Is there something they’re not telling us?

I am currently watching a Batman Rebirth Deluxe hardcover on eBay when I noticed that they have it classified as Non-Fiction.

This reminds me of the glory days when I lived in Nottingham and would walk home through Boots on my way to the Victoria Centre Food Court, and I would check their books section, and always I would find the same thing under Non-Fiction: The Lord of the Rings.

Maybe Alan Moore’s right about all stories being true?

Now here’s a thing…

Back on 29 June, I bought an item on eBay. I was notified to expect this 3-4 July. On 7 July, not having been notified that the item had even been despatched, I opened a query with eBay. The Seller did not respond. On 17 July, I was asked by eBay if the matter was resolved. I replied that I had had no contact with the Seller and requested a refund, which was made within thirty minutes.

Anticipating this outcome, I had already purchased the item from another seller. Despatch was notified same day and the item was received 18 July.

On 18 July, the Seller messaged me, asking me to re-pay. He claimed he had evidence of delivery. I replied that it had never been delivered, he’d never even notified eBay that it had been despatched, he’d never responded to my issue and I had no intention of re-paying for something I hadn’t had.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? I have returned from work tonight to a parcel, without a return address. It was posted on 16 July. It contains my item, no doubt from the original seller. Who still hasn’t notified me it’s been despatched.

I now have two things instead of one, and I only want one. I can’t return the superfulous one because I don’t know where to send it and in all frankness, I would resent the hell out of any suggestion that I pay return postage.

I don’t intend to do anything, except keep the one that arrived first. Some people are just idiots, aren’t they?

Collecting Eagles

Just you wait…

It’s just over two years ago now. I was still in the relatively early stages of a blog series about Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future, reading and studying all the official stories in the canon created by Frank Hampson, a genius son of my home city, Manchester. I wasn’t rushing things: the early stories ran for anything between six and eighteen months at a time, which was a lot of reading. Still, it took me the best part of six months for the penny to drop.

I’d been introduced to Eagle in late 1963, less than halfway through the long decline, but I’d become a Dan Dare fan just like all the other little boys who’d preceded me in the dozen plus years the comic had then existed: just one front page, and we were gone.

From the first week of 1964 until about two months after its ignominious end, merged into Lion – which had begun as a cheaper, tattier knock-off of Eagle – I got it every week, apart from that one when the newsagent forgot to deliver it. I had a complete collection from that point on.

A long time passed. The comics went to the children’s hospital, I went on to other things. I proved to be one of those who still loved comics as an adult, though mostly American ones. But there were those landmark Dragon’s Dream collections of the Man from Nowhere trilogy, and Alastair Crompton’s magnificent The Man Who Drew Tomorrow that didn’t quite make it to publication before Frank Hampson succumbed to cancer, that reminded me.

And there was the fellow fan who, long long ago, alerted me to Manchester’s Central Reference Library having bound editions of Volumes 1 to 10 of the Eagle, 1950 to 1960. Dozens of Saturday afternoons I spent, reading, researching, making notes with the ambition of writing a book about Dan Dare.

It would have been possible, even relatively easy, to have bought back issues in the Eighties, complete volumes in one go, instant collections. I had the money, but not the room, so I let the opportunity go.

When I did start to collect old Eagles, it was the early Nineties, and I had a plan. Since Volumes 1 – 10 could be read any old Saturday afternoon, I would focus on everything after, try to build a collection of Volumes 11 to whenever Dan Dare went into reprint (Volume 17 no 2, incidentally). My main source was Sheffield’s Old Magazine Shop, from which I returned with treasures. I would drive over on otherwise unoccupied Saturday afternoons with my scrawled out list in hand, and once I started following Droylsden, every away game that saw me traveling through Sheffield included a visit, no matter how depressed the market was.

Sometimes I’d dig a bit further back, if something particularly cheap turned up, but the objective was still Volumes 11 onwards. Anything more was just a pipe-dream.

Then along came a wonderful wife and three brilliant step-children, and old freedoms to splash my money on whatever frivolity I chose became a thing of the past. I had no regrets. She was with me when I passed through Sheffield, but the stays were shorter, the searches more desultory, the collection no longer growing.

Like I said, with life much changed, I was several months into writing my Dan Dare series when the penny dropped. I did an eBay Search for Eagle comics. I wrote about the experience here.

That was just two years and one week ago today. The ease, and relative inexpensiveness, of collecting started that old ambition of collecting Volumes 11 – 17 in full. And, who knows, maybe, in time, working a bit further back, those late Fifties volumes where I had some issues already.

