Josh Howardís 24-Hour Comic Experience
By Egg Embry
On April 24th, 2004 the first worldwide 24-Hour Comic Book Day occurred. The idea behind the event, as conceived by comics guru Scott McCloud, is to write, pencil, ink, letter, and color (if you are so inclined) a twenty-four page comic book in twenty-four consecutive hours. Prior to April 24th many fans, both professional and amateur, had taken up the challenge, but last weekend represented a major expansion as 500 individuals participated in this international event!
Among the participants in the first of what promises to be an annual event is Josh Howard, creator, writer, and artist of Viper Comicís DEAD@17 series. I first became acquainted with Joshís work through an announcement right here on SilverBulletComicBooks about his first series. His work clearly struck a cord with me (see my reviews of DEAD@17 #1 here, DEAD@17 #2 here, DEAD@17 #3 here, DEAD@17 #4 here, DEAD@17: Blood of Saints #1 here, DEAD@17: Blood of Saints #2 here, and DEAD@17: Blood of Saints #3 here) and Iíve followed it ever since. When he mentioned his intention to do a 24-Hour Comic I thought I have to know more. So, despite his continuing work on DEAD@17: Blood of Saints (issues one, two, and three on the stands now), Josh agreed to do an interview/interrogation about the events that occurred from 11am on Saturday, April 24th until 11am on Sunday, April 25th.
BEFORE Ė The following Q and A was completed before April 24th, 2004.
Egg: Josh, before we get into the 24-Hour Comic Book project, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into comic books? For those that do not read DEAD@17, please pitch it. And explain a little about how did DEAD@17 get started with Viper Comics?
Josh Howard: Iíve always been into comics, and had been trying to break into the industry for many years. I sent in my first submission when I was 12, and didnít quit until 13 years later, when I was lucky enough to get hooked up with Viper Comics, a new company that had just started up. They were eager for new ideas and were really interested in DEAD@17, which is about two girls and their friendship in the midst of a supernatural nightmare. The rest is history.
Egg: What inspired you to do a 24-Hour Comic? Youíre already in comics, why do you want to prove you can make a tight deadline? ;-)
Josh Howard: Well, Iím not doing it to really prove anything... I just like the idea that in one day I will have another book under my belt that didnít exist 24 hours earlier. I look forward to the spontaneity of it.
Egg: When doing your comic every month, how long do you spend writing it, then penciling it, then inking it, and finally, coloring it? Describe your art technique a little and give us an idea the length of time each step normally takes.
Josh Howard: Writing an issue can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. Thatís just the actual physical writing. By the time I put pen to paper, Iíve been writing in my head for weeks or even months beforehand. I can usually pencil, ink, and color a page a day if I have to.
Egg: One of the big problems in this industry seems to be a general inability to meet deadlines (something youíve not had much problem with, I might add). How do you feel you are doing with yours month-in and month-out? And how do you think the pressure of one page an hour will affect you?
Josh Howard: I think I do pretty well with deadlines, considering Iíve been maintaining a monthly schedule with writing and drawing it all myself. Ideally, I would like more time, but so far, the circumstances around both DEAD@17 series demanded I produce them in a very limited time. For my next series, I will have a lot more lead-time, so I hope for an all around better finished product. I work well under pressure... one black and white page an hour I donít foresee being too big of a problem. I was once able to complete 3 pages of DEAD@17 in 20 hours, and thatís with color.
Egg: How much preproduction are you doing for this story? Any? Will this be a DEAD@17 story? Or are you trying to keep with the 24-Hour Comic spirit and start from scratch on April 24th?
Josh Howard: It wonít be a DEAD@17 story. This is my chance to take a break and do something a little different. Iíve given it a lot of thought, but I donít have any idea what I will be doing yet. At one point I was going to do a fun, lighthearted adventure story, then I wanted to do a small personal story... now Iím undecided. So, weíll see.
Egg: Your pages tend to PACK-IN the panels, like George Perezís volume of pictures on the Teen Titans in the 80ís. Do you feel youíll continue that on the 24-Hour Comic or will you attempt to cut back?
Josh Howard: I like to use a lot of panels because I feel the reader deserves the most they can get for their dollar. I grew up on the comics of the early to mid-nineties that were 80% splash pages, so Iíve grown to have a strong distaste for them. If I want to showcase my art, I will put out an art book. The 24-Hour Book will probably be full of panels so I can get in as much story as possible.
Egg: What preparations are you making to stay up for 24-hours and work productively? What kind of food? Any music? Is anyone going to stay with you or check-up on you during the process? After being up for 24 plus hours, are you catching a ride or are you getting behind the wheel?
Josh Howard: Working on DEAD@17, Iím used to no sleep. When I have deadlines approaching, Iím usually working 18-20 hours anyway, so I donít think it will be too much of an issue. Just a couple of cokes and some Hot Tamales candy will be enough to keep me going. Iíll have a couple of friends participating with me, and others will be stopping by to cheer me on. The wife will be driving me home afterwards.
Egg: Do you think doing a full comic in such a limited time is an achievable goal or do you think youíll be doing the last few pages on the 26th and 27th? If you donít finish will you keep going until you do?
