There exists in my house, carefully folded inside volume 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography (which I haven’t read) a yellowed rectangle of newsprint that had been cut from the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. The date is clearly visible at the top—Sunday, July 4, 1976—and printed below is a special Bicentennial-themed edition of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon. Huge. Like, loose leaf paper-sized huge. Unthinkable in the current newspaper comics real-estate. No panels, either… just one large mural of colonial and modern-day American soldiers marching amidst various battlefields, all rendered by Milt’s strong, masterful pen. The only narrative is a poem, illustrated on a piece of scrollwork that threads its way through the images and ties everything together into a brilliant example of Caniff’s artistic mastery.

(On the other side is a Peanuts strip, which is not at all Bicentennial-themed. Way to participate, Schultz.)

I don’t keep this strip because of any sentimental patriotic value, though. I keep it around because when I hold it, I’m laying eyes on something all of America laid eyes upon nearly forty years ago. That piece of paper connects me to everyone else who read it on that long-ago Sunday morning. I wasn’t alive for the Bicentennial, but I can go there anytime I want.

Comics bring people together. It’s what they do. There’s something incredibly comforting to know that, even if you’re across the world from somebody, you can unwittingly share a moment by reading the day’s edition of Doonesbury. It’s a connection offered in a way unique to any other visual medium, and one nearly everyone in this country has been sharing for over a century.

There are three of us in the Pershing Empire, and we’re scattered across the country. Our time at school together began twenty years ago—half the intervening time since the Bicentennial—and here we are, doing comics together despite the thousand-mile gulf that separates our houses. It’s a connection we share, and one we’re sharing with you, wherever you are and however far in the future that you may be picking us up.

Hi there.