The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Parting Thoughts on the 24 Hour Comic Book Challenge

All right, before I get into the meat of this post, I'd like to give a shout-out and general thanks to my good friend, roommate, and co-worker, Michael (Who appears as Michael in the MiSTEam comics). He stayed up almost the entire time coding the ability for me to make newsposts into the website, and also making those really neato progress bars at the bottom of the comic. He also diligently read every strip and informed me of typos and other errors. Rock on, Mike. Rock on.

Now, here's my thoughts on challenge itself. First of all, it's much more difficult that I imagined. Unless you're really naive, or you have a very poorly discerning eye, and you also managed to missed my post about "finding my pen" a few months ago, you should already know that my comic is a "paper doll" variety. I have vectorized versions of the characters, and some of the common backgrounds, which I manipulate to make any given comic. So the amount of actual drawing work that goes into any given comic is actually fairly minimal. Typically I just have to just resize the characters, position all their body parts in the proper locations, then add mouths and eyebrows to convey emotion. Then I just have to quickly draw up whatever special backgrounds I need for any particular comic. So even when I'm just making normal MiSTEam comics it usually only takes me a couple of hours, start to finish. So I figured I could easily cut that down to an hour a page by just doing a little bit of cutting and pasting and taking less time to perfectly work out the dialogue.

Well, what I didn't realize is that even if you are able to produce a page an hour, you need to be able to replicate that same production level 24 times in a row (and in my case I had to do 27 to get to the 100 panels minimum), without taking a break. In my entire 24 hour period, I stopped working on the comic only 3 times. Once to take a 5 minute shower, once to run out to the convenience store down the street and get more caffeine, and once to watch an episode of the Simpsons on DVD (just to keep my sanity). I had all my food delivered to me so I wouldn't have to take anytime to prepare it (thank heavens for Jimmy John's delivery. I can live off Billy Clubs). And trying to keep that grueling schedule is an intense experience. An experience which, in my opinion, can be broken into three distinct emotional periods:

1. The Honeymoon Period

This period lasts for about the first 10 pages. I call it the Honeymoon period because the experience is kind of similar to having sex over and over again with no breaks in between. Let me explain that, so you don't think I'm too weird. The reason I do a webcomic (and probably the reason most people start, at least at first) is because of that intense feeling of satisfaction I get every time I post a page. When I finish up a comic on some given day, I always take a few minutes just to sit and look at the finished work in it's place on the website. Not to check for errors, but just to enjoy the fruit of my labor. To remember all the little nuances that went into making it. To anticipate what other people are going to say when they see it. I like it when someone gives me positive feedback on my comic, but I like much more the sense of satisfaction that comes from posting a strip. It really just brightens my day. When doing the 24 hour comic challenge, I got that same sense of satisfaction every time I finished a page, but without the corresponding time to just sit and enjoy it. I'd finish a page and post it, and look at it and say "There. It's done," and then immediately go pull up another canvas to start the next page. It was a jarring experience for myself, constantly cutting short the pleasurable part so that I could dive back into the creative process. And I imagine that's kind of what it would feel like to have sex over and over again, nonstop, without any pause to just sit and enjoy the "afterwards".

2. The Malaise Period

The next 10 pages are the tough part of the challenge. At this point you have to start thinking about the pacing of your storyline, how you're going to get it to wrap up in 24 pages (which could mean either how you're going to pad the storyline or how you're going to compress it, depending on the circumstance). This is the point where you've got to throw out some ideas because they'd take too long, or they'd mess up the pacing, or you don't have the time to work them out enough that you'd be satisfied with them. You have to make compromises. And at the same time, this is when you start getting really tired because you've been either staring at a computer screen nonstop or drawing on a piece of paper nonstop, and your hand starts to get tired, your eyes start watering, and you just kind of generally feel "down". Personally, I got extremely emotional during this time period. I was listening to music the entire 24 hours, and during this period I actually starting crying during many of the songs. I freaking almost cried in Apollo 440's "Can't Stop the Rock", and that means there was something seriously messed up in my head at that point. And don't even get me started on any song by Mae...

3. The Freefall Period

Finally, the last 4 pages of the challenge are just one big adrenaline rush. You're racing to beat the clock, you're trying to do everything as fast as possible without making any mistakes. I did, in the end, have one strip with an unfixed error (first panel, Mike should be saying "we were snowed in" instead of "were were snowed in") due to time constraints not letting me proofread, and I'm not going to go back and fix it now because that would be breaking the rules. But during this period you get to end the challenge on a high, because you're scrambling like mad to finish, and your body produces all those really nice chemicals that make you forget about all the exhaustion and trouble you were having only hours ago. I actually had trouble falling asleep for a little while after the challenge (although after a few hours, when all the adrenaline wore off, I crashed hardcore). But while you're in the Freefall period, it's just one wild ride all the way until the end.

And that pretty much sums it all up. I had a lot of fun, and I very much enjoyed all the encouragement I received from people who contacted me via AIM. You guys rock. I'm definitely going to make a concerted effort to hang out on AIM a lot more than I have been the past few months.

Out of curiosity, for those of you that have done 24 hour comics, is this about the same range of emotions you went through? Did you have similar experiences to myself, or was it a wholly different atmosphere?


At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Nat Gertler said...

My middle period wasn't as much a malaise as it was very mechanical. I had the ideas in place, I had the rhythm to go to, it was just getting it down. It wasn't quite zen, but it wasn't a depression.

And yes, afterward, I was not ready to sleep. I hand-delivered a copy of my comic to Scott McCloud's door (you did remember to send something of to Scott, right?) and then I went and had some pancakes... a treat I had promised myself along the way to get things done.

By the way: that "100 panel" thing is not a requirement if you're doing page-oriented comics. It's just an alternative Scott added for those working in more of an infinite canvas structure.


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