Last Saturday saw cartoonists all over the world put pencil and pen to the grindstone for this year’s 24 Hour Comics Day. Since the annual event was formally organized by Nat Gertler in 2004, each year has seen a dramatic increase in participation, with more and more people feeling crazy enough to undertake writing and illustrating a complete, 24-page comic before the Earth makes a full rotation on its axis.
(Above: Cartoonists in Mexico facing the 24 hour challenge)
This 24 Hour Comics Day website reports that comics shops and art centers in at least 20 countries and 33 U.S. states hosted all-day cartooning sessions on Oct. 18 & 19, providing camaraderie, snacks and support for when the fatigue eventually set in. No doubt there were also plenty of people undertaking the marathon in the solitude of their own homes.
24 Hour Comics Day’s humble beginning was a bit of a dare between Scott McCloud and Steve Bissette over 18 years ago, as McCloud explains:
“In the summer of 1990 I was convinced that I was the second-slowest artist in comics. The slowest, my pal Steve “Glacier” Bissette, was having a particularly slow year, producing at a rate of a little over a page a month when he came to the Boston area from his native Vermont to do a signing at a local comics store. I watched in awe as he did sketches for fans. His hands ripped across the page at blinding speed, turning out masterful pen and ink renderings that would make Heinrich Kley weep with envy. I thought: Why is this guy slow?? I’ll bet he could do a full length comic in a day if he wanted to! Why, I’ll bet he —
[Sound Effect: Lightbulb clicks on.]
Suddenly, I knew what Steve needed to do. And I knew I could only get him to do it, if I did one too.”
(Above: Panels from A DAY’S WORK, McCloud’s first 24-Hour Comic)
McCloud and Bissette each produced a comic, which Dave Sim then published, along with his own contribution, in the back pages of CEREBUS. From there the idea took off, spawning thousands of comics, and eventually inspiring a 24 Hour Plays movement, which in turn birthed a 48 Hour Film project.
The one thing we wish 24HCD had was a place online to see the fruits of everyone’s labor. Scott McCloud used to keep an index before the movement got quite so massive, but it hasn’t been updated in years, and many of the links are now broken.
Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library has a physical collection of 24HCD comics, and Tom Spurgeon rounds up some of this year’s participants, but the movement may have become simply too large to track. Last year, there were more than 1200 participants, and this year, there were undoubtedly still more. How many made it to the finish line remains to be seen, but the ones we’ve seen are generally quite impressive! Here’s one of our favorites, from Minneapolis cartoonist Kevin Cannon.
Posted by Aaron Humphrey.