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'You get inspiration from what they’re doing': Comic-making marathon challenges artists

Cover for the Triangle Comics Creator Network (TCCN) anthology. Photo courtesy of Patrick Holt.

The Triangle Comics Creator Network will be hosting a comics-making marathon at the Durham County Library on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The 8-Hour Comics Day is part of TCCN’s effort to build an infrastructure and garner support for artists making comics and comic-adjacent artwork in the Triangle. It’s a satellite project of the Durham Comics Fest, which is held annually at the library.

Patrick Holt is the lead organizer of the Durham Comics Fest, and got the idea for 8-Hour Comics Day from the 24-Hour Comic, an idea started by cartoonists Scott McCloud and Steve Bissette in 1990. McCloud and Bissette dared each other to draw complete 24-page comics in a single day, and the result led other cartoonists to challenge themselves to do the same.

8-Hour Comics Day is a scaled-down version of that experience, Holt said. Cartoonists who attend the event will attempt to create a full eight-page comic in eight hours, without any preliminary planning.

Holt said he encourages cartoonists to come to the event, even if they’re unable to commit to the full eight hour marathon, because the event aims to provide the space and support for anyone who wants to come and work.

“It’s an opportunity for you to push yourself to do this kind of crazy thing, and we’ll help you accomplish that,” Holt said.

Eric Knisley, a cartoonist based in Raleigh, has participated in twelve 24-Hour Comics Day events in his time working as an artist, and plans on attending the 8-Hour Comics Day this weekend. He said the best thing about the experience is the camaraderie.

“Cartooning is a very lonely existence," Knisley said. "You sit in a room by yourself, a lot, so it’s nice to be able to chat with other people. You get inspiration from what they’re doing, they get inspiration from what you’re doing, and there’s a nice social aspect."

Knisley also said that with the experience of having made cartoons since he was a little kid, he likes to offer assistance or ideas to those who need it. He also believes that the pressure and the working conditions can make for products that are different from an artist’s usual work in exciting ways.

“I like to draw a lot, and pack my drawings with detail, but you don’t have time to be precious," Knisley said. "You have time to crank out an effective story in the simplest possible way, and that’s all you have time to do. Some people like that less, and might be scared of it, but I think it’s fantastic."

Cartoonist Em Wiginton, who makes art under the name MeltyCat, encourages prospective attendees to not be intimidated by the comic marathon.

“It’s super accessible," Wiginton said. "Everybody is super nice and friendly, and it’s also a really good opportunity to sort of push you to share your work with others."

Wiginton said they recommend that artists who attend the event bring their work to trade with people, or to pass out. They cite TCCN as a factor in their evolution as a comic artist, as they didn’t start engaging with a comics community or publishing work until they moved to North Carolina and found the network through the Chapel Hill Public Library newsletter.

“It’s really hard to do comics by yourself and be a solitary artist," Wiginton said. "Being able to find community and connect with people has definitely been the best part of these events. Everyone is really kind, and it’s definitely a big motivator to keep making stuff, even when it’s hard and capitalism is crushing."

Wiginton is only able to attend part of the event, but is still excited. They praise the Durham Comics Fest organizers for supporting artists by allowing people to table for free, an obstacle that’s usually cost-prohibitive to small creators, and for encouraging comic-making in such a big way.

“I like to avoid essentialist statements, but I do feel that comics have the most going for it of expressive media when it comes to being able to tell your story or a story you’ve created without formal training,” Holt said.

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