Viiiictory, Ten Times

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Yaay! Once again, I have completed National Novel Writing Month … this will be my 10th successful Nano. I’ve only been doing it 9 years, but this year, I started tackling Nano more often – in April and August. April was a success, but August I found I wanted to do more editing than writing, so I’ve officially succeed at Nano just 10 times out of the 11.

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I’ll let the August one slide, as it was really ambitious (and I also really try to reserve the time leading up to October for preparation for 24 Hour Comics Day) but when November rolls around, I get serious. This is the time all of my novels are born, and when I see a month start off with the kind of deficit you see above, I get cracking.

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I’m so serious about this, I take the whole week of Thanksgiving off every year just to work on this (something that is easier because my family is a rough plane ride back over Thanksgiving, and I see them every Christmas). But you know what? I want to enjoy my Thanksgiving … so I really poured on the juice near the end.

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The National Novel Writing Month site has some awesome word tracking tools, but I often turn off the Internet during Nano, and so I have developed my own Excel spreadsheet specifically for this purpose, which shows me, graphically, how much I need to write to get on track. Cells turn from red to white as I successfully get ahead of the game, and so by the end I was pushing 3-4000 words a day, trying to finish early. And I did, yesterday afternoon, at Panera Bread near my house.

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PHANTOM SILVER is one of the oddest books I’ve worked on yet. The plot has taken many strange twists and turns, including some that popped out of a deep harvest of some of the older material in my massive cuttings file. It’s also turning into a deeply personal story, as my exploration of ghosts has led to an exploration of my characters’ ghosts, and, by extension, since my characters are often based on me and my family … I am exploring the ghosts of my own friends and family as well.

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This picture was taken standing quite close to my father’s grave (not visible in the picture) and while my father won’t picture in the story … I’m having fun exploring Dakota Frost’s background, since she came from a (fictional) place in the South that is literally right up the street from where I grew up in real life.

But, as fun as it is … I’m glad to be done with this chunk. Already (since yesterday) I’ve finished a first draft of a short story in the Jeremiah Willstone universe (due at the end of December, for a Clockwork Alchemy special anthology) and I look forward to diving back into the editing of LIQUID FIRE, which is going *very* well. Hopefully you’ll see it soon.

No excerpts on PHANTOM SILVER, though; there are too many horrible spoilers for other books. You’ll have to wait on this one, and I know it will be a while, because SPECTRAL IRON and LIQUID FIRE and HEX CODE must come first; till next time.

-the Centaur

The IRONHAND Triathlon

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So, it’s coming on like a freight train: the IRONHAND Triathlon, the new evolution of 24-Hour Comics Day that Nathan Vargas and I are hosting at the Alternative Press Expo October 4-5. Actually, it came on so fast, and I had to do so much to prepare for it, that when I had a little trouble finishing this blogpost, the actual event came up before I got back to it!

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APE is held at Fort Mason this year, and they gave us a space in the back provided by ComicsPRO, the comics retailer’s association. The tables were all right, but once Nathan, my partner in Blitz Comics, arrived and took a look at the scene, he put some thought into it and rearranged the space to make it more inviting.

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The end result is that our yellow tables made an arrow pointing at the Blitz logo, and there was now a central entry space where Nathan could put information designed to guide creators to “drop in” at the event.

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We had seven people signed up for the event, which we marked with nametags. Not all those people showed up, but many did, and we had a sizable table of people tackling at least one leg of the IRONHAND Triathlon.

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The pure 24 Hour Comic Day experience is unbroken – 24 pages in 24 hours, with no preplanning or preparation. But Fort Mason closes at 7, so we had to break up the event into three shifts of 8 hours each, the first at Fort Mason and the two latter ones nearby. But once we split it up, we decided to evolve the event further, and to encourage everyone to just drop in and draw!

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After some iterations on the signage, Nathan hit on “Creator’s Drop In Area” and enough messaging so people knew how to use the space. At the end, we had artists dropping in to draw without us having to explain anything, and I got to kick back at our table and draw and shoot the breeze with Marco of ComicsPRO and with Nathan.

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The event was a big success, and we then moved to the Sandbox Suites for the latter half of the event. We were a bit worried as we only had two people join for the overnight session (and one of those got lost in a bus snafu) but after a while we started to have more and more people drop in.

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We had the place to ourselves, so creators spread out over a few different rooms. I think we succeeded in creating a creative oasis for our creators, as some who had left earlier made it a point to come back and join us.

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More people joined in the IRONHAND Triathlon remotely, so Nathan is hard at work on the winners certificates, which will have laminated pieces added to them, one for each of the segments of the Triathlon they completed.

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We’re still chugging away, with Paxti’s pizza about to arrive, so I think I’m going to close this blogpost and get back to it. I may not be doing 24 Hour Comic Day this time – I did it last week – but I want all of our creators to be happy.

Excelsior!

-Anthony

Resurrecting Fanu Fiku

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SO, I have this webcomic some of you may know about, f@nu fiku (that’s Fanu Fiku, stylized with an @ sign, because aren’t I oh so clever :-P). f@nu fiku is about Xiao Dreamweaver, a fifteen year old girl who can travel between all possible combinations of all possible realities … only she doesn’t know it yet. What you may or may not know is that this webcomic is cursed.

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Early on working on f@nu fiku, I broke my arm in a karate match, forcing me to use guest artists and rough notebook scans for several months. I blogged that extensively, but what I did NOT blog – because it was too disruptive – was the failure of the computer and theft of the notebooks on which I did f@nu fiku.

Back then, I produced f@nu fiku on this great Windows laptop, but eventually its cooling fan gave up the ghost, and I decided – purely as an experiment – to try out an old Macintosh laptop that I had gotten in a clearance sale, since I already used a Mac at work. Four days in to this new laptop, I attended an art show in San Francisco – and my car was broken into.

Many books were stolen. My personal laptop was stolen. One of my writing notebooks was stolen, including the one with the original outline of the Dakota Frost series. My f@nu fiku sketchbook – in which I created the pages – was stolen. None of this was ever returned, of course, but I retained all the data, I had all the scans, and in theory I could easily have resumed the comic.

Only one problem: the laptop was stolen before I realized I couldn’t produce f@nu fiku on the Mac.

I edited f@nu fiku in Corel Painter (a creditable replacement for Adobe Photoshop) and lettered it in Xara (a powerful, but much easier to use version of Adobe Illustrator). Corel Painter exists for the Mac … but Xara does not. At the time, I was completely inexperienced at Adobe Illustrator, and found working on the comic extremely difficult.

What’s worse, at the time the Mac’s support for Python wasn’t so hot. I wrote the f@nu fiku webcomic software myself, but found that it adapted poorly to the Macintosh, requiring a partial rewrite of the image processing layer. I eventually got the software running, but by this point FROST MOON was taking off, and without meaning to, I let f@nu fiku drop.

