24-Hour Comics Day

From the Vaults: Maximum Cactus

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

I attempted my first 24-Hour Comics Day in 2010, surrounded by friends and local cartoonists at Pittsburgh's Toonseum.

Being the rookie that I was, I approached the marathon challenge all wrong. Chief among those mistakes? Working digitally. (photos by Dan Greenwald)

I don't have any beef with drawing digitally. I think it's great! But in 2010, I had no experience drawing comics on the computer.

Other mistakes were made too. A year later, I wrote this list of the things I did wrong that day (featuring peeks at my script and completed art).

I completed nine pages that day and for years I sat on them. They're kinda ugly and confusing. I didn't feel like trying to make anything coherent out of them.

But early in 2013, I decided to answer an anthology's open call for submissions with a reworked version of my Maximum Cactus tale. Here's what I submitted:

My art here is rife with subconscious sexual imagery. I wish I could claim that I was consciously trying to make an awkward comic book full of phallic and vaginal symbolism, but I had no clue what I was doing.

Which is the exact reason why Maximum Cactus was unfinished for years before I finally unearthed it... FROM THE VAULTS!!!

Heat Seeker, My 2012 24-Hour Comic

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

For the second year in a row, I banged out a complete 24-page story from scratch for 24-Hour Comics Day. The result is Heat Seeker, an experimental fantasy tale about a mysterious eyeball's journey from cold to warmth.

I'm trying out Issuu for the first time and I'd love to hear your feedback on the reading experience.

Heat Seeker by Nick Marino (click here for more reading options if you don't see the embedded reader or your device can't run Flash)

I hope you enjoy Heat Seeker. I had a kickass time writing and drawing it, and I want that fun to spill through as you breeze through this weird comic book!

UPDATE: If you hate reading stuff online, you can download a PDF of Heat Seeker.

UPDATE 2: You can also read Heat Seeker on Flickr and deviantART.

A 24-Hour Comics Day 2011 Recap

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

This year (like last year), I celebrated 24-Hour Comics Day at the Toonseum in Pittsburgh. Joe Wos hooked us up with a brand new extension of the museum's space, and it was an awesome place to get work done.

How awesome??? So awesome that I finished my 24-page story in less than 12 hours! Granted, I drew Stick Cats Act III in a loose line with minimal detail, so it's not like I pulled a Jack Kirby routine. But I'm extremely pleased with the way things turned out. (Check back this Wednesday to read page 1!)

What did I do differently from 2010? I learned from my mistakes by setting different goals, sticking to stuff that I enjoy drawing, and focusing on speed. My goal for this year was to finish in a half-day, and I'm glad that I accomplished that mission (I went to sleep at a normal time in my own bed! SWEET!).

It was a great environment at this year's 24HCD, with lots of space and a good vibe. People were there to work, and their passion for drawing comics was apparent. A few of my close friends were there, as well as a few peeps I haven't met before.

Everybody had a different way of working and it was a lot fun to see the different styles in motion. For example, Chris Maverick was wired up real nice with his laptop and tricked-out tablet. He demonstrated Manga Studio a bit, and I was totally floored by some of the program's features.

On the flip, Juan Jose Fernandez was working on special yellow paper stock in a much more old school method. His traditional style involved pencils and India ink, and he kept his pages in a stack on the top left of his table.

Now imagine if you will Chris and Juan standing on opposite sides of a room, with a full spectrum of working methods filling in the gap between them. That's how it was at 24HCD. A few of us had laptops to use for finding reference or keeping tabs on social media while we worked. Others kicked it straight analog -- it was just them, a pencil, a pen, and the paper.

I worked in my sketchbook. That's the method I've used for Stick Cats thus far and I've come to enjoy the feel of drawing the comic page-by-page in a coil-bound tome. The only drawback to working in my sketchbook was that it was hard for other artists to come around and peak at my progress.

I skipped pencils (as usual) and worked in black ink, using my beloved Paper Mate Flair pens to get the job done (with a little Sharpie here and there). As I've been working like this for going on 20 years now, it was easy and comfortable -- a technique I was able to leverage for speed.

So what did I learn this year that I can apply in 2012?

1. Focusing on speed is a great way to work, but I'd like to slow down a bit and do a more detailed story next year.

2. Working in my sketchbook greatly decreased my ability to share, so I'll definitely make sure to use loose sheets next time.

3. And, finally, I'm gonna focus on big action and minimal dialogue in 2012. My characters talked too much this year, and I got tired of drawing the same settings over and over.

BUT WAIT! There's more! I referenced 24HCD in today's Super Haters webcomic. Based on Grant Morrison's philosophy of transference from the comics page to the creator's real life, I figured that if Destruct-O-Tron could complete a brilliant complete 24-hour comic in the Super Haters reality, then maybe it'd transfer over to me. Though I'd be hard pressed to call Stick Cats Act III brilliant, the other part of the transference worked!

Catch me at 24-Hour Comics Day 2011 at the Toonseum!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Or don't. Because I'll be busy drawing and applying the lessons I learned from last year's 24-Hour Comics Day... part of which is avoiding too much social interaction during the event!

