Improvising Artists Drawn To Comic Jam When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz but not drawing comics. A little comic book shop in Dearborn, Mich., has an event it calls Comic Jam, where cartoonists take turns drawing panels in a comic strip on the fly.
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Improvising Artists Drawn To Comic Jam

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Improvising Artists Drawn To Comic Jam

Improvising Artists Drawn To Comic Jam

Improvising Artists Drawn To Comic Jam

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When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz but not drawing comics. A little comic book shop in Dearborn, Mich., has an event it calls Comic Jam, where cartoonists take turns drawing panels in a comic strip on the fly.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris reports on what one artist calls a relay race on paper.

KYLE NORRIS: There's be-bop on the stereo at Green Brain Comics. And people are chit-chatting and munching on cheese and crackers and those tiny little grapes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

NORRIS: Cartoonist Matt Feazell has got a sheet of paper with a picture of the Yellow Kid, an old comic-strip character from the 1800s.

MONTAGNE: Well, I got a picture of the Yellow Kid. He's sitting at a table with a seltzer bottle on it, and there's a guy in a green hat looking in the window at him. And there's a parrot and a black cat.

NORRIS: Feazell knows what he wants to draw right off the bat.

MONTAGNE: So there's a lot of stuff here that could happen after this first panel. I'm going to draw the cat jumping up on the table and knocking over the seltzer bottle.

NORRIS: Eventually someone hands the paper to Suzanne Baumann.

MONTAGNE: And now I've got to decide what goes up next. Hmm.

NORRIS: Baumann scans the original Yellow Kid panel for clues. There's some cool vintage furniture in the picture that she likes, and a bottle of booze.

MONTAGNE: Now that I see this parrot that's on the chair, I'm thinking maybe the parrot should want that cigar.

NORRIS: It's pretty easy to see how an idea in one panel flows into the next, as the comic strip develops. But there are no rules at these jams. And that's part of the thrill, says artist Paul Sizer.

MONTAGNE: Sometimes people will lay down a previous panel to you with the intent of derailing you immediately. And so it's like, you know, see if you can recover from this. And you're like, oh, I'll take your challenge and I throw this at you.

NORRIS: Store co-owner Dan Merritt says imagination is what brings comics to life; even named his store Green Brain Comics because he says the magic of comics happens in a very intimate place - our heads.

DAN MERRITT: It doesn't play out necessarily in front you like a movie does. It's a series of images that are juxtaposed to show you a story evolve. But the real evolution of the story is in your brain. It really gives you the power to figure out what happens between the panels.

NORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Kyle Norris.

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