Fast forward more than half a decade. I’m more committed than ever to Dakota Frost, but I’m also more involved than ever with the comic community – with Blitz Comics on the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide, and with our umbrella organization, Thinking Ink Press. At Comic-Con, I got energized, and decided that I should resurrect f@nu fiku, perhaps even in print form.

At first it seemed impossible. Many originals were gone. Some of the completed art was corrupted. And all of the art was way, way too low resolution to be printed. It was depressing. And in truth, this is the real state I’ve been for the past few years on f@nu fiku: too depressed about it to come back to it, regardless of how much time I had. And I started to give up hope.

But it is a half a decade later, and I’ve learned to never give up hope. This was a hard won lesson: when I left the PhD program, I despaired of ever using my degree. Well, it took ten years, but eventually I returned to that work … and now, I’m using those skills more than ever. Over time, I’ve learned that the more patient and perseverant I become, the more I am rewarded.

So, when I started to lose hope … I really had just forgotten how paranoid I am about backups, and soon found the original scans AND backup copies of the completed art. And I had just forgotten how perseverant I have become, and how much I have changed my thinking about solving problems just like this one. And soon, after a little thought, I found a way to get high resolution images.

As before, I had a spare laptop lying around – this time a Windows 8 machine, that I’d tried as a replacement for the Mac (and quickly discarded for that purpose, though it isn’t really bad). And IT will run Xara, and IT could load all my old f@nu fiku files. I don’t know whether I’ll try to save these as Illustrator files, now that I’m comfortable with it, but regardless, I now have a way.

I almost always find that if you think something’s impossible, you’re thinking about it the wrong way … and a solution awaits you nearby. I don’t have to solve the nearly impossible problem of getting Xara to run on the Mac (I have tried virtual machines, but they were virtually impossible to use) but just the far simpler problem of using Xara on a PC to dump high-res images.

Now, I have almost 60 issues of f@nu fiku backlogged … more than a year’s worth, almost ready to go. It will take me some time to get all of them beaten into shape, to rework the fanufiku.com site, to get set up on tapastic and get a posting schedule going. But it will be worth it: it will not only break this creative logjam, it will help me prepare for new comic projects, like Quarry.

So don’t give up hope. It’s just an excuse – just a way to give yourself license to wallow in self pity and to fall into inaction. Often enough, the files are saved on backup, the original scans are on disk, and there’s a laptop laying around somewhere, waiting for the software to be installed on it that will give you the power to resurrect something you thought long dead.

You just have to have a little faith, and work a little harder.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the Windows laptop, with Page 1 of f@nu fiku successfully loaded in Xara.

Mission Accomplished, Part 1 of N

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A year ago Nathan said he wanted to be on a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, and to shake the hand of Scott McCloud, creator of the 24-Hour Comics Day challenge. I told Nathan the first goal would happen but was ambitious, that it might take us a few years, but that he’d certainly meet Scott if he set his mind to it.

What neither I nor Nathan ever expected is that not only is Nathan going to be on a panel, not only did he meet Scott McCloud, we together gave Scott a signed copy of the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide. And not just any copy of the guide: Scott got the #1 of a limited print run of 100 done as a Comic-Con Preview Edition.

And we got to listen to a very nice talk by Scott too.

Nathan’s appearing – along with Nate Gertler, Chris Brady, Jimmy Purcell, and Marco Devanzo on Friday at 5:15 in Room 18 to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of 24-Hour Comics Day. I’ll be in the audience, and the two of us will have (roughly) fifty copies of the Guide which we plan to give to all the participants.

Excellent … it’s all falling into place.

So … what should we put on the agenda to do next year?

-the Centaur

Pictured: From left to right: Nathan, Scott, and me. How am I taller than Scott? I always imagined him as ten feet tall..

My Presence at San Diego Comic-Con 2014

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The submarine surfaces, oh so briefly. So, between work, writing and life, things have been stacked up on me so much that not only do I have several half-finished blog posts begging me to finish them and put them up, but also I now find myself already a day into San Diego Comic-Con – and just now blogging about my presence at San Diego Comic-Con.

This year is the tenth anniversary of 24-Hour Comics Day, a challenge to create a 24 page comic in 24 hours, a challenge which me and my buddy Nathan Vargas have tackled a dozen times between the two of us (him seven, me five). It’s a difficult challenge, and we failed the first few times, so we collected our advice on how to succeed in the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide.

Nathan worked with ComicsPRO to create a panel celebrating the 10th anniversary of the event, and will be on the panel along with the creator of the annual event Nat Gertler and several other creators. But what’s special is that we were already planning to update our Survival Guide for this year’s 24HCD in October – and were able to put together a Preview Edition of the Guide.

Thanks to our friends at Thinking Ink Press, we have expanded our original 8-page guide into a 76 page booklet, with over a dozen chapters of tips and advice and interactive exercises. We’ll be giving away signed copies of the Preview Edition of the Guide at the panel celebrating 24-Hour Comics Day, and also giving them away at various events or on the show floor.

The panel is at 5:15 on Friday at Room 18 at San Diego Comic-Con, and Nathan will be appearing with Nate Gertler, Chris Brady, Jimmy Purcell, and Marco Devanzo (with me in the audience). While Nat Gertler created the annual event, the actual 24-Hour Comic challenge was created by Scott McCloud, who will be appearing himself at Comic-Con, and whom I hope to meet.

Regardless, the official 24-Hour Comics Day is held the first week in October every year – this year, October 4. Nathan and I will be appearing at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) on the same weekend, hopefully with some 24HCD themed events, but will take the challenge at Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco which this year is holding 24HCD one week early.

So: that’s what’s going on. As many of you know, I have two novels sitting at the publisher – LIQUID FIRE and JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE – but Debra Dixon is still reviewing them, so I’m hacking away at Dakota Frost Book 4, SPECTRAL IRON, and blissing out on comics while I wait for the edits to land.

-the Centaur

Viiiictory Seven Times

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For the seventh time, I’ve won the National Novel Writing Month “contest”, completing 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days. Actually, it took me just 29 days. Woohoo!

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This year’s entry, SPECTRAL IRON, is the fourth book in the Dakota Frost series, my urban fantasy series featuring the best magical tattooist in the Southeast (and she’s not afraid to tell you that herself). SPECTRAL IRON was a bit of a detour from the work I was doing to edit LIQUID FIRE, the third entry in the series, but I’m glad I did: SPECTRAL IRON taught me a lot about what makes a book coherent and I can use that to edit LIQUID FIRE.

So what is SPECTRAL IRON about? Originally, I was thinking the story was about a villain that murders ghosts, but now it’s looking like the villain is a ghost who’s a murderer. Maybe. There are some very interesting plot complications developing. Let me see if I can pull out an excerpt that doesn’t give much away. Well, maybe it spoils a minor surprise, but it doesn’t give away the plot. This is the kind of thing they’d put in a movie trailer. Regardless … SPOILERS:

Now, all that was left was to walk down a hundred more yards of train tracks in the dark.

