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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Comic Collection -Bagged and boarded? And Decline of UK Weekly Comics

As evidenced my the screeching emails and messages from my Yahoo groups and people checking out CBO: I am worse than Charles Manson.

Let's put that into context.  I don't mean murder (what's buried under my back and front garden doesn't come into this).  I mean.....I...I do not bag and board my comics.

Are you okay? You went quite pale just then and since I'm not on camera my sitting here naked cannot be was the not bagging and boarding thing, wasn't it?

You see, I look at it this way: I die and the comics get burnt if they can't be sold quickly. That's it.  I'm not going to care!  I don't have kids to pass them on to so what the hell do I care what they look like in 30 or 40 years after I'm dead? D'uh!

My comics.

But, as the newsprint (and lesser quality) paper is not that tough I did want to at least stop further damage to a collection that spans over five decades -and recent acquisitions are 70+ years old so I protect them as a matter of course.  Now, UK weekly comics, as my collection proves beyond any measure of doubt, varied in size and that includes, at times from issue to issue of a particular comic.

I spoke to people at IPC, Fleetway and even Marvel UK at one time or other and it was the same story from all of them: print cheap, sell at a profit.  If the paper available that week meant a width a little less than the week before or even a bit wider -who cares? "They're just comics for kids".

The old Battle Weekly is a prime example. Regular, wide (almost squarish) format one week, the next a lot less wider and....well, even 2000 AD suffered from this.

So, you can buy UK Weekly comic/magazine comic bags. Had I used those I would have just spent well over £100 ($200).  You see, Marvel weeklies were constantly going through this size/width difference but they all fit into clear, hole punched A4 document sleaves.

I used about 400 of these which came to £6.80 ($15). And today I bought and used up another 200 (£5.00 -$10).  Plus the ones I used before means that, so far, I have "bagged" more than 700 UK weekly/monthly comics.

Here is the problem: the 1980s Eagle comic, Battle/Battle Action Force, 2000 AD, Dandy and Beanos as well as a few other titles will not, because of the sizer format, fit into the document sleeves.  It means I have to look for a cheap alternative for a very good reason.  Buying the "pro" comic-mag bags is far too expensive.  If I write that I've bagged around 700 so far and I estimate the others will push that figure up to around 1,300 that's another 700+ bags.

Yes, I have a lot of weekly/monthly comics.  Once bagged they'll gop into the archive boxes I have.

You have, if you are a regular, seen Room Oblivion in various states though it is currently going through a major over-haul:

And you've seen some of the archive boxes here:

I don't fart about with over expensive Long Boxes that are vastly over-priced to screw more money out of comickers. I do not buy Acid Free backing boards -ditto.  I do not buy over-priced comic bags or Mylar bags.  And **** off "Special comic bag sealing tape".  You see, I can understand someone who has comics associated with good times who wants to keep them safe -just go buy some plastic bags or, if you've only a few, buy a display book with inbuilt plastic pockets.

Here is the fact: from the moment of printing your comic is decaying. There is absolutely NOTHING you can do about this. And you need to wake up to that fact.

I love comics. Some of my comics are not in a pristine condition but since it was about 46 years before I had a place to settle into (before moving on again) that is a miracle.  One day I am going to sit down and wipe the dribble from my chin and start going through these old weekly/monthlies.  Just looking at the covers brought on surges of nostalgia and some memories. It also meant I was in the perfect position to realise what went wrong with UK weeklies.

Up until 1984/1985 the comic covers, say from Marvel UK, were great.  Some of the best covers are from the 1976-1980 period. But you get to 1984/1985 and you see the usual titles merge and some very odd mix-and-not-match content.  Much was still material that UK readers had seen in Alan Class comics, L. Miller reprints and Odhams titles.  New material going in, too,of course, but it shows how little material Marvel UK were getting -or were really not that worried.

You see, we get to 1984/1985 on and the quality of cover art declines sharply. Things to point out.  A weekly comic would be comprised of a US monthly broken up into 2-3 parts.  Therefore, you could use cover art from the US comic but then needed other art which from the 1980s on was not very good. In fact, at times it seems almost as though who ever was in charge did not really care.

BIG BEN featuring The Thing.  Now, you expect an action cover, something to pull in the kids or older readers, right? Not just an image of the Thing with a big banner across him "Win A BMX Bike!".  Or Spider-Man and Friends where the "Win A Midi Player System" takes up most of the cover -the three figures on the cover not exactly sparking any interest.

