I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but it peeved me significantly that I decided to wait.
In early June, I submitted some comics to CGC. Among those comics were some issues by the publisher Fox Feature Syndicate. (The specific issues included the titles Junior and Sunny.)
I've always had a pet peeve about the misspelling of this publisher's name. The name, as indicated in the indicia, as well as the colophon (logo), is "Fox Feature Syndicate." It is NOT "Fox Features Syndicate," with an "s" at the end of "Features." It's just "Feature" (no "s"). It's easy to see how anybody would make this error, since when pronouncing the name out loud, the "s" sound seems like it is attached to the end of the word "Feature" even though it's really only at the beginning of the word "Syndicate." (Sort of like how some people misinterpret the Jimi Hendrix song lyric "while I kiss the sky" as "while I kiss this guy"... Or like the SNL sketch with Sean Connery reading "S Words" as "Swords"...)
First-world problems, right? Okay, sure. But it's also an issue of accuracy. Would you want a CGC label that listed the publisher as "Marvell," or "Tymely," or "Needor"? I wouldn't. I wouldn't trust a company that made those kinds of errors. CGC is the kind of company that is based in the concept of accuracy. It's not a corrugated-cardboard company or aluminum-siding company, where a misspelling or typographical error doesn't matter. It's in the business of paying attention to details and getting little things right. So I feel that it's fair for me to take issue with the misspelling of the publisher's name. So yeah, I think it is a problem, and I think even though it's trivial in the grand scheme of life, within the realm of "Let's be accurate wherever possible," it is an abdication of that commitment to accuracy.
So back to my experience this past summer: I submitted some comics in early June. Prior to submitting, I called CGC's customer service and asked them about the "Fox Features Syndicate" problem. I said I wanted to submit, but didn't want the label to have the misspelled publisher. I was told that they would address the misspelling and that it shouldn't be a problem, so go ahead and submit the comics. So I did.
When submitting the comics, I attached a hand-written note on each comic sleeve, saying "Please note that the publisher's name is 'Fox Feature Syndicate,' not 'Fox Features Syndicate.' Please make sure the label reflects that." (Incidentally, I did my best to be polite in every communication the matter.)
When the comics were received by CGC and processed as Verified, they were posted in my account's submissions section with the wrong publisher name, "Fox Features Syndicate." I thought that meant that they were ignoring my request for the misspelling to be fixed, so I called CGC customer service again. I was told, "Oh, that's just because it's the way it's currently spelled in our database. We will look into that issue before the comics are graded and the labels printed." I said okay, but also said "I don't want the comics graded if the publisher is going to be misspelled." The customer-service rep noted my request.
Fast-forward a couple months. In early August, the comics were Scheduled for Grading (it took a while, and I realize it was convention season so there would be a delay), with the publisher still wrong. I sent an email asking if they were going to fix it, and again stating that I did not want the comics graded with the wrong publisher name on the label.
Not long after, the comics were Graded and out for shipment (Shipped/Safe) in short order. I looked at the grades online and saw that the comics were still listed as "Fox Features Syndicate" as the publisher. That same day, I received an email response that stated the following:
"Thank you for your email. I have confirmed with the graders and the Publisher "Fox Features Syndicate" will remain unchanged. I have also confirmed that they will not be indicating the issue date for the MLK comic as there is not one listed on the book. The Original printing is apparent from the "No Date" issue date and the Fellowship Publisher."
Regarding the MLK comic mentioned above, I had requested if possible for the date of the comic's publication (1957) to be indicated on the label, to distinguish it from the reprints that happened a decade or so later. I didn't know how CGC had labeled the MLK comics in the past, but thought if they could include the date on the label, that would be useful since the whole point of getting comics CGC graded is to certify that they're authentic, and having the date of that comic on the label would make that clear.
What I find interesting about this detail is that the crux of the reason they couldn't put the date on the label for the MLK comic was that "the date is not listed on the book." If CGC is that concerned about adhering to what is listed on the book, then why do they misspell "Fox Feature Syndicate" when it is written that way in the indicia?
I called customer service again, and got Cynthia again. Incidentally, I would like to state that Cynthia was very professional and polite throughout each conversation, even though I got very frustrated with the situation at the end. I also realize that Customer Service reps are just doing what they're told to do by somebody higher up the chain.
Here are the various reasons I was told for why CGC cannot publish "Fox Feature Syndicate" comics with the correct publisher name. I typed these down after the phone call, and they are as close to direct quotes as possible:
-- Fixing the spelling of the publisher "would cause us to have to change our database." Yes, this was given as a reason. I cannot fathom why this shouldn't be a trivial change for a professional, functional company to make to a database.