The dolly had left us, but the spotlight had not. The mobile klieg operator wheeled it forward, slowly, tracking me, Ron and Sunny as we walked down the pathetic, waterlogged track. The further we went, the more layers of mystery were stripped off, one by one, by the light.

By the end, we no longer stood in a chasm of night. We merely stood in a dilapidated warehouse loading bay, a long, low brick-walled chamber, weathered with graffiti, with chained-up wooden doors atop its loading dock and beer bottles in the puddles between its train tracks.

“Nothing here,” the Lady Nyissa said. “Nothing obvious, at any rate.”

I stopped before the back wall of the loading dock. It stretched up before us, a mottled wall of brick thirty feet wide and fifty feet high, with a notch cut out of its bottom right by the platform and another cut out the top by a door. Rusted zig-zag metal stairs led up to it.

“Well,” I said, putting my foot on the train-brake at the end of the tracks, staring down at the pathetic mud puddle rippling before us between the end of the tracks and the wall. “It looks like The Exposers have found another Al Capone’s vault.”

Oh, me and my dumb mouth.

From the water erupted a foul spray of black—topped by a bone white mask.

So, there’s a few thousand more words of brain dump to go, and then it’s back to editing LIQUID FIRE, revising THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and working on the DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME anthology, oh, and revising my own story for the anthology, “The Doorway to Extra Time” … aaaa! But at least I have this year’s Nano victory to console me:

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Regardless, now that Nanowrimo and 24 Hour Comics Day and the Google Holiday Toy Collection are all behind me, I’m looking forward to getting back to my other projects, including all my writing, the Dakota Frost blog, and, heck, I dunno, my wife, friends and cats. Onward and upwards!

-the Centaur

A 24 Hour Comics Day Timeline Reloaded

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So another 24 Hour Comics Day has come and gone … my fourth. I’d love to say it gets easier, and in a sense it does, but churning out 24 pages of a comic in just 24 hours is daunting, even if you’ve done it before. To help ourselves improve, my buddy Nathan Vargas and I put a lot of thought into what goes in to making the challenge a success and collect that at the site Blitz Comics.

To give a flavor of the experience, here’s a timeline of my 24 Hour Comics day this year. Like last year, there are highs, there are lows, there are moments of triumph and despair, of hard work overcoming challenges – and experiences which are simply bizarre. Last year actually was more bizarre than this year … but there were still a few dark hours near the hour of the wolf.

Before the event

T-minus 1 Year: Finish 24HCD successfully. Attribute success to a combination of the Blitz Comics Survival Kit and more life drawing classes, as I went from 7 pages done in 2010 to 24 pages done handily in 2011. Hooray! Resolve to improve Blitz Comics and take more life drawing practice.

T-minus 6 months: Remember we waited to last minute to prepare for 24HCD. Send message “Blitz Comics Lives” and begin planning to update our kit. Get overly ambitious, then scale it back as Nathan’s booked up with work and Anthony’s booked up with writing.

T-minus 3 months: Finish point update of Blitz Comics Survival Kit. (As of today, full versions are not posted everywhere due to some miscommunications and site storage issues, but we’re working on it). Plan on giving another Blitz Comics tutorial, this time at Mission Comics. Other venues considered, but, man, Mission Comics .

T-minus 2 months: Give Blitz Comics Tutorial. Due to a publicity gaffe on our part, no-one shows up except a couple of friends, who leave before it begins. Decide to hold the tutorial anyway for practice. No-one attends but a beautiful and bizarre looking chicken; chicken’s owner says our talk is fascinating. Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

I’m not kidding here about the chicken. Photos or it didn’t happen?

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Oh, it happened. After the tutorial, back to preparation…

T-minus 1 month: Hold weekly “just drawing” parties where we mostly chew the fat about life, plan the event, and get in a few minutes’ worth of drawing all at the end. Surprisingly, this really works. Get ready fo the event proper, agreeing to bring donuts and art supplies to Mission Comics. Oh, and sign up for space at Mission Comics event!

T-minus 1 week: Buy art supplies, both for ourselves and a large amount of free stuff to give to people at the event. Gather extras of the Survival Kit; make sure I can find all of last year’s materials. Coordinate with Leef of Mission Comics to make sure we’re confirmed and on the same page with Blitz Comics sponsoring event. Scope out parking garages for the event (fortuitously, I right up the street for a different event) and enter in GPS.

T-minus 3 days: Last “just draw” meeting. Confirm schedule for Saturday morning, which will include breakfast, donuts and helping Leef set up before the actual event. Draw up TODO and shopping lists. Draw some more.

T-minus 2 days: Last trip to the store since Friday will be booked up. Last minute art practice.

T-minus 18 hours: Last minute art practice and reading. Bail early on normal Friday night dinner-coffee-bookstore run in favor of going home to get everything ready.

T-minus 12 hours: Dig through post-novel-writing mess to find art materials. Wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. Find most of the materials, but decide to crash super early to make sure I’m awake for event.

T-minus 4.5 hours: Up at 5:30 and packing stuff up. I am king of the pile people, and the tote bag is my emblem.

T-minus 3 hours: Depart for event. Pick up Nathan, go for breakfast. My meal is up before Nathan’s finished ordering, which is weird. Chill out, discuss what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, conclude that we’re both crazy, but we’re doing it anyway.

T-minus 2 hours: Leave breakfast, go pick up donuts for participants. Krispy Kreme FTW! One box regular, one box mixed (with an extra chocolate glazed for me). By the time we’re done the time’s now 9:30ish. Head to San Francisco, by this point almost an hour drive. Traffic is smooth and we’ve got lots of buffer.

T-minus 45 minutes: Arrival in San Francisco. Park, gather stuff, head to event. Nathan reroutes us from the shortest path to a nearby street which “has better energy;” this street proves to have a row of beautiful homes rather than backdoors and garbage cans, so, yes, indeed, it had better energy for walking up to the event.

T-minus 30 minutes: Arrive at Mission Comics. Set up. Because we’re so early, Nathan and I get primo spots near Leef’s desk (and the bathroom) but still in the front room. Chitchat. Notice first page of notebook has some damage on it and draw a “Cover Page” on the presumption that I’m going to adapt the second part of “Stranded”. Get ready.

Yes, it is STARTING!

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That page doesn’t count towards my 24. Alright … ready … GO!

24 Hour Comic Day Begins

11:00AM October 20th Leef says “Go!” and I start reviewing my story ideas. I’m planning on adapting part 2 of “Stranded,” picking up where I left off last year, but in the spirit of the event I leave the actual decision to the start of the event – and give myself the opportunity to bail if I’m not feeling it. I read the story over in my mind.

11:05AM (by watch), 11:07AM (by phone): Committed to story, synchronize watches. I skim my story in the print book, figuring out a good chunk that’s easy to adapt, and picking out comic-friendly lines of dialog.

