Well, that was quite something.
The official 24 hour comics challenge is to write, draw and ink a 24 page comic in 24 hours completely from scratch – no planning, preparation or even thinking about an idea before the 24 hours start. As I don’t write sequential story comics, I decided to take on the 200 Bad Comics Challenge as previously completed by the likes of Nedroid and KC Green. I also wanted to empty my “potential jokes” file of all the half-formed and “not-quite-good-enough” ideas that are cluttering up my thinking process, so not everything I did on the day was from scratch.
On Sat 3rd October I dragged myself out of bed, having had a terrible night’s sleep (my brain was whirring with potential bad comics and I just could not get it to shut down). I brewed myself a strong coffee and set to work. The first hour was spent grappling with my temperamental Macbook (which hasn’t ever quite recovered from my daughter dropping it on the kitchen floor a few months ago), but it eventually warmed up and I was able to get some kind of rhythm going.
I always suspected that 200 was an ambitious number and shortly after starting, I revised my figure to a more realistic 100. As I was on Twitter for the day, I asked for suggestions for comics, so a fair few ideas also came from people online (and thanks to anyone who sent in a suggestion). The combination of old ideas, online entries, half-formed concepts that I’d scribbled on various scraps of paper in the run-up to the day and actual ideas that I’d come up with on the day meant that I was able to maintain a reasonable flow of comics for the first 12 hours or so.
Some were funny (I hope), some were silly, some pretty much died at birth and some were just plain weird, but they kept coming and my brain kept ticking over. It was a release to sit down and write a comic without forcing myself to make as funny as I possibly could. It freed me up to try silly ideas without it mattering if they worked or not. Indeed, I managed to come up with a few ideas that I thought good enough to set aside for my proper comic and these were ideas that varied from my normal style of writing. They were more random, more unexpected and all the better for it.
However, as the day wore on, I realised that I was going to run out of old ideas around the 60-70 comic mark and I could feel that the standard was slipping. I found that if I stopped drawing to try and think of some more ideas, my lack of sleep really started to kick in and my brain began to shut down. At this point I really thought that I wasn’t going to complete my task. But I was determined to plough on. I was reduced to clicking on my StumbleUpon button in my browser and trying to write a cartoon based on whatever random subjects the internet offered me.
With several of the later cartoons, I would draw something in the first panel without knowing what was going to be in the second. Oh, I’ll draw a ship, then ummm.. a whale appears from nowhere, then….. aaaah, he makes an terrible film suggestion – and it kind of works (to me anyway). To my immense surprise the cartoons started to get better (well, I think they do) and I reached the point that was the whole aim of the day. My brain completely lost its moorings and when I chucked suggestions at it, all sorts of bizarre, unique and (hopefully) funny ideas were returned to me. Ideas that I’d never have come up with by staring at a blank piece of paper for hours on end.
During my last 10 comics, I came up with 2 more strips that were good enough for my proper comic. I scrawled the last few strips, posted them up and slumped in to bed at 4am, 22 hours after I’d started. Okay, so I didn’t managed 24 hrs, but I work fulltime and have 2 young kids, so give me a break, okay?
It was quite the experience and something I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who thinks that their writing is getting tired, forced and predictable. I was exhausted by the day, but have emerged from it re-energised, full of ideas and excited about the comics that I’ll be bringing to you over the next few weeks…..
Here are the comics in full:
P.S. A special thanks to anyone who offered my encouragement on the day via Twitter. It really made a big difference. And also to my fellow webcomic artists who were also working on the day such as @channelATE from ChannelAte (his 100 bad comics start here – illness prevented him from finishing them, but maybe if we bug him enough, he’ll get round to completing them), @swikan from Life’s A Witch, @chandlerra from Tuned Out Frequencies (who has blogged about it here) and @drunkenfools from The Drunken Fools. And @tr1guy and @vertigo_x who produced an excellent podcast on TGT Webcomics. Not everyone was able to complete what they set out to do, but I really don’t think that that’s the point. It’s about putting yourself in a position where you have to write, no matter what, and making use of the interesting ideas that can come from such a position. My hat is sincerely doffed to everyone who threw themselves into the day. See you again next year (maybe)….