24-Hour Comics Day 2008

My third attempt at producing a 24-page comic book in 24 consecutive hours didn't go as planned.

cartoonists at the 2008 24-hour comic workshop at Hub Comics in Somerville MA

The mighty Hub Comics 24-Hour Comics crew, just before starting work at noon: Hyun Supul, Andy Wong, Aya Rothwell, Yours Truly, and some poor chap I can't remember the name of. Photo from Aya Rothwell's blog.

I drew my previous 24-hour comic "Soaked" at Comicopia in Boston's Kenmore Square, far from my Somerville neighborhood of Inman Square. Those conditions forced me to concentrate...

...on the job at hand. While I ran out of time to make it coherent, the basic story got finished. The host's professionalism and experience was also helpful. The clock started on time, food was plentiful, and they publicized our mission to all the local media. This year's host was Somerville's Hub Comics, about three blocks from my new apartment and yards away from Union Square. Despite this ideal situation, I couldn't focus enough to finish. By noon on Sunday, there were barely 16 penciled pages to show for my scatterbrained effort, no word balloons or inks. After my previous success, it looked like I'd finish with ink and script and color. How could I have been this wrong? How did this happen? Oh Survivior, why hast thou forsaken thy "Eye of the Tiger"?

This post isn't so much for the public, but a Momento-like note to myself for next year. Looking back, it just wasn't my year.

Andy Wong working on his 24-hour comic book, 2008

Andy Wong working on his 24-hour comic. I wasn't the only digital artist, just the least productive one.

Alibi One: Much Too much

I lost my full time web development job this Spring and've been scrambling for freelance work ever since. In addition, condo conversion forced me to move from Somerville's Inman Square to a much nicer place in Somerville's Union Square. While both changes proved positive in the long run, they put me in a state of perpetual hustle mode. Keeping all the plates spinning left me too tired to even think of the comic.

Alibi Two: Friendly Neighborhood neighborhood

My primary connections were Hub Comics' staff and building. This was my first neighborhood comic book store since Allston in the 1980s. By the time of 24-Hour Comics Day, I've logged hundreds of hours talking with the owner and staff. In this environment, I didn't mind being the oldest guy in the room. It was like hanging out at a friend's place, with kids in the den. I felt no connection to the younger artists' taste in movies, music or comics.

I wonder if John Garcia felt the same way about me. In addition to being a historian, illustrator and friend, he was also a mentor in understanding the business of commercial art. For the first time in 28 years, he's not around to impress. (For the record, he thought using digital tools on a 24-hour comic was stupid and much slower than drawing by hand.)

Alibi Three: Guess Who's Coming to Lunch + Dinner + Breakfast + Lunch?

When I got to, Hub Comics approximately 11:30, there was only one table set up, and 5 cartoonists looking for space to work. I helped the store's manager Jesse clear off 2 tables in the basement. In defense of their first 24-Hour Comic Day, the RSVPs didn't match the number of people who showed up. Officially, the noon event started promptly at 1:00 PM.

Alibi Four: Running on Empty

Hub Comics manager Jesse Farrell holding DVDs of Rollerball and Logan's Run

I brought 70's sci fi classics Rollerball and Logan's Run, which Jesse approved

I tried following the spirit by not preparing. I hoped to plot and draw at the same time, creating an amazing panel-by-panel improvisation. With nothing in my head or heart at that moment, I chicken-shitted into planning a storyline. With no real concept, I strung some long-forgotten anecdotes together. According to the "Created" tag of page 1, the plotting and thumbnailing took almost 5 hours (1:00 - 5:42).

How easily-distracted was I? Sometime near 7:00 PM, I went to a local bar to watch 2 innings of the World Series, running away from both my writer's block and this rag tag collection of productive artists.

During my freshman year at MassArt, I was somehow allowed in an advanced watercolor class. The teacher was an internationally-known 50-something with a quiet, soft-spoken style. Most of us knew to shut up and learn. There was one kid who decided he was smarter the rest of us mere mortals. Can't remember his name, but we derisively called him "The Pro". He sure talked a good game, yet his work was substandard. Once he even challenged the teacher by saying "I've been watercolor painting for 7 years, and don't need to follow your instructions." As we were in shock, the teacher said he'd been using watercolors for over 30 years and that we should listen to him. If memory serves me well, we all laughed at "The Pro", who was eventually bounced out of the program.

For this year's 24-Hour Comics Day, I might've been "The Pro". While everyone talked about how hard this mission was, most of the "pups" finished.

Hub Comics 24-hour comics crew at 3:30am

The Hub Comics 24-hour Comics crew at 3:30am, just before getting kicked out by the Somerville Police: Yours Truly, Sean Downey, Chris Little, Hyun Supul, Aya Rothwell, and Andy Wong. Blanking on everyone else I'm afraid.

Alibi Five: Dragnet

At 3:30 AM on Sunday morning, Somerville Police officers approached the store. Jesse was the only staff member there. They asked if Hub Comics had a permit for a public event after posted business hours. Jess said he didn't know and the owner James just left. The policemen said without a permit, we all had to leave the store. Jess pleaded by saying the store wasn't doing business and they had a casual relationship with Somerville City Hall. The cops didn't want to hear any of this and ordered us out of the building immediately.

Luckily another artist lived close by and let us crash/work at his place. In addition to having no drive, no concept and no sleep, I was now in someone else's house with a bunch of other cartoonist vagabonds. What little momentum I had was lost.

I joined Jesse (who went back to the store to clean up) around 8:00 AM, and worked until noon. For all that drama, I only had 16 pencil pages. Getting rescued by Sam was a releif.

Conclusion: What Did We Learn Today?

  • I wasn't ready this year
  • There are some wonderfully talented people out there
  • Being a neighborhood fixture isn't what it's cracked up to be
  • Most true artists don't RSVP
  • Blowhards are never productive
  • Police are very serious people, especially in cold weather
  • There's always next year

Thanks for reading. Goodnight and good luck.

Your 24-hour buddy Dave

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