Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Rare Superman comic fetches whopping $3.2m

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Today's subject is comics. You laugh, but I'm being perfectly serious. Consider this: a comic that cost 10 cents in 1938 has just seen sold on yonder eBay for $3.2m. That's £1.9m in normal money. A considerable mark-up by any standard.

Action Comics No 1 featured the debut appearance of one Superman and so is of historic interest. But I'd be surprised if the buyer even reads it, for that would mean taking it out of its polythene wrapper.

I've bought old comics on eBay and been gobsmacked at the pristine condition in which they've arrived. When I commented on this to one seller, he acted with haughty disdain, sussing that I was a naif who knew nothing about collecting. Correct: I don't. Nor do I want to. My mate collects football programmes, and the same lunacy applies there. The price plummets for turned up pages, even when 40 years old. No pen or pencil marks allowed either.

And the more obscure the programme the better: limited print-runs for games that were postponed are particularly sought after. And we're talking about small clubs here.

According to the Belfast Telegraph – coincidentally the very publication you're reading now – the American seller of the original Superman publication described it as "the Mona Lisa of comics". I'm sure the purchase price brought an enigmatic wee smile to his coupon.

Why such a price, even if it doesn't have a pen mark on it? It must be because Superman has become such an ingrained part of western mythology. Superheroes are the new gods.

They appear, by and large, in the sky, have super-human strength or powers, and live for a jolly long time.

They have changed, though. In the past, they just biffed things. Today, they're tortured, angst-ridden characters and, particularly in their movie spin-offs, are afflicted by Hollywood's extremist liberalism.

"You tortured and murdered all my friends and were on the brink of destroying the world, but I'm not going to kill you because that would make me as bad as you." Er, no, actually it wouldn't.

Back in the real world, regular readers will know I have a piece of the shirt worn by Superman's dad in the TV series Smallville.

That purchase is easily defensible. I paid only a few squids for it. And the item has a practical purpose: I hug it for comfort during times of trouble.

Wednesday: Reality goes flying out the window

When it comes to planes, I like to sail close to the window.

So I'm not keen on this plan to introduce passenger aircraft with no windows.

It's all about cheapness, as usual. Removing windows makes planes lighter, which lowers fuel costs, which reduces fares.

A window weighs more than a suitcase? Who knew?

Fair enough, they're still promising a view of sorts, via visual displays projected as "digital wallpaper" on the inside walls of the plane.

But, yet again, we are being taken one more remove from reality: it's inches away, but you can't see it, so here's a film of what you're missing. Thus we slide inexorably towards virtual reality.

When I studied philosophy at the Renfrewshire Academy of Plumbing and Marxism, we'd to thole a lot of bilge about whether the world was real or not.

Of course it is, I thought. Now I'm not so sure.

Friday: A hot sedentary date with Kate

How strange to be looking forward all day to sitting down at a set time to watch something on the television.

In this instance, 9.10pm for a documentary about Kate Bush.

I felt excited, and it was a good feeling.

I miss that about TV now.

These days, I never check TV listings from one month to the next. Everything I watch these days is on DVD box set, and I watch as much as I like, when I like.

But after Kate, I even sat up beyond bedtime to see Captain Beefheart performing on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Before remembering I already had it on DVD.

Saturday: Perfect sight comes at an eye-watering price

Some people's lives are ruled by their partners or their health or their wallet. Mine is ruled by my reading glasses.

They send me upstairs looking for them – because they're always up when I'm down. They send me downstairs looking for them – because they're always, ah, but you're ahead of me.

They make me miss appointments. I forget them at the supermarket and can't check listed ingredients to see what the capitalists are poisoning us with now.

I need my glasses, even as I curse them. I welcome, therefore, news that ocular boffins have invented an implant called Raindrop that should do away with the dastardly encumbrances.

Raindrop increases the curvature of your cornea, which sounds painful, as does the current cost of £2,459. But it's described as "absolutely life-changing".

Accordingly, I look forward to Raindrop dripping down to the masses and me at Poundbender before too long.

Sunday: Kick where sun doesn't shine

Does Britain even get a summer any more?

There are so few days of sunshine it's no wonder leading worriers talk about a health crisis caused by vitamin D deficiency.

Even so, for the temperature to dip below zero in County Down in August is a sore kick in the thermals.

Monday: School rugby's weighty problem

Being a skinny lad, I never enjoyed rugby at school, even if it proved valuable training for my later career in journalism. Some of the sick notes I forged were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

However, according to top reports, rugby is even more dangerous nowadays, because of heavier children causing others injuries during scrums and tackles.

Belfast-based trauma surgeon Pooler Archbold has called for schools to be more aware of the problem, while public health expert Professor Allyson Pollock has called for an end to compulsory rugby.

I back that call, even if it means budding scribblers losing valuable experience.

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