11:12AM: Rough story outline done. Comparing lengths to make sure Parts 1, 2, and 3 are roughly the same; they are. Find a great ending point which uses Keith’s Johnstone’s idea of reincorporation to great and surprising effect. I mean, it was in the story before, but it makes a really great Part 2 ender.

11:15AM: Story review done. Review overall structure to get down the “beats,” the ebb and flow of the story.

11:21AM: Donut / bathroom break. Ready to tackle thumbnails.

11:22AM: 23.5 hours remain, 24 pages to go. Start thumbnailing – sketching your comic as a whole, with each page as a tiny square. Many comic artists do this; Jim Lee’s Icons book has some great examples done by a master of the genre. There’s a the Blitz Comics thumbnail worksheet that I think I came up with but paradoxically that Nathan uses extensively; for me, my style is so sloppy that I need to use a whole page.

11:40AM: Roughs done. I take out some time to set up my laptop so I can blog (ha!) look up reference shots (more realistic) and time my progress.

11:44AM Laptop setup. Switch notebooks Setting up page for drawing.

11:47AM: Take a ~13 minute break.

Total Planning Time: 1 hour. This is comparable to last year’s 52 minute planning session, but it can take up to 3 to 4 hours to plan if you don’t have a story in mind. As it turns out, another 2 hours planning wouldn’t have hurt me.

The outcome: this sheet of thumbnails. My map to my story.

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Alright, back to it. All the preliminaries are out of the way: I’ve got a story, an outline, thumbnails on one art book and an empty art book next to it, a laptop with Internet, art books, art materials, a soda, and a donut. Now: starting the first page!

12:00 NOON START PAGE ONE: Riffing on the two page spread near the end of the previous book, without being too obvious about it if you read it straight through.

12:05PM: Panel borders penciled.
12:15PM: Panel borders inked. Need to improve this process.
12:26PM: Sketching done.
12:46PM: Panel 1 done. Too slow.
1:06PM: Panels 3-4 done. Getting sloppy, messed up space for dialogue. Whiteout marker broken, decide to come back later and fix. (I never did).
1:22PM: Panel 5 done.
1:24PM: Finish ~2 minute break
Total time for Page One: 1 hour, 24 minutes. Way too slow. Need to be around 45 minutes.

Now I know I’m going to be drawing people I’ve drawn less often, like Norylan below (note: this is a colored sketch from my notebook, NOT from any 24 Hour Comic Day :-). So it’s time to break out the laptop.

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So the laptop setup WAS important after all!

1:24PM START PAGE TWO: The first new page, first appearance of Norylan. I use the laptop to find a “Mug Shots” directory I did for the Serendipity Facebook page, and put up faces of all the characters. My target for this page is 2:15PM.
1:30PM: Finish pencil panel lines.
1:35PM: Finish inked panel lines.
1:49PM: Rough pencils.
2:04PM: Panel 1.
2:17PM: Panel 2.
2:29PM: Panel 3.
2:34PM: ~5 minute break.
Total Time for Page Two: 1 hour, 10 minutes. Still need to streamline. Starting to get worried, even though I know I have two dual page spreads in my layout.

2:34PM START PAGE THREE: Focusing on how to do this easier. Not sure how, but work at it. Target: 3:15pm.
2:38PM: Inked panel borders.
3:00PM: Finish panel 1, after some researching centaur shapes and Norylan poses.
3:15PM: Finish 15 minute interview by reporter for a blog.
3:27PM: Finish page.
Total Time for Page Three: 1 hour, 3 minutes. Things are improving, with the caveat that this is the point I start counting the breaks at the start of the page rather than at the end (because if you get done just before the end and then take a break, who cares?)

3:28PM START PAGE FOUR: Really focusing on how to speed up. Ambition not helping so much.
3:30PM: Finish 2 minute bathroom break.
3:33PM: Finish pencil panel borders. Really wishing I’d made an 8×12 template.
3:38PM: Finish inked panel borders.
3:51PM: Done with Panel 1.
3:55PM: Done with Panel 2. HOW? How did it get done so fast?
4:13PM: Done with Panel 3. WHY? Why did it take so long?
4:25PM: Finished Panel 4.
Total Time for Page Four: 57 minutes. Starting to improve. We might finish if we power through it.

4:25PM START PAGE FIVE: Switched to inside the ship. Maybe this will speed things up. And add context.
4:28PM: Finish ~3 minute break.
4:40PM: Finished ink boxes.
4:48PM: Finished setting up Excel spreadsheet to track progress and see how fast I need to go to finish. I used it up to about the second dual page spread.
5:26PM: Finished page.
Total Time for Page Five: One hour, 1 minute. Argh. Back to slowness. But people seem to like this page.  

The following graph shows my progress over the day – spoilers, but you should already know I finished.

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The graph is after the fact; I just used it at the time to figure out that I needed to be doing a page in 54 minutes or less. Back to it!

5:26PM: START PAGES SIX AND SEVEN: A dual page spread at last! Target: 6:15PM.
5:45PM: Finish break.
5:50PM: Finish sketch and borders.
6:26PM: Finish page.
Total Time for Pages Six and Seven: 1 hour. Still slow, but I’ve made up time by the dual page spread.

6:26PM: START PAGE EIGHT: Back to a page, aware I need to pick up the pace. Can I simplify? Target: 7:15PM.
6:36PM: 10 minute break concludes.
6:46PM: Panels done, plus talking.
7:04PM: Panel 1 done.
7:22PM: Panel 6 done. By a happy coincidence, I had three small horses in my box of art props, in positions ranging from standing to trot to gallop, perfect for panels 5-7.
7:26PM: Panel 7 done.
Total Time for Page Eight: 1 hour. Still not speedy. Argh.   

7:26PM: START PAGE NINE: Nuts, poses with people looking up. Argh! Target: 8:15PM.
8:20PM: Done, with a 5 minute break in there.
Total Time for Page Nine: 54 minutes. Still not speedy. Argh. But it’s a notch faster than my 56 minute desired time (time has ballooned a bit since I had been falling behind).

Somewhere around this point I really started to flag, to really feel despair and to decide I didn’t want to do this, but I pulled out a Panera bread cinnamon roll I’d purchased for just such an occasion and was soon re-energized!

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Beans and vinegar, sugar high, go!

8:20PM: START PAGE TEN: A complicated pose, but only two panels, easy, right? Target: 9:05PM.
9:05PM: Finish Panel 1. During this, I had to pose several models on top of each other, hold the models at different angles, tweak the stuff … oh dear.  
9:30PM: Finish Panel 2. Argh! But people seem to really love this shot.
Total Time for Page Ten: 1 hour, 10 minutes. But it’s a great page.

9:30PM: START PAGE ELEVEN: An even more complex pose: two characters holding another on a gurney looking down from the top of the ship. Argh! Target: 10:15
9:38PM: Finish break.
9:46PM: Finish panels. Where’s that 8×12 template again?
10:20PM: Finish page.
Total Time for Page Eleven: 50 minutes. Getting better.

