Yesterday morning, my uncle John got up at some ridiculous hour and ran fifty kilometers. Fifty kilometers. Then he kept walking until he had done fifty miles. Then he went home, had something to eat and went to an unusual retrospective of his work.

Uncle John makes custom birthday cards, and has done so since he was a teenager. A few weeks ago, my aunt Dana started sending letters to friends and family asking to borrow any cards we might have saved. Of course, everybody had saved everything–you don’t get a personal work of art in the mail and throw it away when you’re done.

They got enough cards to fill four rooms full of shelves (and they had leftovers). During the day it was an exhibition for clients; that night, when I got there, it was food and a jazz band and my uncle’s fiftieth birthday party.

It was one of the best gallery shows I’ve ever seen. The sheer volume of work and creativity and originality was humbling and inspiring and it still stuns me a little to think that I own at least a dozen of those original pieces myself.

I think it was my tenth birthday when I got the foldout card. It was a huge battle scene my uncle had drawn and then left half-empty, inviting me to fill in the rest. It was perfect. It was one of the best presents I’ve ever received, and I could probably redraw it from memory.

I was a weird little kid, and if I’d been born to different parents I probably would have been a Ritalin poster child.The only things that could get me to sit still for ten minutes were a big fat fantasy book or a chance to draw with my uncle. I didn’t quite get all the genes that give him his talent, or maybe his dedication–he did better stuff at fifteen than I can hope for now–but everything I love about sequential art comes from trading panels with him on “Captain Zero” and “The Adventures of Petey.” That this site exists as more than a blog is due to him.

A dozen cards, a million comic strips. Happy birthday, Uncle John, and thanks for all my presents.