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What’s the most cliched way one can start an essay? Every educator likely knows it: “Webster’s defines [INSERT TOPIC] as….” It’s not promising, therefore, that 24 Hour Comic devotes its opening minute to asking the participants of a daylong comic-book exercise to give their definitions of what a comic is. Mercifully, the documentary gets more interesting as it goes along, though it flatlines before its finish.
The event captured here took place in Portland, Oregon, in 2013, and a handful of artists showed up, including a 13-year-old girl and a trash-talking young dude. Scott McCloud, who came up with the idea of trying to draw a 24-page comic book in 24 hours, emphasizes that it’s not a competition but a challenge—similar to National Novel Writing Month—one that was initially undertaken by just Scott and a friend but eventually took on a life of its own.
Director Milan Erceg structures the film in an unsurprising way, marking each hour on title cards and noting how everyone is progressing. It’s fun to hear each person’s story idea—one about a dog named Barkles sounds particularly entertaining—as well as to see what media the artists prefer to work with.
The final section of the film does get dull, having little to do but show everyone getting tired or giving up. Before that, though, Erceg digs a bit deeper by encouraging a discussion about the options of devoting oneself to a life of creativity or, you know, paying the bills. For the majority of the participants, it’s not an option at all—they can’t quit their day jobs if they want to live independently. McCloud, however, is among the lucky ones. He says he works 11-hour days, seven days a week. But he’s developed a morning ritual to avoid burnout: He eats cereal, explaining that “eating something bad reminds me that my job is to make comic books all day.”
Screens Monday, Feb. 20 at 3:15 p.m. at the Naval Heritage Center.