10:20PM: START PAGE TWELVE: Things going better; I’m on page twelve, I should be on page twelve by my Excel spreadsheet. I decide to skim backgrounds and use silhouettes here to simplify.
10:30PM: Finish ~10min break.
10:51PM: Finish Panel 1. Silhouette of Norylan looks great. Made a slight gaffe overblacking an area, but you can’t tell in the finished product.
11:05PM: Finish Panel 2. The blaster design is what I can draw. I’d have done this with 3 panels if I could have.
11:15PM: Finish Panel 3. Norylan!
Total Time for Page Twelve: 55 minutes. Right on time, according to Excel.

11:15PM: START PAGE THIRTEEN: A single page spread, on purpose.
11:54PM: Finish Panel 1. Suprisingly hard to get the design of INDEPENDENCE right, but in the end, the ship looks great and is a great backdrop for the action.
Total time for Page Twelve: 39 minutes. Woo hoo! Getting ahead.

11:54PM: START PAGE FOURTEEN: Even simplified, this will be a bear. 7 panels, one a crowd scene.
12:09AM: Finish ~15 minute break. Isn’t it weird that AM and PM designators switch an hour before the clocks roll back from 12 to 1? I guess the easier way to think about it is that since the clock loops around, 12 on the clock really is a funny way of saying 0 (12 mod 12 = 0 :-).
12:15AM: Finish panel boxes.
12:29AM: Finish the surprisingly complex Panel 1 – four characters in a complex pose.
12:32AM: Finish Panel 2.
12:40AM: Finish Panels 3 and 4.
12:59AM: Finish Panel 5 – a night crowd scene around a fire. AAAAA!
1:10AM: Finish Panel 6. Tianyu came out very well as a shadow in the dark.
1:16AM: Finish Panel 7. Ah, done with blacks for now. Next few pages, I cheat.
Total Time for Page Fourteen: One hour, 26 minutes. Argh. Back to the grind.  

It’s around this time, not sure when precisely, that I had the second incidence of questioning my sanity.

24hcd2012sanity.png

I’d already had dinner from a nearby cafe, and a donut didn’t help, so it wasn’t food shortage. My memories are a bit jumbled, but I recall taking a brief nap, about 10 minutes, but panels danced before my eyes and I realized my resistance was that I didn’t have a good plan for the next few pages. I scanned the panels in my mind, decided, and got up and went back to work.

1:16AM: START PAGE FIFTEEN: Simplify. Eliminate blacks; pretend the campfire illuminates like day.
1:33AM: Finish ~17 minute break. Needed that.
1:37AM: Finish inking panel borders.
1:40AM: Finish panel 1. Not even sure I penciled this one.
1:50AM: Finish panels 2-3. Almost no penciling again: close characters in foreground.
2:12AM: Finish panel 3. Complex characters in interesting pose, more work.
Total Time for Page Fifteen: 56 minutes. Not bad, counting the break.

2:12AM: START PAGE SIXTEEN: A complex pose atop panel 1: a centaur falling on a person. Argh! I put a horse model atop a superhero model and used that. Sadly, you can sort of tell as the person’s pose is too stiff.
2:58AM: Finish Panel 3.
Total Time for Page Sixteen: 46 minutes. Not bad. Getting bolder with the no pencils when I can get away with it.

2:58AM: START PAGE SEVENTEEN: I like this page. Romance, kung fu, and death threats!
3:12AM: Finish ~14 minute break.
3:59AM: Finish Panel 3.
Total Time for Page Seventeen: 1 hour, 1 minute. Slower, but complex.

Again, somewhere around here, it isn’t clear, I wanted to just give up – for the third time.

24hcd2012despair.png

This time, it wasn’t a sugar low, or a panel problem, or any of those other things. Despite the picture (actually taken earlier in the day; I was too busy to take pictures at this point) I wasn’t that tired. I just wanted to quit. I realized there was no external thing I could do to help me. I had to just power through it, just reach in and find the place that said … continue.

3:59AM: START PAGE EIGHTEEN: Simplify, just keep it going. Took a short break.
4:36AM: Finish Panel 4.
Total Time for Page Eighteen: 37 minutes. How? Amazing.

4:36AM: START PAGE NINETEEN: Simplify, but this is more complex. Avoid pencils?
4:48AM: Break for 12 minutes.
4:55AM: Finish panel borders.
5:02AM: Finish sketch of Panel 1.
5:09AM: Finish Panel 1.
5:36AM: Finish Panel 4.
Total Time for Page Nineteen: 1 hour. Slower, but we’re getting close to the end.

5:36AM: START PAGES TWENTY AND TWENTY ONE: A dual page spread, woo woo!
5:37AM: Finish 3 minute break.
6:20AM: Mostly finished.
6:22AM: Finish Panel 1.
Total Time for Pages Twenty and Twenty One: 46 minutes. Not bad for a two page spread!  

Now I am officially way ahead. The dual page spread, finished early, has put me 1 whole page ahead of schedule.

24hcd2012ahead.png

This picture, again taken earlier, represents my now renewed burst of enthusiasm – shoot, still 3 more pages.

6:22AM: START PAGE TWENTY TWO: When I “should” be at page 20. Woot! Goal: 7:10am. This page could be complex, but I’m going to simplify it. Most complex thing: two characters riding a centaur.
7:01AM: Finish Panel 4.
Total Time for Page Twenty-Two: 38 minutes. Woot! Go no pencils, except where hard.

7:01AM: START PAGE TWENTY THREE: When I “should” be at page 21. Woo woo! Simplify even more; drawing a giant door. Yes, I’m ahead, I could get complex, but *F* that at this stage, it’s better to be DONE! Hardest part: showing a character falling backwards into water.
7:05AM: Finish inking panel borders.
7:35AM: Finish Panel 3.
Total Time for Page Twenty-Three: 34 minutes. Almost there … stay on target …

7:35AM: START PAGE TWENTY FOUR: When I “should” be at page 22. Almost there! One single panel spread!
8:20AM: Finish Panel 1.
Total Time for Page Twenty-Four: 45 minutes? Axually, I don’t know. I strongly suspect the 8:20 figure is my “target time” and that I finished slightly early. Still … it’s better to be DONE!

Hey, wait a second … I FINISHED! Go Team Centaur! Go Blitz Comics! Go Mission Comics! Go 24 Hour Comics Day!

blitzman-itsbettertobedone.png

So … now what? Well, after chilling out a bit, stretching, I hung out with people at the event. People began to finish up around me; a few people had beat me, some by a little, some by a lot – two people finished way early and went back and watercolored all their pages. While I didn’t track times, this is how the rest of the day went, more or less:

8:20AM: START CHILLDOWN. O.M.G. I’m done. Don’t panic. Don’t gloat. Chill out, stretch your wrists, take a walk.
Mostly, I just walked around, talked to people, started cleaning up. Sooner or later, people started cleaning up.

