Britishness is hard to define. It took Danny Boyle, the man behind the Olympic opening ceremony, two hours, 800 nurses and a heck of a lot of fireworks to define it. Some would argue he could have encapsulated it in two comics: the Beano and the Dandy.

Goofy, rude and cheeky, stuffed with bad gags, custard pies and a din of interjections – Thwack! Twang! Zoink! Glug! – these comic books are a mini-riot printed on shoddy paper. The theme is that continual theme of British history, rebellion against authority (except the tyrant is not King John or Charles I, but the teacher and the parent). And the protagonists are understatedly British: no superheroes here, just a bunch of snotty schoolboys.

These comics formed a huge part in many kids’ schooldays. The modern British ritual was not to go to church, but to buy the Beano. The Dandy sold 2m copies in the 1950s. The comic strips are still lodged in the national memory. The satirical magazine Private Eye – a sort of Beano for adults – runs a fortnightly strip called “Dave Snooty”, in which David Cameron is cast as the Beano character Lord Snooty. The mayor of London Boris Johnson is often accused of speaking in Beano-isms (“Cripes”, “Golly” and what-not).

So it was sad that the Dandy admitted recently that it was wavering over whether to close. Sales today are a quarter of what they were in 2007. The circulation is just over 7,000 today. There are about 500 subscribers in all, enough to fit into a medium-sized playground. The Beano, owned by the same publisher, is more popular but shows similar signs of decline. Circulation has halved since 2007; it was 38,000 in 2011.

Most children’s magazines are taking a hit because of the recession. It seems when parents’ incomes are squeezed, less money is spent on them. But the decline in British comics goes back farther than the present downturn. The Beano’s circulation was a “six-figure” number in 2003.

Fifty years ago, football hero Roy Race first turned out for Melchester Rovers, and although the ace striker hung up his shooting boots some years ago, the legend lives on.

Kidnappings, a shooting and the saxophone player from Spandau Ballet: forget about the football, Roy of the Rovers encompassed far more. Long before the Footballer’s Wives scriptwriters started work on a soccer soap opera, the creators of Roy of the Rovers realised the value of mixing football with melodrama.

If anything, its plots were more outrageous. Take the time the Rovers were kidnapped by Fidel Castro lookalikes before the 1964 World Club Cup final in South America. They escape and 48 sleepless hours later they’re one-nil down at half-time. Fortunately, in the absence of modern performance-enhancer nandrolone, they get hold of a local narcotic, “Carioca Juice”, and recover to win 2-1 with a trademark Roy Race bicycle kick. Still, that’s not quite as ridiculous as winning the 1986 Milk Cup with a line-up including Bob Wilson, Emlyn Hughes, and Martin Kemp and Steve Norman from Spandau Ballet.

Roy of the Rovers started in the first issue of Tiger on September 11 1954 and became a comic in its own right in 1976. Although the bastardised name encourages many to associate Roy’s team, Melchester Rovers, with Manchester United, rumour has it that Tiger editor Derek Birnage and the original scriptwriter Frank Pepper actually modelled the Rovers on the Arsenal team of the 50s. Roy himself was based on nobody.

Roy Race, The Beano & Dandy are just the first in a long line of characters and stories that are fondly remembered. DC Thomson had their own attempt at recreating the success of Melchester Rovers, when they created a storyline called ‘We Are United’, that first appeared in the Champ comic in 1984. The story was then integrated into the popular Victor comic one year later and ultimately became a success in the companies attempt at creating a monthly comic entitled Football Picture Monthly.

Jon Stark arrived on the football scene in the late 1970s, a prolific striker who played for numerous clubs in England and abroad on a nomadic career path motivated entirely by money. A self-styled ‘Matchwinner for Hire’, his terms of service were set out on his business card: ‘£1,000 per match plus £250 per goal, no payment for lost games.’ Playing for different clubs every week, wherever the promise of payment took him, Stark was the ultimate football mercenary. He was, of course, entirely fictional – a comic book character created against the backdrop of a real-life transfer revolution under the strapline: ‘Meet the Footballer of the Future…’

Stark first appeared in the debut issue of Scoop comic (15p every Thursday) in January 1978. Stone Orient were rock bottom of the second division after three consecutive defeats. A cup match against top-flight Belmoor saw the club turn to Stark, who told them, ‘Play me against Belmoor and I’ll guarantee you victory for £1,000 plus £250 for every goal I score. If we get beaten, you pay me nothing.’

There were numerous other characters that appeared in various different comics, Hot shot Hamish, Billy Dane, Limp Along Leslie, Nipper, to name but a few, who are forever fondly remembered by the youth of that era, but our bond to these heroes goes further than football or the anarchy of the Beano & Dandy; for; invariably we loved the comics for what they were.

Who can forget the excitement on hearing the clank of the letterbox and plop of our favourite comic hitting the doormat, or visiting the local newsagents and seeing the latest issue sitting on the shelf, screaming out at us, usually having to forego our regular treat of a sweet, so that our parents would buy the latest issue.

All of us whether children or adults, enjoy some leisure reading. It is a retreat from the serious business of living which can be recreational in the true meaning of the word: the retreat can create us again. Complex situations can be pictorially presented in ways beyond the reach of words. If the subject is interesting enough to us, we gaze at the picture while silently relating our own experiences to it. Children of all ages enjoy a good story, whether it is inspired, exciting or funny, through the vivid medium of a cartoon. What would become boring and dull through the telling of the story in written format, becomes more entertaining through a brilliant picture.

The Comics Campaign Council estimated that, in the 50's, 350 million comics were sold anually in Britain. Today, that market has shrunk drastically and the boys football paper in particular is all but extinct. But forget about the present; indulge yourself in these pages and glory in the past trimuphs of these comics. I fervently hope the story of your comic book character is related here. Unfortunately my own collection only centres around the likes of Roy of the Rovers, We Are United, and the Football Picture Monthly, so unfortunately the prominence of this comic site will be based more around football based stories than the likes of the wartime stories told in the likes of Battle and Victor or sci-fi as was depicted in Eagle. Do not let that deter you, what is here should be enough to hold your interest and also let you see how alluring comics can be. If nothing else revel in the history of these comics, because they are becoming more and more rare as people clear out their attics and sheds. They wont always be available on ebay.