24 Hour Comic: A Documentary
The 24-hour comic started in 1990 as a creative exercise Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) posed to his friend Steve Bissette as a speed challenge. The goal is for an artist to create 24 pages in 24 hours. Since then, it’s become a day for cartoonists to gather, stretch their talent, and commiserate. (It’s now held the first Saturday in October.)
Milan Erceg has made a documentary about the phenomenon, 24 Hour Comic, that follows eight cartoonists trying the challenge at a comic store in Portland, Oregon. It’s now available for preorder with digital availability on July 11. Those eight artists are:
- Paul Guinan (Boilerplate)
- David Chelsea (movie co-producer)
- Rebecca Celsi (David’s 13-year-old daughter)
- Tom Lechner
- Rachel Nabors
- Sera Stanton
- Jacob Mercy (who works as an assistant to Chelsea) and Pete Soloway (who with Jacob has created Pizza Gun, last updated in 2015)
From internal evidence, such as the presence of Andrew McIntire, then vice-president of Things From Another World, the store where this was filmed, I believe the event was held in 2013. Also participating in the 70-minute movie are Mike Richardson (founder of Dark Horse Comics and the Things From Another World retail chain), Scott Allie (Dark Horse editor-in-chief), cartoonist Batton Lash, Scott McCloud (explaining the premise), and various late-night drunk store customers.
It was fascinating to see how the cartoonists reacted as the night went on. It was like being there without having to be there. The creative range was well-chosen, even if assembled by accident, with one cartoonist using a fountain pen, another a tablet computer. One person has tried the challenge 7 or 8 times and never succeeded, while Chelsea has completed fifteen 24-hour comics.
Erceg follows up with the participants individually, exploring the themes of creativity and what drives people to make comics. For example, Stanton (now known as Opal Pence) talked about working in a bookstore and cafe in order to make her comics. Guinan states he’s not able to make comics for money and has to do other things for income, while he’s working on his 24-hour comic as a pitch piece for media interest in his character.
After early success, Nabors quit comics in 2007 because she needed surgery and couldn’t pay for it. (She would likely have done much better in our new age of crowdfunding.) She’s now “a web person more than a comics person”. Comics are a venue for self-expression — and it’s treated as a medium, not a genre — yet the business aspects are what get in people’s way. Taking a full day away to highlight creativity instead of wondering “what will this become” is thus the perfect contrast. Here’s the trailer:
I only had two complaints. Sometimes, it takes the cameraperson some time to focus the show on what you’re supposed to be looking at, making for some temporarily fuzzy images. And I wasn’t sure whether everyone succeeded in the 24-hour comics goal. With five, it was clearly shown whether they finished or not, but the three others, I wasn’t sure of their final outcome.
24 Hour Comic is going on my shelf next to Cartoon College and She Makes Comics as significant documentaries about key moments in comics. It’s also an official selection of the 2017 Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, so the documentary will be shown on Saturday, July 22, in San Diego.