24-Hour Comics Day: An Interview with Brady Canfield

Posted September 27, 2013 in ,
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In 1990, artist Scott McCloud dared a friend to make a full, 24-page comic in just 24 hours. McCloud agreed that he’d take the challenge too, just to sweeten the pot and give his friend a little extra incentive. Nearly 25 years later, 24-Hour Comics Day is an event that artists and lovers of comics have adopted everywhere.

Brady Canfield, creator of the book Wombat Rue, has taken the reigns of this year’s Salt Lake City event, happening on October 5, at the Utah Arts Alliance Hub. Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, artists and fans are encouraged to make a full comic in a single day. A retired Air Force Science officer turned full-time comic creator, Canfield sat down outside Nobrow Coffee during Draw Night, a get-together of local comic book artists, to talk about 24-Hour Comics Day.

SLUG: Let’s talk about what 24-Hour Comics Day is and how you got involved.
Canfield: I heard of it through the owners of Night Flight, Mimi Cruz and her husband Alan. They were trying to convince me I should do this, along with every other artist around. I did it last year, while I was teaching and convinced the students that it was a good learning experience, which it actually is. I’d read about it––Scott McCloud this comic guru, invented it almost as a joke. It’s been fantastic. Just an amazing class. I enjoyed so much last year and now that I’ve got studio space at the Hub (Utah Arts Alliance Hub), they have a lot of space and their thing is to get people involved in art and the community and they’ve graciously allowed me to use their space to help host it.

SLUG: Are you in charge of it this year?
Canfield: I’m going to make sure it goes off, so yes, I am in charge of it for Salt Lake––as much as anyone can be in charge of an event. I’m organizing and coordinating it. (There’s also one at Dragon’s Keep in Provo for those in Utah County.)

SLUG: Is 24-Hour Comics Day something that anybody can host?
Canfield: Anybody can host it and anybody can do it.

SLUG: Are people trying to create full comics in that time?
Canfield: The goal is 24 pages in 24 hours. Normally that takes 24 days.

SLUG: Last year was the first year you took part in it. How many people finished stories?
Canfield: We started with 16, which wasn’t bad. I think maybe six were left at the 24-hour mark. Because of the timing, we couldn’t start until the evening, so everyone was up all day and then all night. This year we’re going to start at 10 in the morning and go until 10 in the morning. As far as finished stories, I’d say about half a dozen people actually finished their stories. It’s a goal, but it’s not a requirement.

SLUG: It’s more just an exercise, right?
Canfield: It’s an exercise, it’s a lot of fun and this year I think is going to be a blast. Nobrow (one of the sponsors) is going to be providing us with coffee.

SLUG: What happens with the stories after the day is over? Does someone collect them or put them up for sale or anything like that?
Canfield: Because it’s just wide open, there’s really no particular ground rules. What I’m going to have available because my studio is right there where I have my scanner, is that for anybody that wants to, I can put it together and we can at least e-publish what’s available. It’s up to them if they want to. There’s no pressure. If they just want to take it home, that’s fine. I did make a PDF of mine from last year and just said, “Here you go” to whoever wanted it. I swore I’d never make a zine when I made comics, but in 24 hours, you’re going to make a zine. I liked it so much actually, that I want to clean it up and make a weekly web comic out of it. The idea of this is that anyone can do their own. You can do it even if you just draw stick figures.

SLUG: You said there were a lot of students that did 24 Hour Comic Day last year. How did that work out for them?
Canfield: I thought they did really well and they learned a lot. They learned you can’t do too much. I think one did four outstanding pages, but that was it. Everybody learns something different and everybody gets something different out of it.

SLUG: That’s kind of half the goal isn’t it? Half is to try and learn something and the other half is to spread the word of making comics, right?
Canfield: Exactly. You can have your own goal. Mine was to make a full 24-page comic and I got it just under the wire.

SLUG: In addition to being in charge and running the show this year, are you going to have time to participate, too?
Canfield: I will. There’s a lot of time. It’s going to be really busy up to the start point, making sure everyone gets registered and the signs are up pointing to the bathrooms. They’ve got a closed parking lot so I’ve got to make sure my number is up there in case someone needs to get back there. It’s nice to be able to have that, which is another reason I love the Hub.

