24 Hour Comics Day has a simple enough concept—speech bubble hellweek crammed into a single sleepless day—so it’s no big surprise that this mighty yet nerdy challenge springs up willy nilly throughout the year, not just on the official date. Creator Nat Gertler recently announced this year’s date as October 20th, but for many cartoonists around the world those other 364 perfectly good 24 hour long days look too ripe to pass up.
A group of cartoonists in Croatia have already filed their 24 hour comics from their event on March 3rd. French cartoonists, Lewis Trondheim included, jumped the gun as early as January, and have since posted up the fruits of their labor. And what’s this? A Sacramento, CA comic shop, Empire’s Comics Vault, lined up an event for April 14th, a mere week before APE 2007 is to swing into nearby San Francisco, CA.
In 2004, Gertler made “official” the 24 Hour Comic concept that was originally concocted by Scott McCloud and Steve Bissette in 1990. Since then, the pressures of its popularity, i.e. the sheer volume of submissions, have driven Gertler to announce this year’s “best of” anthology as the last one. And while the officialness is poised to live on, the unofficialness also continues to have a life of its own.
Take Ignatz Award recipient Alec Longstreth, for instance. He has taken the 24 hour comic challenge every year for the last six years, but he chooses a different day every year and hopes to do this year’s comic sometime in June or July. His previous one was last year on January 2.
Mindful that this is no casual undertaking, Longstreth blocks away a spacious three-day weekend to do his comic–one day to stock up on food and sleep, one day to work, and one day to recuperate. Once in 2006, he collaborated with friend Aaron Renier, but he prefers to work alone. “When I do it, I’m really focused,” he said. “I tell my housemates not to interrupt me, I tell my parents not to call me. I can’t imagine driving somewhere and being in public where people can walk up to you and ask about what you’re doing.”
Ultimately, said Longstreth, the challenge is more for the cartoonist than for the reader. “It pushes you out to this weird place that is hard to get to when you’re not exhausted and really tired,” he said. “You pull out really interesting ideas and work that you wouldn’t normally do.”
You can watch for Longstreth’s newest 24 hour comic coming this summer on his website, but better yet, think about taking a few days off to do one yourself. He insists that even a “non-comics” person can produce a good 24 hour comic in just a few hours of hunching over some hand-drawn stick figures and four-panel layouts. If you do insist on keeping your distance from the drafting table, at least make it a point to read a few of the ones that are out there. It’d be a shame for all that bleary-eyed, wrist-mangling work to go to waste.
-Benjamin Pogany, Elizabeth Chou