|24 Hour Comic
Documentarian Milan Erceg explores the annual 24 Hour Comic Challenge, and not only educates and entertains, but dutifully captures the spirit of both the 24 Hour Comic Challenge and the industry and pasttime of comic books as a whole. Comic books' creative heyday was arguably the late 1980s, with the release of highwater marks like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. These successes lead to the industry's financial heyday in the 1990s, when Scott McCloud and Steve Bissette founded 24 Hour Comic Day as a simple challenge between friends.
It can be difficult to remain cheery and hopeful working in comics, as there is little money, little fanfare, and few rewards. Ridiculously attractive, well-groomed movie stars do not make comic books, and Comic-Con is now little more than a Hollywood press junket. Many view comics as a dying form, and it's easy to feel overlooked as a creative working in an industry whose best days may well be behind it. Yet we persevere out of love... and probably just wrong-headedness.
Far from the slick, big-budget, Hollywood rock-em-sock-ems lay our insular world of impassioned misfits, locked in the all too often overcast drudgery of underpaid in-fighting. It's a masochistic struggle few can define, but will defend to our dying breath. Milan appears very aware of this -- I don't think a single ray of sunshine appears in the entire film -- but his obvious admiration for the event, the participants, and the wider industry borders on the fanboyism that drives us all. It's that love for the form, stories, and characters that compelled us to work in the medium in the first place, and inspiring that in others is our vindication.
I guess that's what comics creators want more than anything else: Revenge.
Don't expect anything groundbreaking insofar as filmmaking goes, but in the best possible way: Erceg stays clear of his subject, employing techniques best suited for the job. The style lends energy to the static activity of comics creation, conveying the frenetic sensibility of a 24-hour "all-nighter" with a subtle tinge of '90s nostalgia. Playing with the focus, the interstitial shots of doughnuts in various stages of consumption, jump-cuts galore -- we've seen these techniques before, but they perfectly fit the subject without calling undue attention to the filmmaker.
My only gripe is the number of establishing and transitional shots -- time I feel could have better been spent on interviews, entrants' discussion during the marathon, or a look at how creators throughout the world celebrate the event in their homes and local comics shops (though I'm sure that would have required more time and money). One participant completes early but is drawn back into the challenge when another points out that he is actually one page shy, for instance. I would have loved to have seen that exchange! Milan does an excellent job of showing the passage of time, but that is largely lost along the way as you become more concerned with the entrants than the event itself.
Comparisons to the biographical Crumb are inevitable, and merited (due to the personalities involved), but 24 Hour Comic remains tonally consistent with its subject -- not going too deep, while still providing a replete and entertaining document of the challenge which exists apart from the participants. Neither founder participates anymore, though McCloud is interviewed extensively throughout the movie. There are tales you will wish had been followed after the marathon, and creators you will want to know more about, but Erceg remains focused on the 24 Hour Comic Challenge itself, and skillfully captures it.
24 Hour Comic is available for pre-order on iTunes, and hits VOD platforms July 11th. I highly recommend it to fans, and non-fans alike.
© The Weirding, 2017