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24 Hour Comics Day remembered

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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.

As the event grows, it’s becoming better organized. This year’s 24HCD was managed by retail organization Comics Pro, and even had its own energy drink sponsor. Can a spot on ESPN2 be far behind?

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.

  1. I rememeber how one year at SPX, a bunch of us were sitting around a table and almost had put together the idea for a dueling 24 hour comic showdown at Captain Blue Hen between Zander Cannon and Bill Willingham.

  2. We had over 40 plus students committed to drawing a comic book for 24 straight hours which began at 10am Saturday morning. The next morning at 10am, 25 students were proudly congratulating one another for working 24 straight hours and sharing their completed work. I’ve couldn’t been more proud and honored to be of the Academy Art’s inaugural first year hosting the event. Well done folks!

    Over 75 photos from our event – http://24hrcomic-academyart.blogspot.com/

    Scott McCloud’s name was cursed several times throughout the night.

  3. We hosted the event for the first time this year at the Academy of Art in the Illustration department. Our comic book program is growing and had over 40 students at the beginning and 25 still standing at10am the next day.As a comic book artist and teacher, I couldn’t have been more proud and amazed of the work ethic they showed throughout the event. My hats off to you class and those who participated throughout the world.

    Photos from the event -http://24hrcomic-academyart.blogspot.com/

  4. I am getting a grant to investigate the personality changes evident in the gap between posting to the Beat and coming up with a second post when you are convinced by the delay that something went wrong and you must post again.

    In this case, mr. cooney thinks better of mentioning Scott McCloud in terms that could possibly be construed as less than complimentary. He also thinks again about that exclamation point. Moderation in all things! All in the space of four minutes one night. This is a valuable new tool for literary deconstructionism.

  5. Christopher Moonlight said:
    “’before the Earth makes a full loop around the Sun.’
    Ha, ha! That’s a year.”

    Unless the article was edited after your comment, the sun wasn’t even mentioned, nor is the word “loop.”
    It says: “writing and illustrating a complete, 24-page comic before the Earth makes a full rotation on its axis.”

  6. “…before the Earth makes a full rotation on its axis.”

    Actually, it takes the Earth about 23 hours 56 minutes 4.1 seconds to make a full rotation on its axis– with respect to the “fixed” stars in space. Since the Earth is revolving about the Sun, the Earth has to rotate for another 3 minutes 55.9 seconds to complete one solar day.

    And don’t tell me that I’m the only nitpicking science geek who loves comics. ;)

  7. Oh Mr. Tebbel — it’s so easy to criticize one who volunteered their personal time to work with students enthusiastic about putting their ideas to paper and completing a comic book in 24 hours. I was being fecicious about my Scott McCloud comment John. I have a lot of respect for McCloud otherwise if I didn’t why host the event at all? I stayed up for 24 plus hours with these kids which I volunteered to do because I believe in the concept. I actually enjoy reading your comments here but feel I must defend what I posted and leave it at that.

    Maybe you should look into a grant studying the effects of a critics behavior posting on boards after reviewing comics for 24 hours. Should I send all the student’s work for you to review? I’m sure you have some constructive words you can give them John. Amazing how my posts with the intention to share the achievements of hardworking students can be minimized by your comments. Geez — lighten up! I’ll save a seat for you next year and get you out of your well worn armchair quarterback couch. My apologies for the use of the exclamation mark John — I’m happy to give you a reason to continue posting these enlightening comments of yours.

  8. It is no attack on Scott McCloud to say that folks were cursing his name at 3 AM during 24HCD, any more than it is an attack on fatherhood to say that women in labor sometimes curse their husband. Making a 24 hour comic is a glorious journey; it is not without pain.

  9. Dear Mr. Cooney, and all here,
    Sorry, no disrespect intended. I’ve obviously goofed here. I meant to chide the Beat’s slightly long wait time between comment submission and the actual posting. I’ve more than once re-written my post in that time too, re-shading my comments in the intervening seconds. Carry on, sir, in all your endeavors, and pay no attention to my lame comments on human nature, technology, my own crankiness, if that’s what they are. Again, my apologies.

  10. John Tebbel, it is inappropriate message board behavior to apologize for one’s contribution to a slight misunderstanding that causes offense. The proper response is to continue defending one’s original statement, even if what you are defending is not what you actually meant, and to simultaneously exponentially increase the severity of your attack on your opponent with each subsequent post, escalating the pissing match until your opponent gives up or the moderator is forced to close the thread. Come on! You should know this by now!

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