Crispy Ginger Crumples
For those of you that don't know, a 24-hour comic is kind of like a DARE that was invented by Scott McCloud. The goal is to draw 24 pages of Comics in 24 CONSECUTIVE hours. I did my first 24-hour comic in 2002 and it was such an incredible creative experience I vowed to do one 24-hour comic a year for the rest of my life.
This year's (my fifth!) was a little late (January 2nd) but that was to accomodate a secondary schedule, because this year I drew the 24-hour comic COLLABRATIVELY with my friend Aaron. I must say, this was an EXTREMELY interesting experiment in Comics-making and collabrative art.
My apartment is much too small for this sort of thing, so we met at Aaron's place in Brooklyn, Sunday night, at about 11pm. I had taken a 2-hour nap that afternoon, but unfortunately, Aaron had been unable to sleep that day. (Which was BAD, because he had been out LATE the night before, which was NEW YEARS EVE).
For YEARS people have given me crap for always starting my 24-hour comics at midnight, but THINK about it! If you start at 8am, when you are "fresh" then you draw ALL DAY, and then ALL NIGHT and THEN, when you are done and you are TOTALLY exhausted -- it's 8am of a new day! So what then? Go to sleep? Lose ANOTHER day sleeping? That kind of stuff TOTALLY screws up my sleep schedule for DAYS, so instead, I just start at MIDNIGHT, draw all night, draw all day--getting SUUUUUPER exhausted--but then when it's done, it's MIDNIGHT! And you get a REALLY WELL EARNED night of rest! You wake up the next morning and everything's pretty much back to normal (except you have a rad 24 page comic to read!!!)
Anyways, we set up a work station for me, using a drawing board I had brought over. (We also took a picture of Aaron at the beginning, but he forbade me to post it, so no dice!) This set-up actually worked pretty well. The drawing board worked great for my back (nice and steep), but because of the wall, I couldn't really slide my page up when working on the lower panels, so my NECK really started hurting, from having to look so low to work on the bottom row of panels. The stepping stool I sat on sort of hurt my bony ass, so after about 12 hours I got a blanket to sit on.
I was SUPER suprised how well my WRIST held up. I thought I was going to be in a lot of pain during the drawing and I thought afterwards I wouldn't be able to hold a pen for a WEEK. Especially, because for the whole week leading up to this comic, I was drawing 8-10 hours a day on Basewood! Maybe it was because of the brushes, or because a whole semester of drawing CONSTANTLY has really strengthened my wrist and hand, but anyways, almost no pain there, which was awesome!
Now, you are not supposed to do ANY preparatory work for a 24-hour comic. Part of the process is that it is IMPROVISED. For my last four though, I have thought of a THEME beforehand, or a beginning (but still with no written outlines or character sketches allowed!) So beforehand, Aaron and I had decided that we would do a SPACE comic, which started with two convict characters on their way to jail.
When the clock hit midnight, we tore off two sheets of bristol--Aaron started with page 1 and I started with page 2--and then we started TALKING. We figured out approximently what would happen on our pages and then we started drawing. We DID pencil a LITTLE, but we really tried to keep it to a minimum. I have never done any penciling with my previous 24-hour comics, but it was necessary this time, so that Aaron and I could communicate with eachother about what needed to be inked.
So Aaron and I each tried to fill "half" of the page. And I don't mean that we drew the first panel, skipped the second panel and then drew the third panel. We actually drew in EVERY panel, but only half of it. So sometimes on the first round we'd just draw half of the characters in a panel, or we'd draw the backgrounds, or the FOREground and one of the characters, or ALL of the characters with NO backgrounds, or just a characters head, or their arm, or their legs, etc. etc. You get the idea. Then, after an hour had passed, we'd swap the pages and FINISH the page, by filling in the other half of all of the panels (or at least that's how we STARTED the process).
It was REALLY cool. Aaron and I definitely have different styles of drawing, so it was cool to draw on the same page together. We had to sort of meet half-way, or often we'd end up mimicking eachother's style. Like Aaron would just draw a head, but he'd have a rough pencil of the body, so then I'd ink an "Aaron Renier" body onto it. Or I'd start a certain brushstroke for a region of background, and then Aaron would have to copy it and continue it.
I think this was SO MUCH COOLER than doing a traditional "Jam" comic, where two or more comic artists alternate between their own panels. If we had done THAT, I think it wouldn't count as a 24-hour comic, because technically you'd have only drawn HALF of the required 24 pages (like drawing 12 pages of Comics). But this way, Aaron and I BOTH drew in every panel in the comic.
