24 Hour Comic 2010 Record

Oct 2 - 3, 2010.


These 24 hours of solitary creation are really exciting, tiring, thrilling, frustrating and FUN!! At times it feels the desert is never going to end. At times I felt the exhilaration of improvement. But I guess the most important thing is to enjoy the moments of this process while challenging to keep up. I did!

I have created 4 comics in the past: Two in high school, two while studying in Lasalle - one as class assignment, and the latest (dated 2008) as a holiday project. So it has really been a while since working in this.. art form.


Preparations

Shortly after signing up, I did a short exercise to prepare my approach for the actual 24 Hour project.

The idea, was to make a comic based off a piece of "cut-after", random, writing.


This piece of writing originates by piecing together random strips of text cut from 4 different sources, and then rewritten and improvised slightly. The result is a lengthy and seemingly nonsensical conversation between a man named Poetry and a female entity.

So, the exercise I did was to simply draw, straight ahead, without any planning, the scene written above.


It worked for me.

It uses my usual pen-ink doodle style, is fairly quick to execute; and the constant drawing straight ahead kinda appeal to me. I suppose I could do with less planning and more randomness in undertaking the challenge.

So my approach is decided.

The random text generator is soon built from pages of:
  • Oliver Twist
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Basic Writings of Kant
  • Heroes: A History of Hero Worship
  • Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari
  • How to Win Any Argument: Without Raising Your Voice, Losing Your Cool, Or Coming To Blows



Oct 2, 2010

Things don't go as expected

Current time: 11.00AM


It didn't work as well as planned...


I was quite disappointed at what turned out from the randomness. Perhaps I was missing the "prophetic", nonsensical thought pattern that led me to the earlier writing.


I wasn't too thrilled about this attempt either. Maybe I was trying too hard to be random and overcompensating instead.


And out of nowhere, this combination struck me. Some part of me felt very drawn to a woman known only as the First Special Imperial Russian, maybe it sounds like The Corinthian? I don't know.

The fervent attachment part pointed me towards some sort of love story. Conveniently, there's a "Colonel Denvignes" nearby.

For more spice the colonel became of the enemy race, a (Manchu) Chinese; and following the line of thought, the setting of the story is to be during Chinese-Russian border conflicts.


Naturally, the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk (尼布楚条约) becomes the key event the story revolves against.

From there I started to imagine about a Chinese version of Secret War, involving a Russian superspy (she's not KGB, yet, at least) and a Chinese official.

The term "counsels of prudence" (from Kant) jumped out as a cool-sounding title, it will infer superior intelligence (however hollow I really am).. hohoho.

Current time: 11.53AM


Designs and story sketches




I spent some time flipping through Alex Ross's Kingdom Come, Ashley Wood's Metal Gear Solid, and some other art books for reference.

Two hours quickly pass as I figure out how the story is going to unfold and sketch some character designs.


Ambassadors for border talks are secret lovers putting up a ruse to stay longer.No political intentions at all. Really!



In my story, the aftermath of Nerchinsk will contribute highly to China becoming very touchy when it comes to its autonomy.It will be viewed in the same light as the invasion by the Eight-Nation Alliance, the Sino-Japanese Wars, and the Opium Wars as events that shamed China.

Of course, this is very much different from history. Take note: it's entirely made up.


The Russian ultimately betrays the Chinese, who thought that they were really in love, and are playing up a ruse together.


The Russian smuggles tough-looking mecha grunts to prove her dominance in diplomacy talks.

Did I mention I was going to throw in some sci-fi flavor to the story? So while it's really 1689, they have airships, tanks, and war-mechs.

Feeling rather pleased with the direction it is going, I went out to pack lunch.



Current time: 3:07 PM


The Epic Fail...

So even though I didn't manage to create a completely random piece of writing for the comic, I was pretty sure I'm going ahead with pens and ink.

For some strange reason, I had failed to grasp the magnitude and gravity of 24 pages.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to delude myself into thinking my ink drawings coupled with broad inkwashes will be quick enough for the job.

Then I completely, utterly, botched it.


 

A failure after struggling with inkwash for 2 hours... And I turned back to digital.


Failing both aspects of initial preparations, I now have completely no idea what to expect from the end-product.

