24 Hour Comics Day survival guide

This year the comic making marathon will take place on Saturday October 7th. Get ready with these tips to get through it with minimal discomfort!

What is 24 Hour Comics Day

In 1990 Scott McCloud, a comics innovator and researcher, came up with the concept of drawing a 24-page comic in 24 hours. Now thousands of artists complete the challenge every year. One hour per page for a whole day sounds crazy but it is doable.

These 24 hour comics are a way to try something new. You could put your creativity to a test by using a new style or a tool. Some comic artists publish their 24 hour comics as they are and some prefer to redraw them.

I attended my first two 24 Hour Comic Days while studying making comics in art school. Those were the two best comics I finished that entire school year. Since then I’ve finished four more 24 hour comics and brainstormed one that I ended up drawing and publishing later.

Join an event

In my experience a comics marathon is best spent with lots of people. I’ve met some comic artists in my city through a public 24HCD event I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Try searching an event near you (link) or host one yourself, even if it’s only among friends.

Whether you choose to start first thing in the morning or in the evening is a preference. If you start before noon you’ll feel more alert but if you start (and finish) in the evening you can go straight to bed after the ordeal. I’ve usually slept about 17 hours afterwards so take the next day off if possible.

Come prepared

Get a full night’s sleep the night before and take a shower beforehand. Dress comfy and maybe bring a blanket.

If you can, choose a location that has a separate room with a door in case anyone wants to get some shut-eye while others keep going.

Bring some proper food, only eating snacks won’t give you enough energy to stay awake and alert. Some of us are prone to snack to avoid dealing with a difficult story point. And if you have all the food you need you don’t have to dash to the corner store with five minutes until closing time.

Just draw

It’s up to your preference whether you like to make thumbnail sketches or go straight into drawing the final pages. On one hand the time limit forces you to get pages done fast. On the other hand making a loose plan at the beginning might pay off after 20 hours when you’re struggling keep your eyes open. This challenge is a great opportunity to switch things around.

Here’s my number one super secret tip if you want to produce consistent comic pages: draw shitty from the beginning. Most 24 hour comics start out with beautiful and intricate illustration work whereas the last pages end up looking hurried. Even if you could keep up with an elaborate drawing style you’ll run out of time!

Keep sketches loose and rough or draw straight with ink if you’re confident enough. A photo blue pencil saves you time from erasing since it’s easy to edit out later. Drawing on a smaller paper size also helps. From experience I recommend a brush or a brushpen for endurance drawing since they’re easier on the wrist and palm in the long run. I’ve completed my 24-hour comics in ballpoint pen, brushpen, brush and ink and with a fountain pen. The fountain pen was a real pain in the wrist.

Regardless, your hand and neck will hurt. You can’t really take long breaks but try to do some hand exercises. Take micro breaks just to set the pen down and stand up for a second. You could try taking a proper break to stretch together with friends.

Stay motivated

Put the finished pages on a wall or spread them on a surface so you can see your progress and quickly glance at where you’re at story-wise. If you’re drawing with friends, you can read their unfinished comics while taking a break. Maybe give and receive some feedback and encouragement.

Keep track of your progress by drawing a grid with rows for page numbers and columns for each participant if there are several. We usually put this paper on a wall and every time someone finishes a page the artist gets up to mark an X for the page (or / for the sketch) and others applaud.

Have fun

According to the official rules set by McCloud the entire 24 pages must be brainstormed, thumbnailed, sketched and inked within 24 hours. When the time’s up you’ve either won or failed. If there are any pages left you can either keep drawing until they’re done or end the story there.

That said you shouldn’t worry too much about those rules. Getting some creative work done and having fun is more important. If you have a story idea you want to finally get on paper, why not? The rules don’t really matter if the challenge is enough to get you drawing something. Drawing anything at all is a big win!

Not into comics? How about writing 24 pages of text? What about 24 blog posts or 24 pages for your novel?

Good luck!

This year’s 24HCD is on Saturday October 7th. Join a public event or invite your friends over. What have you got to lose besides a good night’s sleep and a stack of paper? And if you don’t feel like participating, check out what others have made during the weekend.