Confessions of Collector – Misdemeanours of a Comic Book Addiction

This is a serialisation of the memoirs of Ian Rakoff, screenwriter, film editor and comic book collector. Ian grew up in the 1940s and 50s under apartheid in South Africa. He started collecting comic books as a child, much to his Mother’s disapproval. Forced to give up his childhood collection to go to university, Ian then began collecting again years later following a move to England…

In 1990, the National Art Library at the V&A purchased the Rakoff Collection of Comics. This major acquisition contained some 17,000 items amassed by the film writer/editor Ian Rakoff. The collection provides a comprehensive tapestry of 20th-century comics, charting their growth from the newspaper strips of the first years of this century to the New Wave comics of the 1980s. The collection consists predominantly of 4-colour American comic books, but examples of other formats and ‘national schools’ are also represented. Most of the items are original, though some reprints are also included. Please see the Comics page for more information about other collections in the National Art Library.

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Failures, and Singing in the Rain…


In the last episode there were some distasteful matters. Trying to help an elderly couple selling a collection, I unwittingly delivered them into victimhood. Simultaneously, I set about reuniting with my ex-partner KK, and her son Arrow. Finally, my career seemed to have found its feet, but this was not the case… In this installment, […]

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Learning the Value of Comics: A Lesson in Criminality

In the last episode, I encountered unexpected chicanery and duplicity when it came to adding to my collection. During my childhood, comics took me out of the world. In adulthood, they pushed back me into the world. Collecting comics also made me see money in a different light. When I ran short on unread comics […]

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Nothing was as it seemed…

Brenda Starr #4 1948. Dale Messick's fashion conscious reporter.

In the last episode I was almost assassinated, but we − my partner KK, her son Arrow and I − managed to escape Idaho intact. In New York I had met an educational luminary of the struggle who was the force behind the Golden Legacy comics series, which illustrated black history and is still being […]

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The Serials: From Harlem to Dickens to Trollope

A Tale of Two Cities

In the last episode I left you hanging – I was on the run with KK pursued by her ex-boyfriend, with a loaded shotgun. He had reason – half his family was running away to England. We –  KK, her three year old son Arrow and I – had sought refuge with the neighbour, a […]

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Ice Cold in Idaho

Eliza leaps onto the frozen ice!

Someone once said my life was like a comic book…. I had survived the late night muggers in snow thick Central Park (with the help of Spider-Man), I’d flown over the Oregon Trail to Portland and to the love of my life, KK. I’d been duped. She wasn’t waiting for me. She was with another […]

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Where the Superheroes Are…

The dashing Smilin' Jack faces down another enemy. Smilin' Jack No.7, July/Sept. 1949. © Dell Comics.

I’d just walked out on a film I’d been working on for over a year. I felt like I’d broken the spell and furthermore was no longer a prisoner to my director, Lindsay Anderson. So I had time on my hands and a quest in view. My friend KK told me that I should come and […]

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Western Comics and Black Cowboys

Western comics

Despite the insidious racism, like a lot of people then, I was hooked on Westerns, one of the great comics genres that have received little attention over the years. My collecting addiction was hugely fuelled by my account at (where else?) the American bank Wells Fargo. An account with Wells Fargo came with a cheque […]

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Vandalism and Idiocy

Ian Rakoff

Comic book space was a problem. As for quantity I had no idea how many thousands I’d accumulated. I’d already had two major moves lugging the collection up and down too many flights of stairs. The flat I bought into with Shelagh was near perfect. She was a blue-eyed documentary editor with a lovely touch […]

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Hunter-Gatherer on the Loose

I have no inclination to justify my interest in comics. It’s enough to read them. In childhood the American comics were unique. It was similar to Hollywood. Though conceived in other countries, America was where the culture developed and flourished. The size, the shape and the substance of the American comic book opened a world […]

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The Italian Siren and the French Noir

It’s always miffed me slightly. So many females in my life had been derisory about my attachment to comics, except my fiancée Erica – we were together during my exile into the comic book wilderness. For five years I abstained; I didn’t read, buy or refer to comics. When Erica left me I despaired. Without […]

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