This weekend, I relocated my art studio to the Great Lakes Mall and did 24-Hour Comic Day live for everyone to see. I thought it would be fun for people to see the process of creating a book, and I definitely figured it’d be fun to do.
My first issue came on Thursday when I woke up with a pretty good pain in my neck. (Insert your own joke here.) Turns out I had a muscle spasm that required a good dose of medication to get rid of it. Thankfully, by Saturday it had subsided to a mild pain and I had regained almost the full range of motion in my neck. Still, it wasn’t the way I wanted to start out a marathon drawing session.
I’ve mentioned these people and companies before, but I need to do so again. Thanks to:
Comics and Friends • John Haines’ mall-based comic shop was my main corporate angel on this. When I approached him about this crazy idea, he lent the support and made the initial contact with the Great Lakes Mall to arrange the event. He also made sure that I had a staff to take care of me when I was in full tunnel vision mode.
Great Lakes Mall • Renee, Tony and the staff at the Great Lakes Mall were fantastic to work with, too. They found a way to let me set up in the Mall overnight and provide the support and security we needed.
Wacom • Wacom is the premier maker of graphics tablets. I have owned two over my career and have loved them both. I don’t know how I would do all the art I do without it. Currently, I have an Intuos 3, but I have long coveted the Cintiq, which is like the glorious child of a standard tablet and a monitor. They lent me one for the event, allowing me to draw right on the screen with full pressure sensitivity.
Mentor TV • To allow everyone to see what I was doing, Mentor TV lent us a big screen TV to pipe the feed from my tablet to the audience and other mall-goers. That way people weren’t jockeying for position behind me to see what I was working on.
Release the Kraken
I started drawing right at noon. We even had a countdown clock timing me. It was like being Matt Albie from Studio 60, except without the pill addicition or dalliance with Kari Machett. My only preparations were setting up my materials, designing a template for my comic pages, and I had a big cup of coffee. I did do a proof of concept page beforehand to practice with the Cintiq and time myself to see how long it took to finish a page.
I had a notion for the plot of the story. I didn’t write anything down or block any scenes. Trying not to think about a story is like trying not to think of pink elephants, though. So some of the structure was already in my head. Since I did the event, I fsaw a mention of using a deck of cards to supply story elements to push all the writing solely into the 24-hour span. It sounds interesting, but I don’t think I missed much using this way, either.
And then I drew. And drew. And drew.
I did every page straight through. I’d start with a sketch, ink the piece, add the color tones, save it out and open it in Illustrator where I’d letter it. I’d make a JPG of it to post on the internet and to give to John to print out so we could have a page by page sign of how far I’d gotten.
I found myself laying down just enough of a sketch layout to start inking, and then when I needed it, would go back and re-pencil an area that needed more help. I didn’t need a lot of underdrawing to render a face, but some of my hands got placed as "mittens", and when I got to that part in the inks, I went back to the sketch and spent more time figuring out that section in darker colors.
(There’s a sample of the pencils on this page. If you look, the hands are rendered in a darker color because I went back in to work on those.)
I broadcasted everything on Facebook and Twitter. Sadly, the uStream feed didn’t work for us. I’d tested uStream on my laptop at the Mall and it seemed to work fine. The desktop Mac wasn’t able to maintain a connection to the internetreliably enough to send the video. I could have used my laptop, which I also brought, but then you just would have seen my face from the least flattering angle possible rather than seeing the images on my screen. I’m sorry it didn’t work, and if I find it within me to do this again, I’ll try to have a more stable connection.
After that, much of it’s a blur.
If You Were Walking By
We tried to make it as interactive as possible. I grabbed the names of characters from passers-by. There were tables set up around my stage with preprinted panel pages so that kids could do their own comics. And we ran trivia contests and giveaways. Lots of people walked away with prizes. I think the audience participation, heck, even having an audience, helped make this event unique.
Friends and Family
I was lucky enough that most of my family came up to visit, and my Mom and brother stayed the night to keep me company. A number of my friends came up as well, which made for a nice little break as I was going.
Having worked as a caricaturist at amusement parks and parties, I’m pretty good at drawing and talking. So I was able to hold court, show off the Cintiq to all those who asked (and a few who didn’t). I think I was able to execute the interactive nature of the event pretty well.
All the characters names, as well as the home state of the main character, came directly from the audience.
Draw Like the Wind
The first page was a full splash page, so that tilted my numbers for a while. I was on a pretty good clip until after page seven, when it seemed like all my visitors came to visit. It slowed me down (not that I’m complaining) as well as shook me off my stride. Page seven is probably my favorite as everything started to click. When I got back to page eight, I felt I had lost a rhythm that took a while to get back.
I thought about taking a nap, but I couldn’t. I wanted to make sure I got it done first. It was 3:00am when I started to get tired. I finished the book around 7:00, giving me a pace of a page every 48 minutes. That’s not bad at all.
And, I’m pretty happy with the finished project, too. The story came out pretty well, and I changed huge portions of it as I went. The main character’s epiphany to let go of his memories wasn’t in the original plan. I had thought about keeping that a little more open-ended. The whole car scene was invented on the fly, because if I knew I was going to have to draw a car, I would have brought reference. And, originally, I figured that this character had been haunted before, and that the story would take place over more time than just one night. And the opening date was supposed to be a first date, not a big date. I actually revised the artwork accordingly.
You can also see the characters morph through the book as I became more comfortable drawing them. Just like the Crusader of today doesn’t quite look like the guy who appeared in issue #1, Peter and Genevieve kind of shift as I go.
Missing, to my mind at least, was the idea that Peter’s breakup with Genevieve was what spurred his moving to LA, and that Peter was capable of rationlizing anything she had done in the past. Maybe that came through.
Also, while I tried to avoid it, the main character probably looks a bit like me. That was unintentional. But I didn’t do any character designs, so I think I defaulted to a generic character, and that generic has a lot of me in it. The women are probably my generic women designs, too. In some ways, it’s like something I read in a Howard Chaykin interview. He treated his character designs as actors, so his samecharacter designs show up in different books. Blackhawk looks like the Shadow looks like Reuben Flagg.
The whole book, in low-res PDF form, is available for download here. I’ve made four changes from the original version that was posted on Sunday: I added a credit line, a copyright line, and I fixed one (and as far as I know, the only) typo in the book. I also added a page of links and credits of the places that supported this endeavor.
Don’t count on it. Theevent really did take a toll on me. I was able to do it, but it was a was a pretty good pounding. Having done it once, I don’t know that I need to make it an annual thing.
I really liked the live setup that I had. If that situation arises again, like if a comic shop or gallery or even coffee house wants to organize the event for me, because I might be interested. I’m probably too close to the past event to think clearly about next year. I think this live model has a lot of possibilities.
Most importantly, though, I had fun. It’s important to challenge yourself and to try new things. This certainly fit the bill. I’m proud of what I accomplished. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I could use a nap.