Anyways, so at the end of two hours we had two pages of comics. Then we'd talk for a few more minutes and decide what would happen on the NEXT two pages. (We would also talk a lot WHILE we were drawing, about what should happen next in the plot). The story is pretty silly, but it was A LOT of fun to draw. "The Pressure" is really off with a 24-hour comic, so we cut loose and just played with jokes and drew fun things and had a good time.
The first stretch was SUPER easy. It was slow going at first, but once we had invented our main characters and set up some sort of PLOT we were set! It got a little rough around 6am or so--Aaron needed coffee BAD and was super exhausted. He took a small nap while I kept working. Then we drew until 8am (when the coffee shop opens!) and Aaron took Beluga for a walk and went to get coffee while I slept for 15 minutes. We were a little ahead at that point, so it was okay.
We had gotten our second wind when we sat down again and we just chugged through the next few hours. By the afternoon we were getting pretty tired, but then we figured out a great twist in the PLOT for pages 16 and 17. We spent those two hours LAUGHING and full of energy because we were so excited about those pages. This was ESPECIALLY good, I thought, because it has been my experience that hour 18 is usually the WORST.
The other interesting thing about pages 16 and 17 is that's when we started passing the pages back and forth MORE than once. Those pages have a lot of characters, so we'd draw a few random characters, pass the pages, draw some more and maybe some backgrounds, pass them again, fill in more, pass them again, etc. It really became integrated--drawing on top of eachother's stuff, using white-out to overlap sections and redraw stuff, etc. etc. It's like we melded into one giant Comics making machine!!!
We took another small break after we were done with 16/17 to walk Beluga and get some fresh air. That was a BIG MISTAKE. Maybe it was the cold air, or the lapse in focus, but when we came back we were TIRED. We instantly got in a big argument about what should happen on the next page and then we started quarrelling about which music to listen to, etc. etc. Then, I got SUPER paranoid that Aaron was going to bail out on me. He KEPT saying "I'm SOOOO tired" every few minutes, and at one point I looked over and he WASN'T drawing, he was just sitting there, staring at his page. He stood up and said, "Ugh! I can't do this!" ("OH NO" I thought!!! "HERE IT COMES!") and then he said, "I need COFFEE." (Pfew!)
So Aaron came back with a jumbo coffee and sat down to work. We were behind, and discouraged and EXTREMELY tired (Aaron moreso than me, as I NEVER drink caffeine, so the cokes I had were really keeping me wired). But we worked through it. Aaron would say, "I'm SO utterly exhausted" and I would say "KEEP DRAWING" and we just kept going. Aaron put on some playlists of Billie Holiday and Graham Smith, which really REALLY helped me get through that last stretch.
At about 8pm we still had 6 pages to go and we KNEW that we weren't going to have it done by midnight. The two "Noble Failure" options for the 24-hour comic are 1) The Gaiman Variation (named for Neil Gaiman, who was the first 24-hour comic participant to reach 24 hours and say, "Ahn, I'm DONE" even though he didn't have 24 pages yet) and 2) The Eastman Variation (named for Kevin Eastman, who was the first 24-hour comic participant to reach 24 hours and say "I'M NOT GOING TO STOP UNTIL I'M DONE"). We, (OF COURSE) chose the Eastman route.
We really had to dig deep to find the energy to finish off the comic. Not only were we physically tired, but we were MENTALLY exhausted as well! We decided to take the last four pages and lay them out all at once. So at that point we were just handing pages back and forth CONSTANTLY. I finished a bit before Aaron, so while he worked on his last page I went back through the finished pages (which were taped up on the wall, all around Aaron's room) and added STARS to the black sky panels with a white-out pen and did some quick continuity editing (mostly adding a TAIL to one of the main characters that we forgot to draw in A LOT of panels).
As soon as it was done Aaron crawled up into his bed and fell instantly asleep. I was still too worked up from the caffiene though, so I took down all the pages, put them in order and read our comic for the first time. I usually dislike sleep in general, but I will say this: there is no greater feeling on earth than lying down to some WELL EARNED sleep when you are TOTALLY EXHAUSTED from doing something you LOVE for hours on end.
So anyways, I hope people enjoy the comic and that it makes SOME sort of sense. I don't know if I'll ever do it this way again, but if I do, it'll have to be with a REALLY good friend, like Aaron is. It was EXTREMELY intense and took a lot of compromise and flexibility. But it was also a TON of fun! :)
(For those of you that read all the way down here, here's another link to the Comic! Enjoy it!)