9:00AM: SHOW ME YOURS, I’LL SHOW YOU MINE: People start noticing that others have finished, or people begin announcing it. Some people pass around their comics. At least three of them were watercolored. All were interesting, all were different, and a few had really genuine scares and laughs.

10:00AM: INTERVIEW: The reporter returns and begins interviewing everyone. Each one takes about 10 minutes. It’s fun and great to unpack your thoughts.

10:30AM: TEARDOWN: I and Nathan begin packing up. I vow not to take so much next time; I have a good grip on how much I can use in one trip now. Basically, if it doesn’t fit in one bag that you can sit next to the desk while you work, you are not going to pull it out.

11:00AM: FAREWELLS: Nathan and I are invited to have breakfast with Doc and Leef, but Nathan’s too worn out for this and needs to crash. We decide to bail, say our farewells, and leave Mission Comics to wind our way back the street of trees and dreams.

T-plus 1 hour: THE VOYAGE HOME. Nathan and I are surprisingly alert enough to start a postmortem. We come up with a list of ideas about 24 Hour Comics Day which we’re going to turn into a series of blogposts. I’m fading fast, and feel microbursts of sleep as I drive. Not safe. Drop Nathan off, then get breakfast.

T-plus 2 hours: BREAKFAST AND POSTMORTEM. I go to my favorite restaurant, Aqui’s in Blossom Valley, and get a spectacular French toast breakfast while I unpack my ideas. I email them to Nathan, capturing our conversation on the drive, then hastily bang together a trip report. A friend is having a baby shower, but I’m simply too exhausted and go home to sleep.

Yes, French toast. That is my reward for a hard day’s work. That, and blissful unconsciousness.

24hcd2012reward.png

But that’s not the end of 24 Hour Comics Day, oh no. We need … the POSTMORTEM! This postmortem, axually.

T-plus 3 hours: NAP Yes, sleep. But not much. I’m too wound up, and wake up.

T-plus 5 hours: UNWIND. I unpack the car, kick around the house, chat with Sandi, and unwind.

T-plus 11 hours: CRASH: After doing as much damage as I can, I crash, hard.

T-plus 23 hours: AWAKEN: Yes, I do indeed wake up at almost 10 the next day. What can I say, I love my job, which cares more about how much work you do than when you get there. I got in to work around 11am, 24 hours after 24 Hour Comic Day ended.

T-plus 2 days: BACK TO SPEED: The first day was rough, but by Tuesday I was back at it and had started writing this postmortem. It took me two whole days.

T-plus 3 days: POSTMORTEM COMPLETE. Complete as of me writing this paragraph. I’ve got back to speed with my other writing projects (DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME and SPECTRAL IRON, *ahem*), scheduled a meeting with Nathan for next Wednesday to plan out the next year of Blitz Comics … and finished this postmortem.

And that, my friends, is a 24 Hour Comics Day.

-the Centaur

Blitzing 24 Hour Comics Day 2012

stranded24hcd2012.png

24 Hour Comics Day is a challenge to create 24 pages of a new comic in 24 Hours. The challenge was originally conceived by comics whiz Scott McCloud in 1990, and the challenge was organized into a formal day by Nat Gertler in 2004. Now, eight years later, 24HCD is a global event in which thousands of people participate.

My first two tries at 24 Hour Comics Day were miserable failures in 2009 and 2010. My good friend Nathan Vargas also failed, and we started putting our heads together about how to succeed. For me, pulling a Jim Lee and taking a year off to massively cram at being a great artist might merit an angry note from my mortgage service provider, so we needed other options.

We analyzed how we failed, developed strategies and tutorial materials, and ultimately produced the Blitz Comics Survival Kit — not called 24 Hour Comics Survival Kit because we didn’t want to look like we were providing “official” materials; the Survival Kit was just our take on how to succeed, and we didn’t even know whether it would work, because we hadn’t done it yet.

As it turns out, the techniques in the Kit did work in 2011, not just for Nathan and me but also for a wide variety of other people as well. Nathan has worked hard to promote the ideas and concepts in the Kit while I’ve been a slack ass lazy bum writing novels, so since he works hard now Comics PRO distributes our materials as Participant Resources. But was our success a fluke?

Well, to test the theory, we tried it again. A few months before we reviewed our exercises and updated the Survival Kit, though website problems prevented us from updating the materials everywhere in time for the 24HCD event. We re-ran the tutorial we’d done before, and practiced a month or so in advance, cracking the knuckles so to speak, to get ready …

Because yesterday was 24 Hour Comics Day.

missioncomics24hcd2012.jpg

We both succeeded, of course; me around 8:20am and Nathan an hour and a half so later. It was great to participate at the always wonderful Mission Comics, but unlike previous years where we were too zonked to think at all, this year we had an interesting and lively conversation about what we did, why we did it, why we’re doing this, and how to make it better in the future.

And unlike last year, we’re planning to meet next week, rather than a few months in advance. Hopefully there will be some great stuff to show you – such as our comics, which we finally may have a strategy to get online without fixing the server error that’s been a pain in the patootie to fix. Next up: a 24 Hour Comics Day Timeline, like last year’s. Stay tuned.

Now, home to bed, because at this point I’ve been up 32 and a half hours straight!

-the Centaur

Pictured: the last page of my 2012 24 Hour Comic, “Stranded Part 2”, my adaptation of my own story “Stranded,” published in the book STRANDED. Got that? Also pictured is a bunch of writers at Mission Comics and Art. Thanks Leef!

A 24 Hour Comics Day Timeline

24 Hour Comics Day can be quite the intimidating challenge, especially if you haven’t done it before. Because Nathan Vargas and I had tried it before and failed, we started thinking hard about how to succeed – and I in particular started thinking about timing: how to break down your hours, how long you typically take breaks, and so on.

To keep myself on track, I started writing down panel timings as I was working, an almost unconscious decision that soon turned into a policy. As a result, I produced a nearly complete timeline of events of a successful 24 Hour Comics Day.

Everyone’s method will be different, and this may not apply to you. But it shows at least ONE successful approach: preparing ahead, bringing good food, other refreshments and adequate supplies, getting planning done early, keeping each page tight, noticing that you’re falling behind, finding faster ways to do things, taking breaks to stay energized – and never, never, never giving up.

BEFORE THE EVENT

T-Minus 1 year: Fail to finish 24HCD … Again. Resolve to take more life drawing classes. As a result … actually took more life drawing classes and practiced.

T-Minus 4 months: Reminded by Nathan about 24HCD. Started to panic. Nathan mentioned he was thinking about how to succeed this time. I started thinking about that too.

T-Minus 3 months: Drunk guy at a comics booth at the Sub Zero festival hears us talking about 24HCD. He suggests we should do a tutorial. We go to Slave Labor Graphics, find out they aren’t set up to host a full 24 hour event. A tutorial or boot camp starts to sound like a better idea.

T-Minus 2 months: We decide to do the boot camp. After a marathon brainstorming session where we came up with the name BLitz Comics, we start meeting every Wednesday, producing tutorial materials.

