This past Friday, Pat Quinn, SCAD Atlanta Associate Chair of Sequential Art, invited me to observe GENERATE, the school's version of 24-hour comic day. (SCAD calls it GENERATE to allow any other of the school's departments that wants to participate can do their own 24-hour challenge). The event kicked off at 10 AM on Friday. Students participating in GENERATE are challenged to create a 24 page black and white print ready comic in 24 hours from a blank slate. This year, they introduced an option for students to form a team to produce the book, those who chose that option had to also color the comic.
I relish any opportunity to visit the SCAD Atlanta campus, situated in the heart of midtown less than a mile down the street from the High Museum of Art. There is an energy and a friendliness to the students that hits you the minute you enter the third floor of the school building. In retrospect, I wish I could have stayed the full 24 hours to see the evolution of the various student's comics. Unfortunately, work and family commitments limited my onsite presence to nearly four hours (from 11 am to 2:30 pm ), a stage when students plowed through developing thumbnails and jumped on penciling pages.
Both IDW and ComiXology served as sponsors of the event (along with Top Shelf, among others). Much to the students delight and benefit, Marvel was a major boost for GENERATE, sending editors Mike Marts and Katie Kubert to serve as coaches for the students throughout the event. It was a delight to watch Marts and Kubert interact with the students, offering feedback on their story concepts and showing them ways to tweak/improve their narrative.
I intentionally timed my arrival in hopes of catching up with fellow Atlanta resident and comics writer Van Jensen. While Jensen and I both frequent the same comic store, surprisingly we do not synchronize our shopping times. Jensen was there for part of the day to offer feedback and advice for students as well.
One common link Kubert, Marts and Jensen shared that I appreciated: while all three are seasoned comics industry veterans, each of them still clearly relish the medium as a storytelling outlet. Surprisingly, in my time covering the industry since 1999, I have run across many folks who had ground themselves down to the burnout level of producing comics merely for the income stream. These three obviously loved the opportunity to discuss the projects each student was pursuing.
That zeal for storytelling clearly resides in the SCAD professors on hand for GENERATE with Quinn, including June Brigman, Jackie Lewis and Doug Dabbs. While friends with Lewis and Dabbs (and a fan of both their work), this marked the first time I had been introduced to Brigman. I just have to publicly say it was an honor to meet such a talented legend (and by calling her that, I do not mean to relegate her career to history) and to learn she has some a new project on the horizon (in addition to her teaching at SCAD).
According to Quinn, around 30 students (roughly 1/3 of the sequential art department) participated in GENERATE. I wish I could give a full accounting of each student's progress--in fact I did get shots of many of the student's thumbnails, but as with many stories the thumbnails do not do the finished pages justice. Rather than try to share character designs either, I heartily recommend you track down Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram accounts for SCAD students, including (but not limited to) Sage Coffey; Anderson Carman; Mittie Paul; Jamal Jones; Jasmine Mimms; Jorge Santiago Jr.; Cullen Gardape; B.A. Prince; Sarah Amundson; and Em Barnard.
There were other visitors through the course of the 24 hours, including SCAD alumni such as Cara McGee, Erin Gladstone and Brian Prince who swung by for a creative homecoming of sorts. Thanks to Kubert's involvement, popular DC/Vertigo artist Meghan Hetrick spent time at GENERATE for a few hours.
Early Friday evening IDW Publishing editor Sarah Gaydos provided a virtual tour of IDW's editorial offices via Skype for the students. As happened last year, IDW will be judging all the completed comics they receive (via PDF on Monday) and winners will be selected.
One team attempted to produce and color a full comic, but they were able to only partially color the book. Still given that it was the first year of trying that option, that's quite an accomplishment given it was uncharted territory for the GENERATE participants.
While I had to leave in mid-afternoon, I stayed in touch with participants via Twitter (and offered words of encouragement). A few of them reciprocated by sharing their progress on Twitter or Instagram.
Believe it or not, I almost had as much fun as the SCAD Atlanta students and professors did. If I can make it work in my schedule, I want to stay onsite for the whole 24 hours in 2015.