SLUG: You write and draw a series called Wombat Rue which has three issues out, right?
Canfield: Yeah, three of the chapters are out. There’s been kind of a hold-up recently, but I’m just about at the point where I’m in full production mode for the most part and cranking it out a lot faster.

SLUG: Is it an ongoing series or a finite piece?
Canfield: It’s actually a graphic novel. The first three were published as kind of a test––market research more or less. When I’m doing that, I don’t have time to make the book. But now that I know, I can continue. It’s an ongoing saga. It’ll be about 14 chapters––maybe 16. Primarily I do graphic novels because the stories I have are ongoing, but there are several titles I want to do. I need to get this one out the door and making a profit so I can hire other artists and have a full-on team.

SLUG: Did you work on Wombat Rue at 24-Hour Comics Day last year or something totally different?
Canfield: I did something totally different. Part of the idea is to come in completely clean, with no ideas and just a blank paper and pencil. The 24 hours start and away you go. And six hours into it, I didn’t have any ideas. And then I got one. I liked it so much that I probably didn’t do the book as well as I could have. I wanted to continue it on because I really liked the idea, but it had nothing to do with Wombat Rue.

SLUG: How long have you been making comics?
Canfield: Been doing this for about two years now. I was in the Air Force before that.

SLUG: Have you been trying to stick to a similar, rigid military schedule with making comics?
Canfield: That’s just recent. I’ve been doing some other things, some consulting, and my scientific background comes in to play sometimes. But it was just recently that I said to myself, “I’m just going to do this full time and that’s it.”

SLUG: Have you always wanted to make comics? Was it something you tried to do while you were in the Air Force or did you have it in mind more for once you were out and retired?
Canfield: I’ve always drawn and doodled and done something. It was always on my own time and a lot of times in the military there is downtime––though not so much in the last 10 years. But when you’re younger, there is a lot of waiting. I made a little short story about my partner that I was working with while we were in Bosnia. It was terrible. Her goal was to make it into pilot training and when she did, I had the little story for her. It was fun. I like to keep the word “comic” in comics. I like to see that actually exist.

SLUG: Have you been coming to Draw Night for a while?
Canfield: I’ve known about it, but I thought it disappeared when Nobrow did. I didn’t realize it had just moved.

SLUG: Is it something that you just heard about and started showing up to?
Canfield: Derek Hunter (creator of Pirate Club, artist on Adventure Time) told me about it, actually. I didn’t have much time to go before three or four months ago, but now I’ve built this into my schedule. This is my social event for the week.

SLUG: Do you bring something specific to work on or do you just let your mind go?
Canfield: I just enjoy being in the crowd and seeing the creativity happen. Once in a while I’ll bring something specific. I think three times I’ve actually done work here. I just like to sit down, enjoy the coffee and I’ll bring a sketchbook to keep the look. What’s nice is that so many of the people that make comics, their personalities are more introverted, so it’s nice for them to have a place where they can just come and be themselves, show their work and not feel like they’re going to be judged. They can get feedback if they want and feedback which is so, so critical.

SLUG: Not many comic creators can say they also won a bronze medal for Skeleton, which you did at the World Championships in Nagano back in 2003.
Canfield: I did Skeleton as a hobby. When I was stationed in upstate New York, a friend of mine’s husband was on the team and told me I should try it. I thought it looked like fun, so I tried it.

SLUG: Was it more satisfying when you won the bronze medal or when you held your first finished comic?
Canfield: Totally different. The really cool thing about winning the bronze is that you don’t have to work nearly as hard as the person that won the gold. Go for the bronze. It’s so much easier. The first comic was exciting, the second one was a nightmare and the third was more, “OK, now we’re in a routine again.” It was exciting to have something physical. That was a big deal. I’ve been going more digital lately, but I’ll always publish a few physical copies because I’m still old school like that.

If you’d like to take part in 24-Hour Comics Day, it’s happening on Saturday, October 5 starting at 10 a.m. The Salt Lake City event will be held at the Utah Arts Alliance Hub (663 W. 100 S., SLC, UT 84104) and another will be held at Dragons Keep (260 N. University Ave) in Provo.

Registration is from 8:30–9:30 a.m. the day of the event and be sure to bring your own art supplies. It’s open to anyone who wants to participate.

Brady Canfield, Wombat Rue creator. Photo: wombat-rue.com Brady Canfield's Wombat Rue.