T-Minus 1 week: We do a runthrough of the bootcamp. Around this time, we find out that 24HCD at the venue we’ve chosen is not October 1 but September 24 … 1 day after our boot camp. Panic.

T-Minus 18 hours: Last minute trips to University Art to buy notebooks, pens, pencils for the boot camp (which will also be used at 24HCD as well).

T-Minus 15 hours: BLitz Comics hosts its first 24 Hour Comic Day “boot camp” at Kaleid Gallery. The camp includes a 45 minute tutorial (that ended up going on for an hour and a half) and included 2 1-hour drawing exercises. I learn precisely what I *can’t* draw in just 1 hour.

T-Minus 12 hours: Boot camp concludes. Hours of packing required. Get to bed at 3:30am, get up at 7.

T-Minus 3 hours: Pick up Nathan. Trek to Mission Comics begins with a hearty breakfast at Stacks, a trip to Starbucks for coffee, and a trip to Safeway for bagels, cereal, tangerines and bananas.

T-Minus 1 hour: Traffic jam. Panic should be in full swing now, but we just had coffee, a hearty breakfast, and have gone through boot camp. No worries.

T-Minus 1 minute: Pull in front of Mission Comics; Nathan runs in with our art supplies and I leave to go find parking.

24 HOUR COMIC DAY BEGINS

11:00AM, September 24th: Driving around for parking. Find a great place.
11:15AM: Arrive at Mission Comics. Nathan has found primo spots halfway back the main table; we’re sitting opposite each other but are in easy view of the window, door, bathroom and 10,000 comics.

11:21AM: PLANNING PHASE Start comic with a planning page. Consider two ideas; decide to go for broke and adapt my novella “Stranded” rather than wussing out with the stick-figure “Story of Blitz Comics” which I had already done a 1-pager on anyway.
11:30AM(ish): Skim novella I’m adapting, especially chapter headings. Decide on a rough breakdown; can probably draw half the novella. Pick a good stopping point.
11:38AM: Did the 24-page thumbnail sheet. Laugh at my foolish notion that I can draw half the novella. Some things that take a line in the novella need a full page; other things that take a full page don’t even need to appear at all or need to be completely rewritten. Added talking animal to the plot as the only way to make the story work (it’s OK, it’s a robot). Break down the pages into approximately the first third.
12:13PM: Done planning.
Total planning time: 52 minutes In my experience, it can take 2-4 hours to plan if you don’t have a story in mind (the first two years I had vague stories in mind but no novella in hand to adapt). As it turns out, that extra 3 hours of planning would not have hurt me.

12:13PM: START PAGE ONE Did a space scene (not recommended from the boot camp!) as the first image.
12:30PM: Panel 1 Done. Blacks are surprisingly time consuming even with wide Sharpie.
12:45PM: Panel 2 Done. More blacks, more time; starting to get worried.
01:08PM: Panel 3 Done. Damn spacecraft again. Almost no blacks, but it took longer.
01:34PM: Panel 4 Done. Closeup of a character in a pose I’m bad at. Argh.
Total page time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Did some calculations; need to DOUBLE my page rate to succeed.

01:37PM: START PAGE TWO No black space vistas on this page at all. Maybe easier going?
01:43PM: Finished roughs for the page.
02:10PM: Panel 1 Done. Getting a grip on figures, sound effects, word balloons.
02:25PM: Panel 2 Done. Needed to know fuse ratings to fill in detail on the end of a fuse pulled by central character. Decided to use phone instead of computer to look it up – the answer was “in kA” and 207 is a good super-high number. This worked so well I resolved not to turn computer on until I was “way ahead”.
02:39PM: Finished Panel 3. Liking this “draw people from the back half obscured” trick.
Total page time: 1 hour, 2 min. Need to pick up pace by at least 20 minutes.

02:39PM: START PAGE THREE One huge panel, but 4 characters and some perspective.
02:48PM: ~10 minute break + boxing in outer panel border.
02:58PM: Central character outlined
03:02PM: Dialogue outlined, drawing characters around word bubbles. LOVE the technique! Had to spend more time looking up the appearance of a bird’s eye for a drawing. In hindsight, I’m glad I did that rather than wing it, I had to draw that bird eye on a helm maybe a dozen times or more over the comic.
03:22PM: Page finished. Finally ahead (ish) but not really: hour 4.5 with only 3 pages
Total page time: 43 minutes. Counting the 9 minute break.

03:22PM: START PAGE FOUR Back to a multi-panel page with black areas.
03:34PM: ~12 minute break.
03:39PM: Panels done. Realize my target time (45 minutes) is 4:07. Oh shit.
03:51PM: Roughs done for Panel 1, a closeup of a character’s face.
03:58PM: Panel 1 done. Came out rather nice, perhaps the nicest face in the comic.
04:02PM: Panel 2 done.
04:11PM. Panel 3 blacks done. Great music from band “07” is playing over Mission Comic’s sound system.
04:16PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 54 minutes. Almost on schedule.

04:16PM: START PAGE FIVE More panels, 5 this time, but no black areas.
04:21PM: ~5 minute break.
04:24PM: Pencil panel borders done.
04:27PM: Ink panel borders done.
04:40PM: Panel 1 done. Realize my human profiles suck. So do my full figures. Ugh.
04:49PM: Panels 2-3 done.
04:55PM: Panels 4-5 done.
Total page time: 39 minutes. Not sure how I pulled that off.

04:55PM: START PAGE SIX More space vistas! And crosshatching!
05:04PM: ~9 minute break.
05:05PM: Pencil borders done.
05:09PM: Ink panel borders done
05:11PM: Dialogue done – needed adaptation from novella.
05:16PM: Frame 1 roughs done
05:31PM: Frame 1 blacks done
05:38PM: Frame 2 done
05:45PM: Frame 3 done
05:53PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 58 minutes. Black backgrounds will kill ya.

05:53PM: START PAGE SEVEN
05:55PM: ~2 minute break ... then pizza arrives!
06:38PM: ~43 minute dinner break. Yum!
06:39PM: Pencil border.
06:43PM: Ink panel borders.
06:48PM: Roughs.
07:10PM: Panel 1 “done”.
07:19PM: Further polish (it’s a large and important panel that introduces Serendipity, the protagonist).
07:29PM: Panel 2 done.
07:36PM: Panel 3 done.
Total page time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

07:36PM: START PAGE EIGHT
07:53PM: ~17 minute break (flagging a bit?)
07:54PM: Pencils.
08:00PM: Panels
08:08PM: Panel 1 rough / dialogue. Realize we’re in hour 10 now.
08:24PM: Panel 2.
08:38PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 1 hour, 2 minutes.

08:38PM: START PAGE NINE
08:54PM: ~16 minute break
09:06PM: ~12 minute break (someone came by to talk?)
09:08PM: Panels penciled.
09:13PM: Panels inked.
09:18PM: AAARGH! Blocked. PHUQ IT.
09:26PM: Panel 1. Some of the facial positions are hard. Screw it.
09:35PM: Panel 2.
09:44PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 1 hour, 6 minutes.