Not to mention Zero Progress in page count.

Zi Qun, on the other side of my Gmail chat, happily mentions he has finished planning and commenced production an hour ago. (That makes me two hours behind, as he started at 10am.)

But then therein lies the thrill of such creative challenges. Adapt and improvise, hope for the best.

Oh, and notice the pile of Ravages of Time (火凤燎原) I brought out for reference?

Current Time: 5:49PM 


Starting over
[with complimentary landscape wideshot]

My stumbled-upon modus operandi:-
  1. Start with a thumbnail.
  2. Blow up the thumbnail to paper size.
  3. Lay down the line art, while the faint blownup thumbnail serves as free shading.


Yay to happy accidents.

Current Time: 6.49PM


Thumbnails for pages eventually numbered as 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, and the 16-17 doublespread.

These were done consecutively in one sitting, together with the last 5 pages, as I picked different parts of the story to be drawn. (The missing numbers were not drawn until morning.)

 
I got porridge for dinner, courtesy of my housemate.

Despite not yet finishing the planning for the entire comic, I decided to move on and refine the pages.


I got carried away by the inking and shading here that this page went to an hour.

Current Time: 10.40PM
Page Count: 2

However, here I discovered the possibility of incorporating thumbnail elements into the page.

That is, leaving certain panels / portions of the thumbnail unrefined, where it may be able to contrast the refined panels - thus saving time, and as a viable aesthetic style.

This, for example:



Crowning Moment of Awesome

My first major thrill of artistic exhilaration came with the creation of these two panels:


I felt that I have successfully translated my pen-and-ink drawing style into digital form.

This was something that I had been trying to do for the past 2.5 years, mostly without much success. And when I look at the drawing here, realizing how similarly they feel like my pen sketches, I'm sure I have improved a tiny bit.



Oct 3, 2010


Is it ever going to end?



Inking continues. And progress trudged on.I tried to speed it up, going for 30min/page, but didn't quite made it. Eyelids are getting heavier by the minute, I felt the strain in my neck, and my back was aching.

The weather turned cold around 4:35 AM, I hear thunder, felt the cold wind - a desired weather for sleeping...

The Soviet Russian's epic anthem played repeatedly in the background, and some music from Red Alert 2. That kept up the mood.


Later in the night, I indulged myself in the inking of this doublespread.


I saw this panel - from the thumbnail stage - as a kind of money shot, so I made sure this is going to be the best drawing I will walk away from these 24 hours.



Current Time: 5:02AM
Page Count: 9


Good... Morning?!

In a severe lapse of judgment - totally due to an incoherent mind suffering from lack of sleep - well, I went for a nap. And fell asleep.


Dawn was breaking when I woke up with a startle.

7:02AM, I proceeded to thumbnail all the remaining pages - and go for a complete 24 pages with raw thumbnail art.


The last page I was to refine in the 24 hours.

Current Time: 9:41AM
Page Count: 10 refined / 15 thumbnails 



The Last Leg

I conclude that it is impossible to finish even refining one panel per page by now.

My decision then, is to blow up all remaining thumbnails to paper size, throw in rudimentary shading, and write in the dialogue. 


By 11:20AM, Photoshop spat out the first PDF compilation of all 24 pages (I realized I actually missed out a page that night, so in total there were 25).

I sent it to JF, the event organizer, and called it a (long) day.

That was when I first see the entire comic from start to finish, chronologically. All the while in the creating stage I was jumping from pages to pages, not knowing how one will link up to the next. That was kinda interesting for me.





Endnotes


In retrospect, I have perhaps focused more on making pretty pictures than working on the basis of comics - panel flow, storytelling, timing and pacing... When I read through it myself, there are places I thought, at least could have used more panels in describing the passing or holding of time.

But again, taking up this challenge gave me the opportunity to fail, to find out where my limitations are, how to react to them, and how I could work around them to survive through the 24 hours. Therein, I believe at this point of time, is the greater treasure to me.




Benjamin Chee
2:25PM / Oct 4, 2010

--


Interestingly, this is the second time I have created a comic based on Qing China history - the first being Bai Jiang (2008). Although this time it wasn't planned for, I suppose the influence of Eryuehe's Emperor Trilogy I read (and re-read) is very much deeper than I thought.

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