Growing up a comics fan in South Wales in the 1970s was a chore. Or, to modify that a bit, being a fan of American comics was a chore. Very few American comics made their way to Welsh newsagents.

I’m not entirely sure why that was the case with DC output, but part of the problem with Marvel was their own British arm. When Marvel began publishing a reprint line in the UK from 1972, they stopped the importation of certain titles in order to avoid competition. I never saw a copy of Amazing Spider-Man until the early ’80s when the restrictions were relaxed. The same with The Incredible Hulk.

When the new American comics arrived once a month or so, you’d go through the pile assessing the covers. They were never displayed in an eye-catching manner, they were always just dropped in a single pile onto the comics shelf. After looking at the cover, the very next thing you’d do was look at the last page of the story. If you saw the words, “To be continued” then that was it, you’d put the comic back and move on to the next one. So few comics came each month that you could never be sure that you’d see the second part of a continued story, so it was better not to risk it.

While I don’t know for certain, I suspect newsagents were offered a choice by the distributor of either ordering titles individually, or ordering a bundle of twenty-odd assorted comics. Not being afficiandos of the form, newsagents simply ordered a bundle or two and left the selection to the distributor. That would explain the haphazard nature of the range offered the hapless fan each month.

Marvel and DC were distributed by different companies. Comag distributed Marvel, while Moore Harness handled DC. Some comics also made their way over here via unofficial channels as ballast on merchant ships. Charlton, despite having sterling prices printed on their covers, very rarely appeared on these shores, and other companies, such as Gold Key, Dell and Harvey might as well not have existed at all. In my entire childhood, I had exactly two Gold Key comics: a Star Trek and a Jetsons. They simply never showed up in newsagents. Presumably the ones I had arrived as ballast.

That was the 1970s. The 1980s brought some changes, and titles became much easier to collect. Plus, of course, the change in decade coincided with the arrival of the specialist comics shops.

Oh happy day…