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To mark Pepperpot Piper's first anniversary let me tell you about my Dad, the man who gave me my lifelong love of comics.

Pop slipped the surly bonds of Earth in December of 2012, two weeks before I turned Pepperpot loose on an unsuspecting Internet. He was also named Joe.

There’s an overabundance of Joes in our bloodline. For some reason that’s been Dopplered by rocketing time we churned ‘em out for awhile the way Mickey D’s used to churn out McRibs, though now I’ll never know why. Suffice it to say I got to be a Joe by default, which is okay I guess, though it stings a little knowing the planet’s full of guys walking around with noteworthy handles like Ragnar and Shaka.

It may help you to pause here for a moment and picture the two of us - Joe and Joe, child and man, the last pair struck from the family mold, lodged together side by side in spacetime while somehow managing to travel on courses rather less than parallel, as fathers and sons so often do. Twenty-four years in the USN kept my Dad perennially tied into a half hitch over the means and methods of the sloppy, slobby, lax and lackadaisical world.

I was hardwired from birth to embrace the notion of pretty much aimlessly wandering our loosey-goosey planet. My Dad, not so much. And yet, despite the torqueing strains of our opposite polarities Pop did one thing that instilled a lifelong love of comics in his son: he banned them from the house outright. Called them a lot of thought-provoking names that only a Navy man would know. Dismissed them as nonsense, cursed them as rubbish, scorned their creators as charlatans and their readers as idiots, and in so doing made me covet them and stealthily, wantonly seek out sequential art in low dens, cutout bins and garage sales.

Ultimately, while under his roof, I bought only four. Owning too many would mean having to bring them home, so I secreted them in my backpack, tucked among the bland textbooks until they were discovered, pinched and thrown away by a supervillain in the guise of a grade school teacher, hence scarring me for life - or not - though I can still remember the sleety feeling in my gut when I looked at that warm ash pile fresh from the school’s incinerator where my four comic books had been so blithely reduced to smoke.

That was undeniably a low point, but as in all comics it was just a device for setting up this story arc’s amazing twist ending, wherein an infinity of years later, while living in my spare room, his life force incrementally ebbing, Dad discovered my copy of Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art.

“The Spirit!” he said, seeing the sample pages. “I used to read all of these!”

Me: Blink. Blink.

And the man wasn’t just talking smack either. Out of his jumbled memory pile he instantly plucked Sand Saref, P’Gell and the Octopus, all as shiny and new as the day he’d read them.
But WHEN DID he read them?
And HOW? Reprints?
And WHY DID he pretend to HATE comics?
And had he hid HIS comics from his family the way I'd hid mine... perhaps even WHILE I was hiding mine?

I'll never fathom the whys and wherefores of this story, but I do know one thing. Without having been made to covertly obsess over tales told in panels all those formative years ago there would likely be no Pepperpot Piper for me to enjoy making and you to enjoy reading. And for that we can all say thanks, Pop.


Pepperpot Piper is written & illustrated by Joseph Kelly
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