Earlier this year, Making Comics Worldwide’s CEO, Patrick Yurick, embarked upon an emotionally draining, carpal-tunnel inducing quest: to take on the 24 Hour Comic Day Challenge. To call the challenge grueling would be something of an understatement (it’s literally an entire day and night spent doing nothing but scripting, then sketching, then inking a brand new comic). But, after twenty-four hours of ink, sweat, and tears (and dubstep, apparently), he emerged victorious, a 24 page comic under his belt and an experience that made for a very interesting, introspective chat.
Kevin Cullen: First of all, why? Making a full blown comic in 24 hours sounds like it was developed by a masochistic mastermind. Was there some kind of Ice Bucket Challenge-esque thing you’re trying to raise awareness for by engaging in the 24 Hour Comic Day?
Patrick Yurick: As soon as I heard about the 24hcd (24 Hour Comic Day Challenge) I knew it was an amazing educational tool. I first read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud five years ago and immediately became an acolyte. When I learned of 24hcd I wanted to partake, but each year I found new excuses to not participate.
When we started MakingComics.com last year, we drafted a plan and on the to-do list, throughout the brainstorming process for this blog, were things like “Making Comics needs to help facilitate 24hcd this year!” and “How can we unite the worldwide comic-making community behind this?” When we merged with Webcomic Underdogs over the summer, 24hcd kept coming up again and again. I mean, our organizations have a ton in common. We both share a name that originated with a Scott McCloud idea/concept. We both are nonprofits (the Comicspro organization currently is the recognized facilitator of the worldwide event). We both care about the comic-making community of the world.
As this year rolled out though, we were too close to the wire to get anything really official going for MakingComics.com to participate in the 24hcd. I was feeling a little let down when it struck me that I had never taken part in the challenge myself. I had never done it. So that was it. I had to do it.
On top of all of that I recently was talking to the person that Scott McCloud designed the challenge for – Stephen Bissette. He talked to me a bit about the origins of the challenge and how he was more proud of his involvement with the movement starting in 1990 than he was of anything else he had done in his career. I was sold. I needed to do it.
KC: 1990? So that means this year is the 24th birthday of the 24hcd! We should’ve definitely had a party. Anyhow, sitting there at your desk for an entire day staring at pieces of paper requires a surprisingly high amount of endurance. What techniques did you employ to keep your hands from cramping and your eyes from dripping out of your skull? What other kinds of physical challenges did you run into that you will be ready for next year?
PY: Caffeine, my vaporizer, and dubstep were ever at the ready. I actually had a bunch of podcasts ready as well. Its hard to describe physical challenges because for the past year I have been working on making comics more and more. I know some guys that get cramps, but I tend not to. I think that is because I take regular breaks and I work at a MacGyvered table top drafting board so that my back is dead by the end of the day.I also draw almost every day. Like running you need to build up stamina over time. This definitely helped. I also work better when I feel regularly accomplished and I can take a step back from the work. For that reason I quickly created a timeline with goals so that I could keep track of where I was at and where I needed to be throughout the night.
KC: Were there any creative brick walls you ran into, be it writer’s block or character designs not coming out the way you wanted or a page getting eaten by your dog? How did you manage to climb over those walls?
PY: Honestly? This year I feel like I did everything wrong. I had such a hard time maintaining concentration on the work. I started the day with all of these grandiose ideas of how this was going to work out and by hour three the sinking thoughts of “this sucks!” and “I am going to look like an idiot when I show this to the world” sunk in.
My emotional turmoil over the project was probably the hardest part. I hated everything intensely as I was working on it. But I needed to finish regardless of whether it was good or not. Creating a great comic in 24 hours would be either something that happened or something that would have to wait until next year. I had to force myself to accept finishing as a goal for my first year.
In the end I feel like I am more proud of the sheer amount of comic I produced over the course of the day. It made me realize how much I really can do and how much I take my time for granted on most days. Doing the challenge helped me understand that I can make more comics that I originally thought, and faster. I am proud of my final result because it is something that I think, on a basic level, reads well. I think that my comic successfully communicates the beginning of an idea in a proof-of-concept kind of way.
KC: What kinds of preparations did you make for this challenge? Personally, I would’ve had a mini-fridge beside me stocked with burritos and whiskey and popsicles with inspirational sticks.
PY: I did have bananas, nutella, and plenty of caffeine around. Weirdly, I have found that caffeine isn’t helpful for the art production of things but I need it to be able to write. It is hard to describe the difference in my own process between creative writing and drawing. Drawing is like this peaceful zen experience. I need to go slow and steady. When I am drawing I need to be present and turn on this other part of my brain that is more akin to meditation.
The opposite is said for writing. This is a completely draining thing for me and sometimes I feel like I am on this high octane roller coaster and I need anything and everything to be able to concentrate. Thats where the caffeine comes in.As the rules state, I am not able to prepare for much. I am allowed to think about the story, but not write anything down. So the night before I talked to my wife about what kind of story I should do. She immediately rejected me doing a Hipster Picnic story. She convinced me that this was a good opportunity to get a one-off out of my head. She heard all of the project pitches I came up with, and the story of the guy who shows the world how to not be afraid of the military using the principles of aikido – that was it. That was the one. I’ve had that story in my head for several years and never have really written it down into a comic. Now I have.
KC: Were there any tricks you learned from doing this challenge that you can apply to creating comics outside of the 24 Hour Challenge? A different brush for tighter, quicker lines for example.
PY: I think that the biggest thing I learned this time was that 24 pages of comic is A LOT of pages to produce in a short period of time. The next time I approach this challenge I will definitely be thinking about telling a stick figure story, or something a like it. I realized when I wrote the script I was thinking about the art needing to support the story and not the time constraints. Next time I want to do something where I am writing a script for the time constraints. Something that embraces the nature of the challenge and tells a successful narrative that uses that time constraint to come up with a beautiful solution.
I do not think my comic, this year, was a beautiful solution. I think it is clunky and amateur. But that’s ok. It is my first time. Again, getting to the acceptance of that was the hardest obstacle for this first time. Now I feel challenged and invigorated to improve. I will be doing this again. Perhaps sooner than in one year.