Producing comicbooks, like anything take time; generally speaking, the average 32-page comicbook takes a month or better to produce. Most comics carry 24 pages of artwork, an illustrated cover, an editorial text page or two, and five or six pages of ads pin-ups, or even a back-up featurette. A good artist should be able to pencil a page in about a day, with inks happening perhaps a bit faster. Lettering a book should take a couple of days, and —if the book is to be in color — a few more days for that. The actual writing of the script itself — which generally occurs first — is perhaps a more fluid time, but could take anywhere from a day or two to a couple of weeks.
As stated, this is the norm. However, in 1990, cartoonist, Scott McCloud, (who — at the time — referred to himself as “…the second-slowest artist in comics.” (The slowest being his good friend, and fellow artist, Steve “Glacier” Bissette). According to McCloud, Bissette, at the time, was just about able to produce a page a month. However, McCloud noticed that —at a signing at a local comics store, Bissette was able to whip out masterful pen and ink renderings at blinding speeds. “His hands ripped across the page, turning out that would make Heinrich Kley weep with envy.”
Given the relative speed with which Bissette churned out con sketches, McCloud believed that Bissette could produce a full length comic in a day if he wanted to. Whereupon, with that thought in his head, McCloud challenged Bissette to draw a complete 24-page comic in a single day. Then, to seal the deal, McCloud agreed to do one as well. McCloud then, on August 31, 1990, he went on to draw the very first 24-hour comic; just to prove it could be done, this was followed by Bissette rising to the challenge, and completing his on September 5 of that same year.
Well, word of the challenge spread, eventually reaching Dave Sim who started publishing his own 24-hour comics in the back of his very popular Cerebus the Aardvark comicbook. Soon enough McCloud had collected six 24-hour comics on his website from different, well-known comic-creators, when the experience began to hit the comicbook shops in force. In 2001, published Image-Two-In-One featuring The Herculean and Duncan spotlighting the work of Erik Larsen (The Herculean) and Chris Eliopoulos (Duncan) which was the 24-hour stories of the two creators.
Today two decades after the initial pair of comics, literally thousands of cartoonists have taken that same challenge and attempted to produce their own 24-Hour Comics. As with any challenge there are official guidelines for making their own. Needless to say, as the originator of the challenge, McCloud has established a set of rules for a comic to qualify as an official 24-Hour Comic:
1. It must be begun and completed within 24 consecutive hours.
2. Only one person may be directly involved in its creation, and it must span 24 pages, or (if an infinite canvas format webcomic is being made) 100 panels.
3. The creator may gather research materials and drawing tools beforehand, but cannot plan the comic’s plot ahead of time or put anything on paper (such as designs and character sketches) until he is ready for the 24 hours to begin.
4. Any breaks (for food, sleep, or any other purpose) are counted as part of the 24 hours.
As can be expected, not all cartoonists are able to complete the challenge. (Matt Ryan, President of Free Lunch Comics, and owner of Free Lunch Studios in Granby, CT tried it five times before being able to successfully complete the challenge. His successful version 24 Hour Comic Presents Sentinels of Blood Island (Free Lunch Comics) was published in 2011 and is for sale on his website.) Hence, if a cartoonist is unable to finish the comic in 24 hours, there are two courses of action suggested:
1. Stop the comic at the 24-hour mark — “the Gaiman variation” after Neil Gaiman‘s unsuccessful attempt
2. Continue working until all 24 pages are done — “the Eastman variation” after Kevin Eastman‘s unsuccessful attempt
McCloud refers to both of these as “noble failures,” which he will list on his site as long as he believes that the creator honestly intended to complete the project within the specified amount of time.
Numerous locations around the country have been established as “Official 24 Hour Comic” locations Free Lunch Studios in Granby, CT, and Sarge’s Comics in New London, CT are just two locations in CT). For more information about 24 Hour Comics Day (Oct. 1, 2011), or to locate an official 24 hour comics location, check out the official website.