I’ve still not been back to re-read the bound volumes at Central Ref. I searched ‘Eagle Comics’ on eBay at least twice a week. Once you strip out the results that obviously don’t relate to my Eagle, there’s still somewhere around 4,000 items whenever you search, so I go through the first ten pages, make a note of when the last item is due to end, and re-search when that item will be on page 1 instead of page 10.

And slowly I extended my ambition. Maybe, if I was patient, if I kept my eyes open and didn’t overextend what I could afford, maybe, just maybe I could, perhaps, one day, get a complete collection? It’s a pipe dream.

Well, guess what, people? Today I have added three more issues to my collection. They’ve yet to arrive so they don’t get knocked off the list until they do, but once they arrive, my Wants List is in single figures.

That’s right. I am nine issues away from a complete sixteen year run of the Eagle. Nine issues. Nine.

Of these outstanding issues, six come from volume 1, and I am currently Watching four of them. One is No. 1, which I do have, but in such a ratty state, I will still be on the look-out for a better copy. One sold today on eBay, for nearly £80: far too rich for me, unless, until it’s the only one left and then… I’ll think about it.

And there’s maybe a dozen or so that are complete, where the Centrespread is missing because someone extracted it for the Cut-out, and there are people who sell just these on eBay, so when I have that unbelievable collection, I will make a list of incompletes and maybe I can mix-and-match.

And then a long, leisurely sitting back and reading, without having to leave the flat on Saturday afternoons. Then we’ll see some real Nostalgia.


Another ‘Eagle’ Weekend in prospect

I’m looking forward to the weekend, not merely because it’s the beginning of nine whole consecutive days off work – in which I plan to do the square root of bugger all, thank you for asking – but because it will be another Eagle weekend. I have been successful in winning a complete volume of the comic via eBay, which should be delivered tomorrow, and I will again set Sunday aside for a leisurely read from issue 1 to issue 53.

I confess that I can’t remember quite how far back it is I first resorted to eBay to resume my long-interrupted quest to extend my Eagle collection (April 2015 – is it that recent?). At first, it was just picking up where I left off in the Nineties, collecting Volume 11 forward, those issues that I had not read on long, fascinating Saturday afternoons in Manchester’s Central Reference Library, the bound volumes of the first ten years.

Since then, I’ve undergone more than a touch of mission creep and, even though I now have barely more than the space I had when I occupied a bedroom in my mother’s house in Burnage and ignored the chance to buy complete volumes for space reasons, I am gently creeping towards the ambition of one day a complete set. Up to, and not beyond the last original Dan Dare strip, of course. There’s really nothing after that to attract the attention at all.

For well over a year by now, I’ve done eBay searches for Eagle at least twice a week. Once I’ve refined the search to what I’m really looking for, there is always 2,500 items or more, so I confine myself to the first ten pages, which constitutes 500 items. This has never amounted to more than the next four days, hence the frequency with which I repeat the search.

Of course, a lot of these items are a waste of my time. Roughly 50% of them, if not more, relate to the New Eagle of the Eighties/Nineties, which I scroll by with great rapidity. And there are over and again whole pages worth of Eagle centrespreads on their own, which again are valueless for my purpose.

Then there’s the guy whose items come round and round and round and round again, with unswerving regularity, always the same issues, time after time, and they never sell. He’s got the two issues from volume 15 that I need to complete that Volume, which will actually give me a complete, unbroken run from volume 11 to 17.

I’ve never gone after them though, and unless and until I win the EuroMillions Lottery on a multiple rollover week, and am possessed of more money than I could ever physically spend in the years left to me, I’m not going to. You see, for each of these two issues, this seller is asking £19.99. On my budget, you can bugger that for a game of soldiers. They’re not even Fifities Eagle‘s, Frank Hampson Dan Dare.

That’s why these items roll around, over and over again. The guy/girl is asking way over the odds and despite no-one ever buying, has not yet awoken to commercial realities beyond adding a ‘Best Offer’. I’d go to a fiver each, but somehow I don’t think that’s what he’d class as ‘Best’.

Mind you, for the Fifties stuff, he pushes the boat out. He’s currently offering practically the whole of Volume 5 at prices of £29.99 and £26.99 per issue. You want Volume 5 at those rates and you’re looking at the thick end of £1,500.00.

Me, I won’t pay it. Not at that price. And because I don’t need to. As you may by now have guessed, that forthcoming Eagle weekend will have me reading my newly-acquired complete volume 5. Which cost me in total, postage excluded, £23.99. Which wouldn’t be enough to buy even one of this guy’s offers.

Unless he was prepared to give me a generous ‘Best Offer’ leeway…

You’re Recommending What?!

eBay has gone off its head. Its algorithms have cracked.

