24-hour comics day present, future & past

In case you didn’t already know it, this Saturday, October 1, is 24-hour comics day, where people around the world will be hunkering down with friends, pens, and caffeine with the project of conceiving, writing, penciling, and inking a 24-page comic during one continuous 24 hour period.

We’ve been talking it up with our students at SVA and several have announced that they plan on going through with it. I believe every cartoonist should try this challenge sometime. Indeed, it’s a bit of a rite of passage at this point.

I did a 24-hour comic back in 1995 in Austin Texas. I had just gotten to know Tom Hart, already a 24-hour veteran, and he and I decided to get together one weekend at my house along with our friends Josué Menjívar and Warren Craghead. We met at 10 AM and kept drawing straight through to 10 AM Sunday morning. As I recall, we only left the house once to go out for pancakes. Otherwise we were spread out in my apartment, alternately absorbed silently in our respective comics or else chatting about and observing each other’s creative processes. Tom had a binder full of notes, doodles, photos, and articles torn out of newspapers and magazines, all of which he drew from to come up with his comic. I think Warren also had some reference material he was working from. Josué and I started with only blank paper, though for my part I did have a few ideas about some unusual characters I’d observed recently at a café which went on to form the basis of my comic, First Warning (later selected, somewhat to my amazement, for inclusion in Scott McCloud’s 24 Hour Comics anthology from a while back).

cover of Matt's First Warning

Matt's 24-hour comic, First Warning, from 1995

The results from our quartet were probably pretty typical: Tom was completely finished with several hours to spare; I worked up to the last minute and still wasn’t done so I had to “annex” an extra few hours in a café a few days later to finish up inking; Warren didn’t come close to finishing but he repurposed a lot of the drawings and ideas he came up with into some later comics [update: I’m wrong, see Warren’s comment below for link—MM]; Josué was almost as far along as I was but if I recall correctly he never did get around to finshing up his inking. Regardless of the tangible results, however, we all agreed that it was an intense and bonding experience, a compressed workshop in creativity.

For my part, I’ll add that the 24-hour comic served two specific goals. I was at that point just gearing up to do my first book, Black Candy. I hadn’t drawn more than a 20-page comic before and I wasn’t sure if I would be up to completing a 50+ page comic, so cranking out 24 pages in 24 hours (and change) was a real confidence booster that got me psyched up to embark on that book. I was also planning to ink Black Candy mostly with brush but still felt underconfident with that tool, leading to too many lines that were wobbly and nervous. So I decided to ink my 24-hour comic entirely in brush—everything but the lettering—and I was really pleased with the results. It was sloppy and maybe a bit hard to read in places, but the lines had an energy and a sureness that my previous brush inking had lacked. And you can see the result of that 24-hour trial by fire in Black Candy, which I finished a few years later.

So get some friends together and make a 24-hour comic, sometime. And since they’ve set the date, why not do it this weekend? You’ll find all the resources and information you need here.


5 Comments to 24-hour comics day present, future & past

  • by Warren Craghead

    On September 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this Matt – I had such a good time (though my drive home was a little sketchy since I was so tired!) It was a really great way to both push myself to make something and to bond with other artists.

    I did eventually finish – you can read it here:

    Later, when I moved to St. Louis, I did some crazy projects like this (12-hour comic, page-a-day comic) including a crazy 24-hour cage-match comic with with Ted May. Constraints are freedom!

  • by Tom Hart

    On September 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Matt.

    I was reasonably happy with my results and extremely happy with the experience. We had a great time, and I remember that cafe time of you finishing your comic fondly. (What was the name of that great cafe? We went there often.)

    This was my third 24-hr comic and as usual I was trying to challenge myself to have no preconceptions. Sadly this has been my biggest failing as a growing artist. I think in the long-run, it’s good to nurture your good biases and habits while fostering new ones where needed. But you needn’t create from whole-cloth each time, as I was trying to do here.

    So my piece, “The Ditch The River The Sea The Snake” was fun, but it’s hard to believe it took 24 hours to make! It’s a slight thing.

    I recently collected it and a few other 24 hour comics, plus lots of my other early work, in a digital book here:

  • by Matt

    On September 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    That café was Mojo’s Daily Grind. I drew a ton there and made a bunch of good friends during my years in Austin. First Warning is partly set there, as are numerous scenes in Odds Off. (Black Candy is set partly at Les Amis, though I had Ann Arbor, not Austin, in mind as the setting.) I think it might still be there but long since under new management and possibly under a different name. current Austinites?

    Very good point about not needing to start from scratch every time you begin a new project. It’s something I’ve struggled with as well, often leaning too much on trying new stuff without perhaps building on established strengths (or at least competencies).

    And: buy Tom’s book everyone! This is a trove of great comics uncirculated for too long a time.

  • by Frank Santoro

    On October 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I remember “First Warning” – that was a good one!

  • by Matt

    On October 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    wow, thanks Frank!

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