COLUMBIA — MU freshman Stephen Painter is a linguistics and pre-med major, but his hobby is comic drawing, something he’ll often do on the spot when he has a good idea. When Painter heard about 24 Hour Comics Day, it only made sense to him to participate.
“I like drawing comics, and I like having a good challenge,” said Painter. “Put the two together, and you’ve got this.”
Painter was one of about 20 local artists who participated in 24 Hour Comics Day on Saturday at Artlandish Gallery in downtown Columbia. The annual event is observed around the world, giving comic artists a chance to meet to challenge themselves creatively and socialize with like-minded people.
Scott Ziolko, member of the Mid-Missouri Comics Collective (MidMoCoCo) and the local organizer of the event, kicked things off around 12:10 p.m. Saturday. The artists then had until noon Sunday to see what they could create.
A press release at the official 24 Hour Comics Day Web site states that the objective is “for cartoonists to produce a 24-page comic book written, drawn and completed in 24 consecutive hours,” and that “creators of all ages and levels of skill and experience gather at one of the participating sites to encourage each other in completing this creative comics marathon.”
Many artists in attendance, including Ziolko and Painter, shot for the traditional 24-page objective. Others made their own goals, like MidMoCoCo member and Web site designer Josh Nichols.
“I’m doing 24 strips, not pages,” said Nichols, who didn’t anticipate making it to the end of the 24-hour event after a late night taking care of his four-month-old daughter. “I figure I can do that in about 12 hours instead of 24.”
MidMoCoCo member David Cobb also planned on creating a variety of short comic strips. A three-year veteran of 24 Hour Comics Day, he cited his six-page effort from his first event and his eight-page comic from his second as the reason for his decision to keep the focus on a simple strip format.
“When I get tired, any coherent thoughts go out the window,” joked Cobb. “I figured unrelated strips were the way to go.”
Edible and parking mediums used
The artists’ creativity didn’t stop at the format of their stories. While most used the more traditional method of pencil and ink on paper, a few used computers with digital art tablets.
J.B. Winter used the parking lot.
Using chalk, Winter marked out 24 boxes, roughly 43 square inches in size, in the parking lot in front of the annex of the Artlandish building. His comic, titled “Journey to the Center of Hunger,” was a story of a mouse who fell down a manhole into the sewer.
“24 Hour Comics Day is a good place to test stuff,” said Winter. “I like to do experiments and do different things I’ve never seen before.”
Winter liked how bright and bold he could make his parking lot comic with chalk but bemoaned the difficulty in which it was erased, pointing to several smudges along the sides of the long and winding hot pink sewer pipes that the mouse slid down.
“I’m regretting doing so many curves,” Winter said.
Winter has a history of bringing an experimental edge to the events he attends — at last year’s 24 Hour Comics Day, he fed people his comic, page by page. Winter drew his comic on tortillas using edible ink.
While no one ate any comics this year, many participants brought water, soda and snacks to help them make the long haul from noon to noon.
“Try to avoid caffeine for as long as possible as it will cause you to tire out sooner than later,” wrote Ziolko on midmococo.com in a Sept. 30 blog post.
Another tip Ziolko offered was to try and take breaks regularly to avoid winding up worn out.
Drawing from new experience
For some like Painter and Columbia College student Christopher Murrell, this year’s event was a first.
“This is my first semester as a full-time student in eight or nine years,” said Murrell. “I’m throwing myself back into my youngness.”
For Murrell, who worked with the help of his wife Amanda on a story about truckers at a rest stop reminiscing about Christmases past, 24 Hour Comics Day served as an opportunity to network.
“Comic making is not a big hobby of mine — writing, certainly, but not drawing them,” said Murrell. “It’s weird, an art major who likes to write comics. But I hope to find an artist to work on stuff I’ve already started.”
The atmosphere in the building was quiet and focused at times but certainly social at others. Artists joked among themselves and got into arguments about superheroes, television, movies, actors and music.
Nichols said he just does it for fun and is less concerned about the outcome.
Winters, however, recognized that you still had to focus on your work if you wanted to get done on time.
“You find out it’s social in some ways, but you can’t just sit and chat,” said Winters as he studied his chalk frames. “It makes sense to do this with other people, but it’s also kind of challenging.”
While at times distracting, the group effort seemed to bode well for the spirits and creativity of everyone involved. Painter would take a break after each page to relax and show other artists what he had completed, and Murrell argued with Ziolko to add a Creature of the Black Lagoon-esque monster to the faculty of the half-vampire, half-zombie high school in his comic.
“I tend to do humorous stories,” said Ziolko. “It’s guaranteed to get a little silly around 3 or 4 a.m.”
Artists got an extra surprise around that time this year. Though MidMoCoCo could not get him to commit to a full signing earlier in the night as they had discussed in earlier planning meetings, renowned underground comics artist and former MU art professor Frank Stack made a brief appearance.
“He sat at the bar, drew a page, and talked for about an hour,” said Ziolko. “He’s never been able to make any of our meetings before, so it was really nice to have him stop by.”
Numbers started to dwindle at about 6 a.m. Sunday. By 11:30 a.m., only five artists remained in the building.
About the same number of artists actually met the official goal of 24 pages. Ziolko, who has only fallen short of that number once in his six years of participating, was one of them.
But, he said, he doesn’t think that’s the point.
“24 pages? No,” Ziolko said about the average number of pages each participant completes. “But a lot of people got stuff accomplished, and that’s what (24 Hour Comics Day) is for.”
The next chapter?
As the remaining few stood in the vacated room, Ziolko mentioned that he “really liked the space” and hoped he could talk Lisa Bartlett, Artlandish’s owner, into sponsoring the event again next year.
After the comic store that hosted the event in previous years, Quinlan Keep, closed in 2007, MidMoCoCo had to find a new venue to host 24 Hour Comics Day. The group held it at the Columbia Art League last year and approached Bartlett to host this year’s event.
“I like to support artists of all kinds and think it’s important to support them especially in our community,” said Bartlett. “It seemed like a win-win situation; they’re really passionate about what they do, and they needed a place they could borrow for free. It’s a fun event, and it's no skin off our back.”
Ziolko was satisfied overall with how 24 Hour Comics Day went this year, and though he’s not sure about specifics, he feels ambitious about next year.
“I’d like to make our fifth year kind of special,” said Ziolko of the fifth such event MidMoCoCo will host. “I don’t know exactly what it’ll be but I’d like to something neat. It’s kind of a big deal to do something for a fifth year in a row.”