THE DARE: To create a complete 24 page comic book in 24 continuous hours.
That means everything: Story, finished art, lettering, color (if applicable), paste-up, everything. Once pen hits paper, the clock starts ticking. 24 hours later, the pen lifts off the paper, never to descend again. Even proofreading has to occur in the 24 hour period. (Computer-generated comics are fine of course, same principles apply).
No sketches, designs, plot summaries or any other kind of direct preparation can precede the 24 hour period. Indirect preparation such as assembling tools, reference materials, food, music etc. is fine.
The 24 hours are continuous. You can take a nap, but the clock keeps ticking. If you get to 24 hours and you're not done, either end it there ("the Gaiman Variation") or keep going until you're done ("the Eastman Variation"). I consider both of these "Noble Failure" Variants and true 24 hour comics in spirit; but you must sincerely intend to do the 24 pages in 24 hours at the outset.
It was Nat Gertler who turned the dare into an event: As he told ROBOT 6's Tim O'Shea earlier this year, on the 10th anniversary, it started as a way to drum up publicity for an anthology of 24-hour comics he was publishing, and it snowballed from there. Now it is organized by the retailer group ComicsPRO, and participants are invited to send their 24-hour comics to the the national 24-Hour Comics Day archive at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.
The official date for 24-Hour Comics Day is the first Saturday in October, but as that is the Sabbath for some (and this year, it's Yom Kippur as well), organizers are happy to include comics created around the same time.
The publicity aspect seems to still be working, as a number of local newspapers are featuring the event. The Comic Shop of Fairbanks, Alaska, has been doing it for eight years, and organizer Jamie Smith says they have had between two and 17 participants every year. “It is really a laid-back challenge,” he said. “The reward for it is being a part of the creative community that is created this way every year.”
Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio, is another participating store; manager Llalan Fowler said there were a lot of dropouts last year, but seven participants made it all the way through. To help with that, the Singaporean artists Kelvin Chan, Billy Ker, and Angeline Chong have created a video with 10 tips for 24-hour comics creators. Oklahoma City University is participating, and the Otto Bruyns Public Library in Northfield, New Jersey, is offering a kid-friendly version of the event — and the kids have been in training for this marathon since the summer.