So there are two events happening this weekend that I want people to know about… especially if you are in Chicago. Please come if you can. After the info is a blog entry about my history with collaborive comics. Please read if you are interested. Thank you! Hope you are having a great summer!
THE INFINITE CORPSE, THE EVEREXPANDING LIVING CHAIN COMIC
On display at the MCA Saturday July 27th, 10 am - 5 pm
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL
Live Performance / Reading at Brain Frame Sunday, July 28th, 6 pm
3221 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL
Collaborative comics have been something I've been interested in for a very long time.
I started doing them with my sister and friends in high school, someone drawing the first panel, and a friend drawing the next. In college in Milwaukee it became something I did with my fellow illustration students, something to do to avoid being social at parties, something that we had control of, and could get utterly lost in. I had no idea that other people did them, or that they were called "jam" comics.
While in college I spent a small amount of time in New York at the School of Visual Arts. I didn't know anyone, and my weekends were spent by myself, drawing in the room I was renting in Queens. A few weeks in a decided to force myself to get out into the amazing city I so badly wanted to live in. So I entered Manhattan as if it was gigantic party I didn't feel quite comfortable in. I bought a card table and made make-shift dry erase boards out laminated paper and rigged them up with cardboard and velcro in sort of display, and asked strangers to draw comics with me. In retrospect I should have been very embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for myself. I was sort of the comics version of people waving "free hugs" signs. I was young, had regrettable facial hair, and friendless. I had very little to lose.
That project, which I called "Dry Humor" was a huge part of me climbing out of my awkward teen years. I chatted with drunks, street art vendors, tourists and locals all around the East Village, Chelsea and frequently around the Met. I was harassed by cops for not having a vendors license, and when I told them I wasn't selling anything, they just told me to move to another block so they didn't have to deal with me. People were almost always friendly and I took photographs of all the work.
It was around this time that I bought a copy of RAWs Narrative Corpse. A book edited by R. Sikoryak, and Art Spiegleman and was a chain comic by 69 of the best cartoonists at the time. It blew my mind.
As the years passed I learned more about "jam" comics, and started drawing them with cartoonists in Portland OR, New York, and finally now in Chicago. It always seemed like the most natural way of hanging out with cartoonist friends. I think many cartoonists would agree.
My own work is my work, but there is something special about doing collaborative comics. Here in Chicago I am a member of a cartoonist collective called Trubble Club. A hugely supportive and inspirational group. We meet every week and work on our comics together… creating comics none of us would have made on our own, but treating them with the attention to detail we have with our own work.
We are always trying to outdo our last project, and we had just finished our fifth issue… a full color newspaper edition. It took us 3 years to finally put the finishing touches on. After the fifth issue I wanted to think of a new fun thing to do. I wanted to follow the Narrative Corpse book. Pick up right where it left off.
So one day I just decided to do it. I drew three panels that followed that project and then mailed my panels to my friend Jason Shiga. I talked to my fellow Trubble Clubber, Nate Beaty about maybe making a website that was just a huge "jam" comic. Something that people could build off of forever. I kept sending out panels to artists I admired, Trubble Club asked artists they were friends with. Eventually we asked 69 artists just like the RAW book. Including R. Sikoryak and Art Spiegelman. Both not only giving their approval, but submitting art. It was amazing.
The website started taking shape. It started morphing… into something that more closely related to a family tree, or a choose your own adventure. Each additional artist became a branch off of the original group… until it just became a fog of story lines a gigantic 205 artists were included when the website went live. Nate Beaty is a genius.
And now, only a few months later with have over a hundred new artists sending in art. It's open to submissions, just like the dry erase comic. It's open to everyone who wants to do it. And open to all of those who already have gone before.
I don't think that "jam" comics are any sort of great literature. They are difficult to read and frequently go very south with genitals and excrement… but there is something very magical about having so much say in the way a story goes, and also having absolutely no say at all. It becomes a living breathing story that no one person has control over, and is extremely exciting to watch grow… especially if you had a hand in it.
If you are reading this and draw or want to draw comics, it'd be great if you contributed. No pressure. I feel a little awkward mentioning it… it makes me feel like I have a weird goatee again and am lugging around a huge card table covered in velcro. I'd prefer to feel like we're hanging out in a corner at a lame party passing time.
ps I just opened a Big Cartel page to test it out. If you ever wanted any of my work look there or email me.