-- "Other sources (publications/companies) also use that spelling." This is true, others do use the misspelled name, particularly the Overstreet guidebook. I see no reason why CGC should commit to compounding an ongoing error just because others do. I looked through multiple sources, and here are some of the ones who get the spelling right: Webcitation, the Comics Library, Wikipedia, Toonopedia, ComicBookPlus, Comic Vine, DC Comics Artists, Revolvy, the Digital Comic Museum, International Hero, Grant Geissman (in several of his published books), BIP Comics, and The Grand Comic Book Database. HAS IT WRONG: The DC Comics Database, My Comic Shop [fixed after reading this message! cool!], Good Girl Comics [FIXED! Gracias!], and the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. And....CGC.
-- "Both spellings are equally correct. Your spelling is correct, but our spelling is not incorrect." This is a direct quote. For the record, the "Fox Features Syndicate" spelling of the publisher name is absolutely incorrect. I did a fair amount of research to make sure I wasn't making a mistake on my own side. Until 1944 they were Fox Publications and listed addresses in Massachusetts. Then the business was reincorporated as Fox Feature Syndicate, Inc., and they were located at offices located at 10 E. 43rd St. and also 50 E. 42nd St. in New York, New York until declaring bankruptcy in 1950. All of their indicia say "Fox Feature Syndicate," with there being two exceptions -- two issues of Romeo Tubbs from 1950, where it does say "Fox Features Syndicate." There are a handful of instances where the name says "Fox Publications" or "Fox Comics," and there are a handful of late issues that present the cover title with the words "Fox Features." But the indicia/colophon is spelled out as "Fox Feature Syndicate" 99% of the time.
To quote the Grand Comic Book Database (from multiple pages, separated by ellipses): "Nearly all of Fox's post-war material was published as Fox Feature Syndicate, which is the name that the MSU Comic Art Collection applies to all of Victor Fox's publishing ventures. Only Romeo Tubbs #26(27) and #28 say "Fox Features Syndicate". ... Probably the result of a typo, this alternate company spelling (note the "s" on the end of "Features") has been spotted on one series (so far) from 1950. The vast majority of issues list the indicia publisher without the "s". ... Entry for Fox Feature Syndicate has 306 issues with the name A Fox Feature Publication (or Fox Feature Syndicate), as opposed to 2 issues of Romeo Tubbs. ... Confusingly, a few series in the early 50's [2 issues of Romeo Tubbs] featured an indicia publisher of "Fox Features Syndicate, Inc." (note 's' at end of "Features"), which is listed as a separate indicia publisher. However, that form is rare."
-- "We cannot put the date on the MLK comic, because the indicia does not have the date. We can only put on the label that which is on the indicia." / ME: "The indicia for the other comics says Fox Feature Syndicate." / CGC: "That is correct, but our spelling is not incorrect."
-- Finally: "If you want, you can mail them (the Fox Feature Syndicate comics) back and have them removed from the holder, and then you can get a refund."
During our phone conversation, at one point the customer service rep. put me on hold to double-check with the grader/manager who was telling her the situation. While I was on hold, there was a CGC recording touting the company as setting the industry standard for its "commitment to accuracy." I found that ironic.
The phone conversation ended with me telling the customer-service rep that I expected better from CGC. I tried not to be rude, but it really did frustrate me because I thought I made a strong case, and I felt like CGC didn't care about my concerns, and was just blowing me off without much explanation (or with explanations that didn't have much merit, in my view).
I have since cooled off about it, but I wanted to write something to get this off my chest. I realize I am sort of tilting at a windmill here. But it does bug me. I have to say, at the time, I felt like it put me off of the comics-collecting hobby to a large degree. It also made me question getting anything graded again.
I do see how CGC might want to just consolidate a bunch of "Fox Feature Syndicate" related publisher names into one catch-all name that they can use for all the Fox publications in their database, to make it easier on themselves. I also see that Fox comics are a pretty small percentage of the stuff that CGC grades, given that it's a solely Golden Age publisher and not something that is going to affect anything but a tiny percentage of customers, many of whom don't care anyway.
I also realize that CGC was dealing with convention season at the time, and probably had much bigger fish to fry than dealing with this issue, even if they agreed with it to some extent ("Your spelling is correct, but our spelling is not incorrect.") AND... I can see why CGC would not want to open a can of worms by suddenly writing the publisher a different way, because then all the people who had labels with the other spelling would have a spelling deemed "incorrect" by CGC and could then demand to have their comic reholdered for free to fix the error.
Nonetheless, I am frustrated and disappointed that CGC has stated they have no concern about a verifiable error being published on the labels of their graded comics. I am also disappointed that CGC misled me about a situation until it was too late for me to make the decision not to have the comics graded (though they offered a refund if I sent the comics back for de-slabbing, which is kind of an insult.) I have spent several thousand dollars at CGC and would hope to be treated as a valued customer, not somebody whose concerns are a joke to them.
Okay, well.... I think I have fully vented here. Thanks for reading.