Whoever said comic creators were just reusing the same old characters and
story ideas over and over again?
OK, lots of people. But that’s beside the point. The point is there are tons of
creative folks out there just waiting to flex their imaginations to the breaking
point all in the name of art. Who are these mad men and women? They
are the participants in this year’s “30 Characters, 30 Days.”
The challenge is simple, though I doubt the execution is for most participants: coming up with the 30 new characters in 30 days.
It all started last year when web comic creator Tyler James (Over and Tears of a Dragon) set a goal for himself to create a new character for each day in the month of November. Why
did he pick November? I have no clue. Perhaps it was because Halloween had
just come and gone and he was thinking about days gone by. “When I was
a kid, I’d create characters left and right, filling up sketchbooks, notebooks-
hell, even napkins, with new creations,” he wrote last year on a blog he created specifically for the challenge.
He continued, “Some I’d never develop any further than a rough sketch, while
others I’d flesh out and make the stars of my comics. Today, when I work with
kids in the creating comics classes I teach, they have no problem spontaneously
churning out quirky new characters with very little prompting. Creating new
characters is a lot of fun. And I realized I haven’t been doing enough of it lately.”
So there you have it. Although it was a challenge to himself, James invited other
creators (writers or artists) to join and they happily did. He continues this year
along with help from Azure creator and one of last year’s participants, Daniel Govar.
Registration for this year’s challenge is closed, although willing creators are
urged to participate by posting on their own websites and linking to it at the “30
Characters” site. You can also
keep up with the challenge (and perhaps some of the creators’ joys and woes) by
searching the dedicated Twitter hashtag #30Characters as well as the official website.
As I mentioned, “30 Characters” is not just for artists but writers as well. In their
FAQ, the organizers explain, “Write a character sketch, a fictional diary entry, or
a short vignette featuring a new character you’ve created.” Now, for someone like
me who has zero artistic skill that sounds really fun, so I’d imagine how exciting
this is for all creators to think about. But the really fun part is most of the artists
are giving detailed character descriptions anyway. Many of them are so good I
find myself wanting to read more about their adventures immediately.
Bob the Bathroom Attendant, by Tommy and
Michelle Patterson, is one of my personal favorites so far. Bob is described just
as any normal attendant would be, except for a few small details. They write, “In
place of hands, Bob has clean white towels hanging from the wrists of his suit
sleeves with fringe on the edges; protruding from the zipper of his pants you will
see a toilet paper holder with a spool of toilet paper on it (a few sheets dangling
down).” I’d love to hear about his sex life.
Here’s another interesting one I came across, Rusty (Specimen 384) by Matthew Goodmanson. In 1942, Nazi scientists create a zombie plague
that only hamsters seem resistant to. So who’s going to fight the war? Hamster/
man hybrids of course! With his trusty shotgun Mathilde and hunting knife, he
leads his half man, half rodent soldiers into the fight to take on the undead
menace!” writes Goodmanson, “It’s up to Rusty and his chirping commandos to
stop this village of the dead from becoming a PLANET OF THE DEAD!”
Chirping. Commandos. God I love imagination.
Oh, and in case anyone was wondering/worrying, even though entries are posted
on the “30 Characters” website, all rights remain with their creators. There is a
lot of excellent work up there so far and it’s going to add up quickly. Take a look
around and see if you don’t get inspired.
Are you up for the challenge? Do you think we need more variety and creativity in comics today?