My Fourteenth 24-Hour Comic
Yesterday I drew my fourteenth 24-Hour Comic. I bent the rules a bit this year, drawing an 8-page minicomic called, "Hey, Where's Alec?" and a 16-page "Isle of Elsi Activity Book." If anyone would like to disqualify these efforts as a 24-Hour Comic, I'm okay with that. After drawing one 24-Hour Comic a year since 2001, I don't feel like I have anything left to prove for this challenge. I have 24 pieces of paper with comics, drawings and writing all over them; I'm going to call it a 24-Hour Comic. It took me from 8:30am on December 30th 'till 1:17am on December 31st to draw everything.
I'm not going to post these pages online because I plan on printing up both of these projects as minicomics next year. Hey, Where's Alec? will be mailed out to all the Phase Seven Subscribers and I'm hoping Greg will be willing to carry some at the Tugboat Press table at various conventions next year. The comic explains why I am not attending any comic conventions in 2015.
My big goal for 2015 is to get Isle of Elsi ready to launch. The real website is slowly coming together, I've started drawing and coloring buffer pages, and I have over 200 pages of stories scripted and ready to draw. The Isle of Elsi Activity Book will be a free giveaway at conventions in 2016 to let kids know about the webcomic. It is very similar in scope to the Dragons! book that Tugboat Press published for Free Comic Book Day back in 2011. It's got comics, games, puzzles, activities, etc. For the final version of the book, I will actually redraw everything from this 24-Hour Comic version, but it was still time well spent. In one creative burst I was able to immerse myself in this project. I'm very happy with the results.
I was occasionally checking my Twitter as I worked on this year's 24-Hour Comic, and I fielded a request for any "protips" from one of my current CCS students, Reilly Hadden. I thought I'd repost and expand upon some of that advice here, for anyone thinking about drawing a 24-Hour Comic of their own...
For my first two 24-Hour Comics I tried to use the same bristol board and dip-ink nibs that I use for my "regular" comics. This really made the challenge extremely difficult. Because of the large page size (11" x 14") I used a 2x3 grid of panels, which, at an hour a page, means you only have 10 minutes for each panel, which is just brutal. It also doesn't allow for any breaks, ever! I'm glad I got this out of my system in my early twenties. I honestly don't think I could draw a 24-Hour Comic like this again.
One breakthrough I had on my fourth 24-Hour Comic, Scars, was to just use a ballpoint pen on copy paper. Not only was it faster, it removed any desire to pencil, and somehow tapped into that feeling of "kid" drawing. And by that, I mean the feeling of just drawing one panel after another, and having fun with it. Leaving mistakes as they are and moving on, which is exactly the kind of spirit you need in a 24-Hour Comic. Of course, I decided to draw those pages with four tiers, so it still almost killed me.
The next big breakthrough was on my eighth 24-Hour Comic, The 2008 Phase Seven Summer Supplement, when I shrunk the page-size way down (8.5" x 11" with some hefty margins) and dropped the panel layout to two tiers. There is still some part of my brain that feels like this is cheating, but nowhere in the official rules does it say how many panels you need to have on each page. In fact, for The Online Variation, which may not have "pages" per se, Scott McCloud suggests drawing 100 panels in 24 hours, which would break down to about four panels per page. The combination of drawing small and with fewer panels per page really made this process much more enjoyable for me. Instead of staying awake for the entire 24 hours and being stressed out the whole time, it brought it down to about 16 hours. That is still a lot of drawing, but it mellows it out to the point where I can now draw a 24-Hour Comic without bursting into tears and having a nervous breakdown at the 18-hour mark. I did not have the maturity or confidence to scale down this project in my early twenties, when I felt like I was trying to prove something with each comic that I drew. I'm glad I'm out of that headspace now.
Lastly, I think there are a variety of ways to approach the content of a 24-Hour Comic. Some of my favorites have been experimenting with a new art technique as I did in Colors, which used a variety of mixed media or Super Dream which let me play around with an ink spattering technique. 24-Hour Comics can also be an amazing opportunity to collaborate with another cartoonist or artist. I had an absolute blast, and learned so much by drawing on the same pages with Aaron Renier, Max de Radiguès and Claire Sanders. 24-Hour Comics are also a great way to meditate on some aspect of your life for 24 consecutive hours. Drawing comics is cheap therapy, and I have used 24-Hour Comics to work through breakups (in Daydream #0007, which is not online), changing relationships and my wife's cancer treatment. Or, as I did this year, you can just use a 24-Hour Comic to kill off a project from your to-do list.
Each year I seem to forget how hard it is to draw a 24-Hour Comic. Especially the last few years... I think, "At this point I've done it so many times, it must not be that bad!" But make no mistake, it is a punishing process. Even getting it down to 16 hours or so, that's still more drawing than I am used to doing in one stretch! Luckily, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives and each year I am excited to try it again. I still want to do an Online Variation someday, and I'm itching to draw something weird and abstract that will never be printed anywhere and is just for me - something I create just for the pleasure of creating it. I can't afford to spend my time doing that kind of stuff on a day-to-day basis, but at least I set aside one day a year to try something new!