The Rapidian

GR Comics Roundtable explores possibilities comics can provide

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Grand Rapids Comics Roundtable 'Jam Comic'

Grand Rapids Comics Roundtable 'Jam Comic' /Matthew Reidsma

When Matthew Reidsma left Boston to move to Grand Rapids, he didn't expect to find another comics round table like the one he enjoyed  while living in Boston, nor did he expect to start one in Grand Rapids. Then he met fellow comic artist Drew Damron.  

Reidsma writes and draws his own autobiographical comics in the daily strip High Maintenance Machine. He describes the strip as "comics about running out of toilet paper." Reidsma met Damron while Reidsma was serving as a panelist at an expo for local artists at the UICA last year. Damron, an aspiring artist at the time, approached Reidsma. The two talked and the Grand Rapids Comics Roundtable was born. 

The Grand Rapids Comics Round Table is a supportive community of local comics artists and writers that meet biweekly to offer constructive criticism, feedback, advice and all-around support, goodwill and conversation regarding all things comics. Much like a writers' workshop, members bring works in progress for review and feedback. The idea of the group is to foster creativity and provide a common ground for writing, drawing and loving comics. Anyone with an interest in comics is welcome to attend.  So where does the group find it's direction and role models within the comics world?

Members of GRCRT find inspiration from independent and self-published comics that are more literary and autobiographical in scope and to "explore the possibilities that comics can provide," Damron said. "We believe in diversity in comics, not just super hero stuff. If all movies were Sci-Fi, then everyone would be bored."

That being said, GRCRT wishes to remain open to anyone with an interest in comics of any genre. The come-one-come-all mentality has helped attract more attendees with each session.  The fact that the roundtable has been attracting new members illustrates how comics have grown in popularity and respectability.  No longer quarantined off into the realm of escapist fluff about superpowered men in spandex.

Comics are gaining more respect as a serious, literary and artistic medium. Many colleges now offer courses on the graphic novel as literature. Time Magazine even listed the acclaimed and canonized 1986 graphic novel "Watchmen" as one of the 100 greatest English Language novels from 1923 - present.

Role models for the group include independent artists like John Porcellino, James Kochalka , Julie Doucet, Drawn and Quarterly comics, Adrian Tomine, and self-publishing pioneer Dave Sim, whose seminal work Cerebus the Aardvark remains one of the staggering achievements of the comics world.

This spring, GRCRT is planning on releasing a self-published anthology comprising works by group members. According to Reidsma, the group is "Empowered to make our own comic." There is no set release date yet, but Damron hopes that word of the collection's publication will spread by Facebook postings and good old fashioned word of mouth .

One thing to expect from the GRCRT anthology is a collection of "jam comics" the group has created: Every session, one member starts with a panel and the page is passed to the next person who contributes the next panel. The improvisational nature of the comic and the colloboration among the artists makes the Jam strips interesting and a unique creation of the GRCRT.

If you are interested in comics and would like to join the discussion, the GRCRT meets every two weeks at the Sparrows Coffee Tea and Newstand (1035 Wealthy SE). The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on March 18. For more details, visit the Facebook group.

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