09:44PM: START PAGE TEN
09:50PM: ~6 minute break
09:52PM: Penciled panels.
10:00PM: Inked panels. Realize it’s hour 11 (actually 12, but never mind) and you should be working on page 12 or more. Cut it in half!
10:11PM: Panel 1 done. Damn black space around spaceships again.
10:28PM: Panel 2 outlines done. Was intimidated by this crowd scene, easier than I expected. 5 people and 4 ghostly background outlines – 9 people total!
10:34PM: Panel 2 done.
10:40PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 56 minutes.

10:40PM: START PAGE ELEVEN
10:46PM: ~6 minute break
10:47PM: Pencil outlines.
10:49PM: Panels inked.
10:57PM: Dialogue for all panels inked. This really helped, but as I found out later, I was reading in columns but other people read left-to-right, so this was a flaw. Zoned out around here.
11:14PM: Panel 1 done.
11:28PM: Page finished.
Total page time: 48 minutes.

11:28PM: START PAGE TWELVE – on a roll, no break. Thought it was hour 12, actually hour 13.
11:34PM: Panels and dialogue complete. Met Google guy, should contact later. Also found out about Mobcomics, a comic publishing platform.
11:38PM: Panel 1 done.
11:44PM: Panel 2 done.
11:51PM: Page done.
Total page time: 23 minutes. That seems almost impossible! But it happened, in part because I was skipping pencils or just doing light pencils on certain characters.

11:52PM: START PAGE THIRTEEN
12:00AM: Break. Didn’t even realize it was midnight and September 25 now. Did realize it was not hour 12 but hour 13 (not true, actually hour 14 had started). “On Schedule” … NOT! 🙂
12:07AM: Script complete. All those people who are complaining that by adapting a novella I’m “cheating because the script is worked out already” can go jump in a lake. It isn’t that simple. That’s why they call it ADAPTING, folks.
12:21AM: Page done.
Total page time: 29 minutes. This page went fast because it was primarily diagrams and dialogue, no figures – this is the point where the crew of Independence realizes that they’re screwed if they don’t land.

12:22AM: START PAGE FOURTEEN
12:32AM: ~10 minute break.
12:45AM: Panel 2 done.
01:03AM: Page done.
Total page time: 41 minutes. I don’t know it yet, but I’m just about to get caught up with where I “should” be to finish on time.

01:03AM: START PAGE FIFTEEN
01:04AM: No significant break, really.
01:14AM: Panels done.
01:38AM: Page done.
Total page time: 35 minutes. I don’t know it yet, but I am now officially AHEAD.

01:38AM: START PAGE SIXTEEN
01:55AM: ~17 minute bathroom break
01:58AM: Panels done. I now realize my hour count was off and this is hour 15.
02:06AM: Panel 1 done.
02:15AM: Panel 2 done. I am digging that it’s hour 16 and I’m progressing on page 16.
02:23AM: Page done.
Total page time: 45 minutes. We may win this thing yet!

02:23AM: START PAGE SEVENTEEN
02:31AM: ~8 minute break
02:34AM: Panel borders
02:45AM: Panel 1 done … digging that it’s STILL hour 16 and I’m on page 17.
02:54AM: Panel 2 done.
02:58AM: Page done.
Total page time: 35 minutes. I am now officially a page ahead.

02:58AM: START PAGES EIGHTEEN AND NINETEEN – DUAL PAGE SPREAD
02:59AM: On a roll, jazzed that I have finally gotten to a dual page spread, will LEAP ahead now. Sure, it’s a gigantic outer space vista that requires some actual diagramming and thought, but its SO COOL that I’m going to go from just about ahead to way ahead in one swell foop!
03:07AM: Borders and sketch done.
03:16AM: Inks done.
03:39AM: Blacks done.
03:47AM: Page done.
Total page time: 49 minutes. I am now TWO pages ahead.

03:47AM: START PAGE TWENTY
04:04AM: ~17 minute break.
04:21AM: Panel lines done.
04:28AM: Page done. First (and only time I had to use whiteout) because I was inking and not sketching.
Total page time: 41 minutes. I am now THREE pages ahead.

04:28AM: START PAGE TWENTY-ONE
04:35AM: ~7 minute break
04:43AM: Script done. Repeat note to snarky guys who don’t know what “adapting” means.
04:44AM: Boxes done. Wow, that was fast for that many panels.
04:51AM: Panel 1 done.
04:54AM: Panel 2 done. Largely skipping pencils now.
04:57AM: Inks on Panel 3 done.
05:04AM: Panel 3 blacks done.
05:09AM: Panel 4 inks done.
05:13AM: Panel 4 blacks done.
05:26AM: Panel 5 done.
05:31AM: Panel 6 done, page done AND IT’S STILL HOUR 18.
Total page time: 1 hour, 3 minutes.

05:31AM: START PAGES TWENTY-TWO AND TWENTY-THREE
05:33AM: ~2 minute break. I am so glad I put in two dual page spreads. And this is my favorite page – a redo of the very first drawing I did of Serendipity two or three years ago, before I even knew her name: a young centauress with her barrel draped in tapestries, bouncing along a field of wheat towards a castle beneath a gas giant floating in the sky. Had to completely redo the drawing, but ultimately this was the point of the story.
05:38AM: Border done.
05:48AM: Sketch done.
06:06AM: Page done.
Total page time: 35 minutes. Woo woo on dual page spreads!

06:06AM: START PAGE TWENTY-FOUR
06:13AM: ~7 minute break. The last page is a huge single panel “to be continued”. Go for it!
06:41AM: DONE and DONE!
Total page time: 35 minutes.

DONE and DONE! Total comic time: 19:20 minutes!

AFTER THE EVENT

Not timing it. Chilling out. Futzed around for an hour or so, talked to people, texted my wife. Took a nap around 7:40 to 8ish, then read a comic I’d bought during one of my breaks. Chilled out a while, looked at other people’s finished and unfinished comics, then when Nathan finished, bought one more book, thanked Leef of Mission Comics and went to get the car. We packed up, had a great breakfast at Mel’s, and I dropped Nathan off at his apartment right at 11am – two 24 Hour Comic Day victors.

And that’s it. I’m pleased to see that even with adapting the novella on my side, I still finished early enough to absorb the 3-4 hours I took getting the story straight on the previous two 24 Hour Comic Days, so I think the technique would work even if I didn’t have a story to tell. Knowing how many stories I have buzzing around in my head, that’s never likely to happen – but if you’re a 24 Hour Comic purist, it’s good to know that preparing ahead, carefully tracking your page timings and shooting for 45 minutes or less per page is a technique that can make you succeed.

Best of luck on your own comics!

-the Centaur (Anthony Francis)

Crossposted at BLitz Comics.