By Hana Marku
What is a comic jam, you ask? It’s a group of people who like to draw comics getting together and collaboratively doing what they love best, i.e. drawing comics. You don’t have to be a professional (though many professionals do attend), nor do you have to have come in with a portfolio of your best work. It is the equivalent of a bunch of actors performing a short skit on the spot, jazz musicians improvising on a riff, poets scatting from a line of poetry, etc., etc. If you are a comic artist yourself (aspiring or professional), or are simply fascinated by the medium, comic jams are an excellent way of observing the craft of others, and of creating contacts with those who share your passion. It’s raw creative energy at its best, with the most common method of jamming being that of freestyle jamming, in which an artist begins a panel of a story and passes it on to each artist in turn until it is completed.
The evolution of Canadian comic jams can be traced back to Montreal, with two cousins by the names of David and Carl Bacha, previously of The Funny Farm Freaks collective, whose jams were casual, informal get-togethers of comic artists as well as neophytes. The Funny Farms Freak comic jam was expanded and taken to another level by Rupert Bottenberg, who founded the official Montreal Comic Jam in the mid ’90s. The huge success of the Montreal Comic Jams has since spawned jams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and all other cities where comic artists ploy their craft.
Comic jams of all kinds abound–one can attend the more serious, art-driven jams, or the more social, and dare I say it, alcohol-driven jams; both provide an opportunity to shoot the breeze, as well as share ideas and experiences. Dalton Sharpe, cartoonist and organizer of the Toronto comic jam, commented that the ratio of men and women has evened out in recent years, while bathroom humour has faded (I wonder if some law of inversion is at work here). Comic jams are typically held in diners or in bars, with little or no entrance fees, the only consistent policy seems to be BYOP (bring your own pencil). Many comic jams also print anthologies of the best works, on a monthly or annual basis.
If you’re in Toronto and are interested in attending a jam, a good one to start out with is the Toronto Comic Jam, which is held on the last Tuesday of every month at the Cameron House at 408 Queen St. West (more info can be found at http://torontocomicjam.com). In Montreal, the monthly Comix Jam is held on the last Wednesday of every month at La Sala Rossa at 4848 St-Laurent. The Vancouver Comic Jam is held on the third Saturday of every month at the Jolly Alderman Pub at 500 12th Ave West (more info at http://community.live journal.com/vcj/). One can also take part in ongoing online comic jams, such as the Global Comic Jam at www.globalcomicjam.com , and the Strip Blog Jam at www.bugpowder.com/stripblogjam.