But seriously, if you're in Pittsburgh and you're curious about 24HCD, stop by the Toonseum anytime after 12 PM tomorrow and say hi.

Officially, it runs from 12 PM on Sat Oct 1st until 12 PM Sun Oct 2nd. Frankly, I intended to draw a 12 hour comic. I'd much rather spend the night in my own bed, so my goal is to catch one of the late buses home around midnight.

But, as things tend to go with 24-Hour Comics Day, there's a very good chance I'll be there all night, cranking out pages and having a great time.

The above graphic was created by the prolific Barry Linck, writer/artist of Phineus (and much, much more). Along with Barry, I'll be kicking it with friends of mine like Scott Hedlund, Chris Maverick, Loran Skinkis, Kristoffer Smith, Lizzee Solomon, Byron Winton, Mikey Wood, and maybe -- just maybe -- Shawn Atkins (if he's back from his honeymoon). Of course, I'm not sure if all of these peeps will show up. But hopefully most of them will!!!

Check back here next week because I'll be posting a 24HCD recap, as well as the fruits of my labor.

10 things I learned from 24-Hour Comics Day in 2010

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

We're only a few days away from 24-Hour Comics Day 2011, and I feel like reflecting on what I learned in 2010. Be forewarned! This is gonna be a long post with a lot of visual aids.

This year -- just like last year -- Pittsburgh's 24HCD will be held at the Toonseum. Joe Wos is kind enough to open his doors to the PGH comics community again and house this marathon event.

I'm not bringing up the location just so you can stop down and say hi. The "where" is integral to the first lesson I learned last year: 1. Your location sets the tone. In 2010, there was a parade on Liberty Ave right outside the Toonseum's front door. Massive distraction! And not only that, but it also complicated the buses, making it hard for Justique to visit me.

And Justique's visit brings up the second lesson I learned: 2. If you want to end up with a finished book, then remember that 24HCD is about making comics and not hanging out. I'm not going to encourage Justique to visit me this year. She can if she wants, and of course I'd love to see her. But I'm doing this to test my limits and make a comic in one day, not be social.

Now there's one (count it -- one!) thing I did right last year -- I made it the entire 24 hours without sleeping. Myself and Chris Maverick were the only ones to do so. How'd I do it? A combination of proper rest, focus, and food. So: 3. Get a good night's sleep the night before and eat good stuff throughout the day. Ya know, low-carb grub that won't make you slip into a food coma.

But I didn't make the most of my 24 hours. Even though I stayed awake, I wasted them. I was too social, I was too distracted, and I was too indecisive. Which leads me my next lesson: 4. Avoid breaks, avoid trips that take you away from your work, and avoid thinking too much. Granted, that's kind of like two lessons in one right there, what with the thinking stuff. But the reason I group it together is because too much research or too much obsessive flip-flopping about your story is a form of procrastination.

I approached the day with a tight schedule that laid out what I'd be doing every half-hour. Ahahahahahaha! What a fucking joke!!! That schedule was blown out of the water in two hours. Thus: 5. Don't waste your time trying to work on a set schedule -- just work as fast as you can.

So what did I do for the first two hours? I wrote a script. Which leads me to my next lesson learned: 6. Don't write a script. A nice idea, but very impractical.

Here's the script I wrote for my comic, Maximum Cactus #1:

It's a fine script and all. But totally pointless. Why? Because I only got done nine pages!!! See, I thought I'd be able to breeze through the process by working digitally. WRONG! Again, a nice idea... if I'd been comfortable working digitally. But I'm not. I like to draw on paper and then scan stuff in.

And that leads me to my next lesson: 7. Draw in the most comfortable way possible. I don't mean comfortable like sweat pants. I mean comfortable as in the way that feels most natural to you. I shoulda drawn on paper with Paper Mate Flair pens. That's the easiest way for me to work.

Another mistake I made was trying to tell a story with a lot of dialogue and boring imagery. I was too reliant on exposition and not reliant enough on stuff that's fun to draw. So, as you'll soon see, I ended up with a lot of talking heads. Which flows into my next lesson: 8. Draw stuff that you like to draw. That's where my script messed me up -- I wrote a story that I loved but not one that I wanted to draw.

As for the actual drawing process, it was fun but slow. I planned too much and didn't let myself feel the moment. Thus I learned another lesson: 9. Be improvisational. When the clock strikes 2 AM and you suddenly realize you don't give a shit about what you need to draw for page 14, you're screwed if you have a strict script that's binding you to a set story. However, working improvisationally will allow you the necessary wiggle room to change things on the fly.

So how much did I finish last year? Nine unlettered pages. [cue sad trombone]

I didn't start to enjoy my art until the second half of page eight. And even then, I still had a lot of misgivings about it. But it was a great learning experience and a fun journey, even if I left the Toonseum the next day feeling defeated by 24HCD.

In summation, I have only one more lesson to impart: 10. Plan to make a comic that you can complete in 12 hours, not 24. Then maybe -- just maybe -- you'll be able to finish a 24 page story in one day.