Jozef Van Hove

Pom, born Jozef Van Hove in 1919, is the first hero on my list that is not a world famous celebrity. He's a Belgian, for starters, but not even every Belgian citizen will know who he is. The Walloons (the French speaking Belgians) won't know him either. For shame, of course.

Pom, a comic book author, is the creator of Piet Pienter & Bert Bibber, two eponymous guys. No super heroes, just regular straight Joes. Their adventures are always believable (save for a trip to the future in one volume) and never far-fetched. What sets the series miles apart from other comic book series, is the humour. Pom's puns will make you laugh and chuckle until your cheeks hurt.

Example? Professor Kumulus (a major supporting character in the series) inherits a stamp collection as a gift from a late friend. The notary assures him that the stamps are very valuable, because they include the famous "Charlemagne"-sheet, which dates back to the days of Charlemagne (Charles The Great).

"That's impossible", the professor concludes, "stamps didn't even exist back then!". "Precisely" the notary adds, "that's why they are so valuable!".

Another example? Whenever a character does or says something dubious, Pom - acting as the storyteller - will add an extra thought bubble of his own to reprimand the character. It's totally unique and never imitated. Except by me, that is, because I stole everything from Pom.
Even on my exams : whenever I thought an answer needed more explanation, I would add a Pom-esque arrow and box. My teachers were always confused, Pom never confused anyone.

With the recent passing of Jef Nys (another Belgian comic biggie), Pom and Marc Sleen (father of Nero) are the last two of the Mohicans. The true grand daddies of the Belgian comic book scene.

But unlike Marc Sleen, who at age 87 enjoys the attention he receives and attends as much retrospectives as possible, Pom is a notable recluse who never makes a public appearance. He doesn't care one bit about his oeuvre or his immense audience appreciation. He's not bitter, but he couldn't care less. I like to call him "the Van Morrison of comic books".

Four years ago, I got hold of his address and wrote Pom a letter. True to his hermit reputation, he never replied. But I'm pretty sure he got the letter and knows how much I appreciate him.

He's alive. He's 90 years old. He's the greatest. He's Pom.

Julian De Backer, 13 December 2009