Having spoken to a few Marvel UK editors and -allegedly- having held one out of a window, I can tell you they were not impressive or bright.  I'm sure some were but I am going by those I met. One: "I've edited seven titles and none of them has lasted very long.  Never been able to work out why?" I was not cruel. I did not point and say "You!"

It seemed as though a lot of the old pros were being booted out and mates given jobs.  I spoke to Paul Neary one day and he invited me up to London for an interview for an editor's job. I confirmed the appointment with him on the Monday and travelled the 250 miles to London the next day to be told "Oh, he's had to go off somewhere"  Me: "Oh, an emergency?"  Receptionist: "No, it's a trip he's had in his diary for a month now".  Without saying too much I asked about the editor's job I had "heard" was going? "Yes, his friend ----- stepped into that because no one applied".  Was I angry? Ask the editor taking a gulp of fresh air an hour later.

Oh lords the stories.

But back to the comics.  I had planned on one day getting a long shed and adapting it to become a comics 'room' or even building a brieze block (cinder block) comics library but that was before comics stopped selling.  Food somehow feels more important!

I do bag the series I really like and have completed such as the Silver Age Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, All Star Squadron, etc.. Who knows, maybe one day I'll get bored and bag the other US comics.  How many do I have though?  I did make a catalogue of them last year and there are a good few thousand. Luckily, my Small Press catalogue shows those only number over a thousand.

It is a big collection but as people such as Bob Monkhouse and Denis Gifford proved: you can neither take it with you nor safeguard its future after you are gone.

Just enjoy your comics and stop faffing about!


  1. Ditto ditto ditto! Having them all bagged and boarded just makes it awkward when I want to read them... For the storage I've either got them stacked in plastic crates or I find suitable cardboard boxes at the supermarket - the boxes that packs of Pampers arrive in are generally best for this, strong and long (as they say).

    Most of the time if I buy comics and they're already bagged/boarded, I'll take them out and discard of the bags/boards (in an environmentally friendly way, obviously).

  2. You're not in the UK are you? Supermarkets, incredibly, stopped the "grab a box" thing about 10 years or so ago. I think it was to make people buy carriers....until they were free! I used topick up a lot of boxes that way.
    But, yes, you have to un-tape the flap,pull the comics out then read and replace. Sod that. I know if you watch captainstrangelife videos on YouTube he'll mention "a reading copy" but then says he has "about six copies of this". He will not buy a comic beyond "off white" (borders). Personally, I want quick access to read!
    Oh, let's not forget the "comic reading gloves" they tried to sell trendies -and the expensive face masks so you don't get moisture on the comic. Bad joke as they took that from the Big Bang Theory!
    I remember at one time I used to be careful to try not to get a single mark on a book then about 10 years or so back I burst out laughing and called myself a "W*****!" It was a "WTF do I think I'm doing?" moment. Read comics. Love comics (but NOT sexually!!).

    1. I saw someone in a comic shop once buying twelve "comic boxes" at the same time, priced at £8.99 each... "That's not me" I proudly thought. As for the "comic reading gloves" - ha! Just takes me back to that Mr. Bean "Library" sketch. These are comics that are 40 or 50 years old, not original Dickens manuscripts...

      I'm in the UK, yep, but there's a mini-supermarket on my road that I worked in for seven years (so naturally I'd get the pick of the boxes), and since leaving it's just a matter of asking and they'll save whatever for me.

      "It's WHO you know" and all that.

    2. I keep all mine in drawer chests and my record collection in filing cabinets. Comic bags are just irritating, so as soon as they are bought, the bag is off and they are treated the same as the comics had I bought them originally in the sixties and seventies and I always kept those in clean condition. bags are fine for the shop that needs them as a pristine sale item - and I am grateful. But extrication before reading or gazing fondly at the artwork. No, thank you. Also, regarding reprints, again. As Joe Kubert said in an interview, a series of which, a link was posted on these very CBO pages, the new colour is overpowering, garish. Get rid.

  3. Yeah, I tried the "asking" once. I think the manager thought I was asking about State Secrets!!!
    And that Mr Bean sketch almost covers it!
    Supermarkets and boxes. Another great tradition gone!

  4. Trouble is this is a Council property. Done a lot of work here like I did at the last place BUT they can say "You need to be out by---" and that is it. No arguing. So I need cheap plastic bags to put the delicate newsprint books in because moving constantly is what caused so much damage.