By Erasmo Guerra
Started in 2004, 24-Hour Comics Day is an annual event held on the first Saturday in October, where folks get together to create a 24-page comic book in 24 straight hours.
Our heroes: a team of Academy of Art University students from the Schools of Illustration (ILL) and Visual Development (VIS) worked together alone from 10 a.m. Saturday morning to 10 a.m. Sunday the following day. They battled hunger, sleep deprivation and they faced their biggest nemesis: that villain of students the world over, a horrible monster known as homework.
10 a.m., Saturday, October 6, 2018
As a TV in the background played a YouTube playlist of Mac Demarco’s “Salad Days” album, a handful of students stumbled into Bradley Hall.
Anna Peterson, a VIS student pursuing a B.F.A. in concept art for gaming and president of the student Comic and Concept Art Club, which hosted the event along with ILL, had set up folding tables for the marathon comic book-making event.
Ten students had RSVP-ed. Though Peterson expected more students to arrive later in the day and into the night. “A lot of artists tend to work more at night,” she said.
A fan of comics like “V for Vendetta” and “The Wake,” which she described as “researchers uncover horrific mermaids” that was more monstrous than the mythical beauties, Peterson admitted that while she would be doing some drawing over the next 24 hours, she also had “so much homework.”
Sherman Wong, vice president of the Comic and Concept Art Club and a third-semester VIS student in game development, said this was his third time helping at the annual event. For him, the 24-hour marathon was an opportunity to get homework done. He cited his favorite comics as “Spawn” and anything else put out by Image Comics.
Among the students who showed up to draw, some had come with a plan of attack.
Katrina Rodriguez, a student in her final semester pursuing a B.F.A. in illustration, had come dressed in a Selena t-shirt. “Since it’s my last semester, I thought I better do this before I graduate,” Rodriguez said.
Asked about the longest stretch she’s spent focused on drawing, Rodriguez mentioned the 48-hours she put into finishing a three-page final project for a figure drawing class. She survived those 48 hours thanks to lots of coffee and friends who brought her food. This morning, she hadn’t brought so much as a power bar, but she was armed with a rolled-up carrying case of more than two-dozen Micron and Copic pens with which to draw.
She described her own style as cartoony and wacky. And ultimately said she was here just for fun. “Twenty-four pages is kind of ambitious,” she said. “If I can do 15, I’ll be pretty proud.”
Sylvia Zhang, a native of Xian, China, and a third-year graduate ILL student pursuing an M.F.A. in graphic novels, had participated in 24-Hour Comics Day in 2016. Recently, she’d come up with an idea that she wanted to explore in a comic book format, which is why she signed up this year.
Zhang said that before attending Academy of Art University, she’d read mostly Japanese manga, but since then she has explored a variety of styles and artists and counted Chris Ware as a favorite.
10 p.m., Saturday, October 6, 2018
As Peterson had said, another handful of students had arrived at some point during the night and at the halfway point of the 24-hour challenge, they were busy drawing while the McGregor-Nurmagomedov fight played silently on a TV.
Even Rodriguez’s friend, Vincent Chen—the one who’d pushed her to sign up—had also shown. As a VIS undergrad student, Chen said he didn’t get much of a chance to draw pen to paper, but this night he was working with a nib pen and a pot of ink, developing an idea that he’d “storyboarded over the summer and had been meaning to get back to” ever since.
Chen added that he liked having people around as he worked. “I can’t work in silence,” he said, adding that he actually plays a soundtrack of café environmental noise when drawing at home alone.
Rodriguez agreed that there was something about having people around that improved her work. “Otherwise I get too in my own head.”
10 a.m., Sunday, October 7, 2018
The YouTube music was back on. This time a mellow soundtrack titled “Lofi hip-hop radio beats to relax/study to.” Empty paper cups of coffee and flattened bags of shrimp chips were strewn among the sketchpads.
Wong had crashed face down at his desk. Peterson, who sat next to him, said, “Everyone took a nap at some point.”
Still, she’d made some headway into her Advance Digital Drawing Intensive, where the weekly homework is to complete 50 face/head studies in different genres. She’d completed 25.
Rodriguez, who’d layered a flannel shirt over the Selena tee, recalled her low point during the night after taking a nap. “I woke up and said ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and went back to sleep.” But at 10 a.m., despite her admitted lack of energy, she was still working and was now on page seven of her comic.
“I did not make my goal,” she pointed out. “Right now I just want to end it where it’s a complete story. I think that’s a better goal than just a certain number of pages.”