In 1990, cartoonist Scott McCloud came up with a friendly challenge for himself and fellow comics artist Steve Bissette: they’d write, draw, letter, and complete a 24 page comic book in 24 consecutive hours. Thus the 24 hour comic was conceived.
Now, nearly twenty years later, the challenge has its own special day: 24 Hour Comic Day. Aspiring comic book authors gather in locations around the world to take the challenge. If your kids fell in love with Iron Man or Hellboy over the summer, bring them along and let them create their own superhero stories.
How does it work, exactly? According to McCloud:
"The Dare: To create a complete 24 page comic book in 24 continuous hours. That means everything: Story, finished art, lettering, colors (if you want ’em), paste-up, everything! Once pen hits paper, the clock starts ticking. 24 hours later, the pen lifts off the paper, never to descend again. Even proofreading has to occur in the 24 hour period."
You’re not supposed to plan your story ahead of time. Gathering tools or reference materials is cool, but don’t show up with an outline.
Choose your own media. It doesn’t matter what you use. Digital, paper, papyrus, whatever.
The 24 hours are continuous. If you spend half of your time napping or in the bathroom, you might have a "noble failure" on your hands. Chin up, though, because both of these failures are named after Neil Gaiman and Kevin Eastman. That’s some pretty good company. If you get to the end of your 24 hours and you’re not done, you can end the comic. This is the Gaiman Variation. If the hourglass runs out and you just keep on going, though, you’ve pulled an Eastman.
Regardless of your success, McCloud wants you to send him a copy of your work when you’re done. Some of these selections are compiled into the 24 Hour Comics Day Highlights anthologies, so if you or your kids bang out a particularly impressive piece, you might become a published artist.
McCloud has the full list of 24 Hour Comics rules as well as an index of over a thousand 24 Hour Comics at his website, and the wonderful 24 Hour Comics and 24 Hour Comics All-Stars anthologies collect some of the best.
Check out the official 24HCD site for a list of hosting stores and locations. I’m planning on stopping by the always-amazing Chapel Hill Comics here in North Carolina to empty out my subscription box and interview a few hardworking artists. If you’re in the area, stop on by and say hey.
Top photo by Matt Bernius