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20 20 24 Hours to Go

I've now had a little time to recover from my first ever 24 hour comic.  This is a challenge issued by Scott McCloud of "Understanding Comics" fame, in which a cartoonist is challenged to write, pencil, ink, letter, (in short "everything") a 24 page comic in 24 consecutive hours.  It was really challenging but I am happy to say that I was successful in my first endeavor, even if it was just barely.
Spoilers abound.  Absolutely go read it before you finish this Comic Curve.
Now that you're back.
I woke up early to get everything set up, I wanted my 24 boards pulled out to written all over.  I had all the ink, brushes, white out, pens, and markers I thought I'd use laid out on the drawing table and all within reach.  Some scrap paper for notes and a full pot of coffee completed my preparations.  Some breakfast was also important as I didn't know if I'd really have time to eat again.
The way I personally made sure I wasn't constructing my story before the 24 hours started I asked my students to give me lots of characters, settings, and problems.  I cut these out individually and mixed them up into 3 stacks.  As soon as the clock struck 8 a.m.  I chose my character, problem, and solution.  My story would be about a Princess in Autumn, the problem was something "smelled too delicious".  Without a second to spare I started working on the script for page 1.
I chose 6 panel pages from the onset so that I'd have one less variable to worry about during the 24 hours.  I didn't have any real reason for 6 panels aside from their being 60 minutes in each hour which allowed me (give or take) 10 minutes per panel all day long.  I never really regretted the decision either.  If I had bigger panels I would have felt more inclined to put more into each one, and it turns out detail work slows me down considerably.  I don't think I'd have finished if I tried using any more than 6 panels per page.  I found out the panels with the monster slowed me down considerably.  Every time I would start gaining ground on my page an hour more pages would come up with the monster and slow me right back down.
I scripted the story as I went along, no more than 2 pages ahead at any given time.  Many times I would turn back to my old pages to make sure I wasn't dropping any ideas I was trying to juggle, or to remember the language I had used during earlier moments.  I think I got a little lucky with my pacing of this story.  As always I relied on my love of math to sort out story construction.  I decided to break my story into 3 acts (pretty standard story trope) and that gave me 8 pages for each act.  I jotted down briefly what could happen in each act (finding the smell, saving the town, befriending the world).  Each page needed to set up something new in the top 3 panels, and then resolve it in the last 3 while leading toward the next page.  In this way (my hope) was keep the story moving forward even though I only had 3 main bullet points to work from.  I filled in additional bits of story and tried to make each page feel complete on its own, while still servicing the longer narrative.
The script itself would have a line or so of narration or description for each of the six panels.  I rarely even had both.  Sometimes things would be added or changed, but for the most part I worked on the story six sentences at a time with vague notions of where I was headed.  I would try to make little mental notes of things I wrote down that could be used later on.  I think starting this early on helped me make a more cohesive story.  The spider being hungry sort of set the story down its path.  If I hadn't written down the line about him being mad about his dinner I'd have never had a Cookie Town.  Going back further if I'd never said the princess played with the animals I doubt I would have had her talking to snakes, dragonflies, or spiders.  By being mindful of what I'd written previously I managed to turn most of those snippets of text into foreshadowing for later events.  The first few pages set up the chips that I could cash later on.  The last eight pages were pretty well planned out when I got through Milk Mountain.  I simply had to meaningfully tie up every pages story.  We get a page resolving the issue with the snake, and the spider, we see the queen who got special attention to set up a resolution with the monster.
The artwork was intense.  My hand began to ache six or seven hours in and I began welcoming the bits of scripting I had to do.  Even though I was still writing it wasn't nearly as painful as the lettering and inking.  My penciling got looser the further in I got, some of which was probably due to hand strain, but I told myself it was because I was getting more familiar with how to draw the characters.  The story definitely looks very similar to Mera.  I promise I'm trying to grow as an artist too, but this was on a very strict deadline, and I needed to stick with what I knew.  I tried to add in as many details and flourishes as possible, but became clear pretty early on I would be pushing it just to get enough picture down to always service the story.  Most of the work was done with a size 3 rounded brush which is the same size as I used on Mera.  I used a 6 flat for black areas (another tiny respite for my hand).  The lettering and panel borders were done with markers .5mm and 1.2mm respectively.  Unfortunately my thicker tipped black marker ran out of ink around page 18 (you can see how the lighter colors didn't scan in as well).  I ended up switching to a fine tip Sharpie for the borders and balloons on the last few pages of the book.  In hindsight I should have switched earlier to prevent the scanning problems.  Well, that or had back up markers to use.
It was fun to do the comic, and complete the challenge.  All games aside my biggest goal in this endeavor was to learn something.  I certainly see some mistakes I made.  I already mentioned the marker problem which could have been solved by having more supplies prepared.  My lettering was also a mess.  Some bubbles hit panel borders, text is uneven, and a few times I even had to white out parts of letters and bubbles to make sure my words weren't running into my bubbles.  My character designs are also insanely derivative, I had to think of these things off the cuff, but I still regret how PowerPuff Girls my princess looks.  I've also already had my monster compared to one of Maurice Sendak's Wild Things; I'd like to take this as a compliment, but I don't feel that was the intent.  Oh and I need to be faster next time.  A lot faster.  I finished inking the last page with 26 minutes left on the clock.  That sounds good, except I needed to erase the pencil marks on my 24 pages.  The first few pages I tried to do quickly but thoroughly.  This resulted in a lot of lost ground FAST.  The last 18 pages or so I just had to clean up the balloons (the lettering underneath was super apparent) and any quick spots that looked horrible.  My arm ached like crazy and I just kept erasing and erasing.  I was standing over the table dripping sweat from my nose on the last page and I finished with six seconds to go.  I laid down on the ground as the timer went off.  Mission complete.  I sat up turned off the alarm and read through my new comic.  Incredibly proud of myself, I wrote a little note on the last page of my script and set it on top of the finished stack of pages.  Exhausted I stood up and went to bed.  My brother woke up shortly after to go to work.  
He found A Brave Little Girl complete in the art room chair, and a  little note that read
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy all the new content on Strips4 through 2010!
-Jon O


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