Random Erik

Ramblings on Cartoons, Music, Pop Culture and Whatever

Sleepless in Austin

I won’t be getting much sleep this weekend.

Since leaving AOL (with few regrets) and London (with a fair few of them) in 1999, I’ve spent a good deal of time pursuing comics and animation. In that time, I’ve taken the occasional class, worked from how-to books, doodled, scribbled, and created some illustrations of which I’m proud. But somehow, I’ve failed to create many comics or animations.

The past year has been different. While my output level still has me frustrated, I actually have created a dozen or so pages of comics and some animation tests for a larger project. Small steps. I work relatively slowly, both because I’m not one of those people who can whip out a good drawing in a minute. My drawing process is scribbling to find the right line, correcting, cleaning up, retrieving the pencil I’ve thrown across the room, going to do something else, come back and maybe finish something I’m okay with. As you might guess, this doesn’t lead to towering stacks of output.

Osamu Tezuka is one of my heroes: he created Astro Boy, Kimba and lots more. In fact, he completed 150,000 pages of manga, just short of 500 24-minute anime episodes, and 200,000 pages of animation scripts. If he hadn’t died at a relatively young 60, I’m sure those numbers would be much larger. If I give up sleeping and social contact, I might produce a workload that doesn’t put a dent in that.

Last summer, though, I took a course entitled Comics Storytelling at the University of California Fresno. Fresno might not sound impressive, but the faculty included Scott McCloud and Jessica Abel. Check out their work, if you don’t recognize the names. Being in a room full of very talented students, I went from the guy who cringed at showing his work to the guy who had created four finished pages of comics in two weeks. Things had changed. And something stuck, since I’m continuing to create new pages.

But I’m still slow. Working hard, I can do a page in a few days. And I don’t do two pages a week. Things pull me away and I finish maybe four pages a month.

So, finally, back to not sleeping this weekend. Tomorrow is the official 24 Hour Comics Day. It originated with a challenge by the aforementioned Scott McCloud. Participants create 24 pages of comics (plus a cover) in 24 hours. Twenty-four consecutive hours. And yours truly is taking part. Those of you with more advanced math degrees may have already compared my average page creation time to an hour a page (plus cover, and incidentally, plus scripting since you’re supposed to come in without a firm story in mind). So this will be interesting.

I’ll either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. Perhaps the 24 Hour Comics Day people are hushing up the names and locations of the heavily medicated people who are now only allowed to draw with crayons.

As Austin is wont to do, our fair city hosted the world’s largest gathering of artists in 2005’s event: around 70 people. We won’t set the record this year. Austin Books, the sponsor, remodeled and can only support 26 people. But I made the list. I’m committed. Or about to be committed, we’ll know by Sunday.

Fortunately, 24 pages is a goal. Just finishing as much as you can in 24 hours is also a noble goal. And a difficult one. According to the Austin Books site, only 30% of last year’s participants finished 24 pages or lasted 24 hours.

And oh, I’m going to make it. My competitive streak is kicking in. You can check out my In Your Face posting for more about my ability to destroy myself in achieving a goal.

So look for my inevitable Aftermath posting next week. Once I’ve woken up. And I hope you’ll forgive me if it’s written in crayon. If it is, I’ll let you know where to send the get-well-soon cards.

By the way, Austin Books will be open the entire length of the contest. Drop by to see the monkeys drawing. They’re at 5002 North Lamar Boulevard here in Austin.And for those of you new to comics, may I recommend that you pick up some of the following? I’ve avoided the obvious Superman/Spider-Man/X-Men stuff, you know whether or not that stuff is for you.

  • For the humor fan: Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man.
  • For fans of fantasy with believably real characters on no Tolkien rip-offs: Jeff Smith’s Bone.
  • For funny, realistic, heartbreaking and unforgettable characters living in the (mostly) real world: Jaime Hernandez’s Locas.
  • For fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism: Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar.
  • For fans of literate horror/fantasy: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
  • For the “I just don’t get Manga” crowd: Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha and Phoenix series.

I’ll add any recommendations you might have. Like I said, skip the mainstream superhero stories unless there’s something compellingly different about them. Give me a title and who you recommend it to.

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