Josh Howard: I fully intend to finish the thing in the time allotted. Otherwise, I think it kind of defeats the purpose. But I may feel differently afterwards. ;-)
Egg: What is your goal with this production? Hyping your monthly products, or are you hoping for a comic youíll be proud to put onto the stands?
Josh Howard: Iím definitely aiming to produce something that I can be proud of and hopefully release, otherwise I wouldnít be doing it.
Egg: Do you think the environment, a comic shop with a collection of other creators, will add or detract from your experience? Do you think itíll be a complication?
Josh Howard: I think there is the potential for distraction. If everyone there doesnít have their full heart in it, they may just end up using the time to hang out and goof around... but I hope not. I hope everyone gives 110%.
Egg: Do you imagine the other creatorsí techniques will ultimately influence the methods you use to create your comics in the future?
Josh Howard: Probably not. Iím always learning, but Iíve got a pretty good method down that works for me.
Egg: You nervous about this? Any butterflies? ;-)
Josh Howard: Iím actually pretty excited! I canít wait to see what happens!
On April 24th, 2004, Josh traveled to Lone Star Comics in Arlington, Texas to participate in creating his first full comic in a bullpen environment and with a mere day to produce it!
DURING Ė The following Q and A was completed during the 24 Hour Comic Book session between April 24th and 25th, 2004.
Egg: Did you get enough sleep last night? Did you arrive on time? Has the show gotten on the road on time?
Josh Howard: No, I did not get enough sleep unfortunately, but arrived an hour early to get a good spot. Officially began at 11 am, but it took me about hour to get warmed up.
Egg: How crowded is it? Howís the store? How often are people distracting you from the task at hand? Do any friends come just to see you or do any fans get you to sign a DEAD@17 comic while youíre there?
Josh Howard: Pretty decent turn out... about 30 people, about a third of them female. Everyone is really focused and working hard. Iím sitting at a table with my good friend and fellow artist Ben Hall. Havenít signed any books, but a couple of people have come up to me to tell me that theyíre fans.
Egg: How is the story going?
Josh Howard: After my initial stage fright, things got going pretty well. An idea sparked, and ideas keep coming pretty fast. Little time to think, just act.
Egg: How is the art?
Josh Howard: Art is turning out surprisingly well. I penciled all 24 pages first, now Iím going back and inking them, using a brush pen, which helps the work go a little faster.
Following a few nights rest, Josh took just a little bit of time to reflect on what he accomplished on 24-Hour Comic Book Day.
AFTER Ė The following Q and A was completed after April 25th, 2004.
Egg: Now that the show is over, do you feel it worked out?
Josh Howard: It was quite a challenge! There were moments where I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Just trying to maintain a steady speed was the biggest challenge. It would come in spurts. I would whip out three pages, then have to stop cold and chill for a while while I recharged.
Egg: Give us a short pitch for your story. What is it about?
Josh Howard: Simple story about a crew of a starship. Crew consists of a girl, whoís the captain, a robot whoís in love with her, and an alien with a bad attitude. They receive a distress call and go to investigate. Lots of humor.
Egg: Was there a piece of art from yesterday that you feel is particularly strong?
Josh Howard: Yeah, there were actually a few pages that turned out really well.
Egg: What would you change about the experience?
Josh Howard: More sleep the night before! And I learned I couldíve worked a little slower. I ended up finishing in about 17 hours. [Interviewerís Thought: Twenty-Four Penciled and Inked Pages In Seventeen Hours! Holy Socks That Is Unbelievable! UNBELIEVABLE!]
Egg: Would you be willing to do it again next year?
Josh Howard: As of right now, no. It was pretty tough... but ask me again next year, Iím sure Iíll change my mind.
Egg: Are you happy enough with this to have someone to publish it (i.e. Viper Comics, or Scott McCloud in his next 24-Hour Comic Anthology)?
Josh Howard: Not sure. Probably not. I will send it in to Scott McCloud for consideration for the TPB. If I don't make the cut, then I may just put it up on Viper's website for everyone to look at.
Egg: Any final thoughts?
Josh Howard: It was harder than I thought it was going to be, but the final product ended up looking better than I anticipated. The story was a surprise because itís not the type of thing I would normally write... but I think it turned out ok... I made myself laugh a couple of times. Not sure how I feel about it as a whole... I think Iím too much of a perfectionist to show it to too many people. Iím really eager to see what other people came up with.
As a follow-up, by the end of May it was announced that Joshís 24-Hour story will appear in its entirety in the 24-Hour Comic Book Anthology #2 (available soon)! When I congratulated Josh about it, his reaction was terribly modest, ďThanks! No one is more surprised than me!Ē
My recommendation, look for the book to see another great Josh Howard story!
Iíd like to thank Josh Howard, and Scott McCloud in a way, without them this article would not have happened!
To find out more about Josh Howard and DEAD@17 visit either Joshís Site or Viper Comics. And look for his current mini-series, DEAD@17: Blood of Saints, in stores now, and his first DEAD@17 anthology entitled, Rough Cut, in August.
To find out more about the 24-Hour Comic Book Day visit their site at 24-Hour Comic Books. Look for the first 24-Hour Comic Anthology, in stores now.
For more information about Egg try out www.KamenComic.com. Look for Egg in the upcoming anthology DEAD@17: Rough Cut (in stores in August).
Got a comment or question about this Soapbox?
Leave at message at the Silver Soapboxes Message Board.