How else can you explain the home page I have just opened? Last night, in preparation for another chronological readthrough/blog series, I rebought cheaply a couple of books by the late, great SF author, Alfred Bester. The latter of these was Golem 100, a fast-paced, aggressive prefiguration of cyberpunk, a roller-coaster book.

Today, based on my purchase of this SF novel, eBay’s recommendations based thereupon are: The Experts Guide to the Triathlon, A Complete Guide to Scottish Country Dancing and Enciclopedieto de Cinio. This appears to be an Encyclopedia of, or probably in, Esperanto.

What the hell?

Little Ironies 2 – Who are they selling this to?

When I log on to eBay, as I tend to do every few days or so, I am greeted with a panoply of prospects, mouth-wateringly assembled links to newly-listed items that would come up under the (fairly limited) lind of searches I tend to make.

I’m amused to find a familiar item turning up for the second time, having clearly failed to attract anyone’s custom a week or so back.

I’ve linked to the item here, but what this item is is a copy of the once popular British comics fanzine Fantasy Advertiser (informally, and later formally known as FA), issue 87, edited published by the late and much-missed Martin Skidmore in October 1984.

It crops up as a possible item of interest because one of the points of interest by which it is hoped to attract a buyer is the ‘zine’s article on Gary Trudeau’s immensely successful social and political newspaper strip, Doonesbury. And as I have been a devotee of Doonesbury since 1981, and have been known to search for old and rare collections (until I got the last of them), it’s been flagged up for my attention.

An article about Doonesbury: very interesting. It’s even flagged up on the cover, to attract the readers of October 1984, together with the name of its writer. Look closely at the cover below, squint at it if you have to, to try and make out which sage wrote this no doubt definitive piece. Is it, no, wait…

It looks very familiar, doesn’t it? And eBay wants to sell this to me?

FA87(Actually, the article isn’t very good at all, but if you do want to read it, you can always bid for the ‘zine on eBay. Or, if you ask nicely enough, I’ll post it on here…)

R. A. Lafferty bargain – Fourth Mansions

If you love great writing, if you want to discover a writer of monstrous humour, great gusto, unbelievable individuality, in short someone completely unlike everyone else you have ever read, follow this link:

This link will take you to eBay, where you will discover a very good condition copy of R. A. Lafferty’s Fourth Mansions, the 1971 novel that was my first introduction to this mercurial, magisterial writer, and for an asking price of only 99p. People, you should be ashamed to let a book like this go for such a price (you should be surprised to see a Lafferty book even offered for this price, and this is one of the one’s that got released in a full-scale commercial print-run).

It’s an adventure and an experience in one, a crazy, whirlagig tale of secret societies, of Snakes and Badgers, of Jewelled Toads and Unfledged Falcons, and in the middle journalist Freddie Foley. set to goof and goof gloriously. Are there really men returning from the past who are marked by archaic ears? Is his girlfriend really a cinnmon cookie? Will the world spiral and collapse back to First Mansions, as the Toads are working to ensure, or will all things come together in Freddie Foley to lead the world upwards into the Fifth Mansions?

Did author and critic Michael Swanwick really say “If there were no Lafferty, we would lack the imagination to invent him”? And has any writer ever paid so gracious a complement as that?

It’s true, by the way, brother, it’s true!

In all seriousness, follow the link, bid for this. This is a great book by a great writer, possibly the greatest writer you never heard of.

I call that a bargain

About a decade ago, eBay was brilliant for getting rid of stuff you no longer wanted/needed, for finding things you wanted but someone else didn’t, at prices you could decide that you could afford.

Of course, because it was so good, especially for all us little people who just wanted to deal with each other, they destroyed it by turning it into a commercial selling machine for commercial sellers, and running it for the big at the expense of the little. You can find what you want still, but you’re only ever going to pay shop prices for it.

Not this month, however. Twice in this month, I’ve picked up expensive, high quality items that have been on my Wish List for years, but which have always been too expensive to justify, given my limited income.

Both these items were three volume hardback slip-cased editions and both were auctions. First, there was the original edition of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls, which you usually can’t find for less than £45, even used, which I won for just under £16 – and it was still shrink-wrapped!

And today, after an impatient week’s watching, I’ve won The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, for a mere £34, an absolutely brilliant figure given that the minimum price you see on it for Buy It Nows or Amazon is £67 – especially pleasing as I was prepared to go up to £47, and prepared to be outbid even at that.

So that works out as £112 of books for only £50! If I get an equally good bonus this month, does anyone know where I can get some seriously rare R A Laffertys at similar rates?