a stack of 1990s Beanos are going to make you a fortune you'll be sorely disappointed. The most valuable comics are those that have historical significance."

"A first edition of The Dandy from 1937 might set you back £20,000 but an issue of any other comic from that same week will only be worth around ten quid."

"Paper reacts badly to certain conditions so don't store them in direct sunlight or in a damp shed. Store them neatly in closed boxes at room temperature and away from radiators. Some sellers try to fob collectors off by describing damaged old comics as 'good condition for their age'. It's misleading because age doesn't rip the cover off or colour in the pictures with crayon. Handle them with care."

"I think it's worth mentioning that if people only collect for investment they're sure to be disappointed. Most comics I have aren't worth much. The true value of comics comes from appreciating their artistic and cultural values."

See how that would have provided balance if they'd used some of it? Well, it was all ignored, with the focus on ten valuable comics (first issues of Dandy, TV21, Commando, etc). The emphasis of the feature is purely on greed. No mention of the artistic value of comics whatsoever.

Another, more personal, thing: As I knew the article would be used to promote the London Film and Comic Con I asked the journalist "I'd appreciate it if you could mention that I've been a cartoonist on numerous publications including The Beano, Viz, and Doctor Who Magazine. And that I'll be at the London Film and Comic Con in July."

"Absolutely!" was his reply.

How did that turn out? No mention at all of me being a cartoonist, or being a guest at the event. I'm just labelled as a "comics historian". 

Now, I don't entirely blame the journalist. I'm sure his editor had the agenda to peddle the 'cash in your attic' angle for whatever daft reason and perhaps the submitted article was cut to ribbons before publication. However, I've learnt a lesson from this. From now on, if any journalist wants to talk to me about my work, great. If you just want soundbites for fairy tales of how people are sitting on a mythical fortune in old comics, don't ever waste my time again. Find some comics dealer eager to sell his wares instead. I'm sure they'll be only too happy to help with this kind of spin.


Phil Boyce said...

The Daily Mail twisting facts, leaving plenty out and editing what people say to suit what it wants to print. Sounds very, very familiar. What a shame, it could've been an interesting read if it'd been what you were led to believe, but as you say it's the Mail - they obviously had it written and knew what they wanted to say, whether it's true or not. Sorry to hear this, Lew.

Lew Stringer said...

Yep, a complete waste of time. Newspapers have been printing these 'cash in your attic' fillers for decades and its practically the same thing every time. Why? What is the point in misleading readers like this? All it does is create frustration and disappointment when people find out most comics aren't worth much.

Next time I'm contacted by a journalist on such a topic it's going straight in the bin. As you said, they already have the article mapped out in their heads anyway so they'll publish what they want. I don't want my name associated with such spin doctoring.

Simon Plumbe said...

It almost makes you wonder if you don't have to enter into some form of written contract with the media for interviews of any kind just to make sure that what you say to them isn't taken out of context or twisted or at the very least you get some form of guarantee that what you are promised is actually delivered.

If you're actually taking time away from work to do this which is helping them and helping one of their journalists (and I use that word VERY loosely) then you've helped them with their work without any form of compensation or publicity which was promised to you. Was that ever provided to you in writing or was that just assured verbally?

I don't blame you for wanting to avoid the media in future though. It does make you wonder if they're worth spending any time with.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lew Stringer said...

The interview was done via email, so the assurance that my work would be plugged was part of that. Unfortunately the promise of a freelance journalist means nothing if his editor decides otherwise I guess.

I didn't mind taking time out to do the interview for free because I thought I'd be helping with a balanced article on collecting, and plugging my career as a bonus. How naive I was.

Thing is, I don't even consider myself a 'comics historian'. I know a lot about certain areas of comic history, and very little about others (girls comics, DC Thomson adventure comics for example), so I've never called myself a historian or expert.

Anyway, I'll know better next time. Unless they want to talk about my career, any more requests from journalists go straight into the bin.

James Spiring said...

Lesson learned, I suppose. At least it's not on the Mail website.

Big D said...

Ouch. Why bother asking you for your opinion if they weren't going to actually use it.? Then again, this is the Daily Fail we're talking about.

I don't blame you for being a tad miffed.

Manic Man said...

I wouldn't say the writer has no blame.. it's David Barnett who wrote it... so-called science fiction writer.

plus. it's a so-called newspaper.. name a single one for the last 50 years that has given news more then there version based on there money backers and 'light entertainment stories'.

Lew Stringer said...

I don't know if it's the same David Barnett, but it's almost certain his submitted article would have been subbed so the editor most likely cut out quite a bit.

Ken said...

Being the Daily Mail (the curtain twitchers of Britain's favourite paper), I was more surprised the journalist didn't have at least one Royal baby photo in the feature. I can only assume there was constraints on the page size.


Eodred VanCataclysm said...

I'm just amazed the Mail didn't blame immigrants for the high prices of comics

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