Amazing Arizona Comic Con: Guinness Book of World Records Attempt

A few weeks before I was to attend Amazing
Arizona Con
, I was invited to participate in a “Guinness Book
of World Records Comic Book” event while I was there.  This project,
spearheaded by Jesse James (who runs Jesse James Comics in Glendale), Shawn Demumbrum
(publisher and writer at SpazDog Press), and of course creative space
provided to us on the con floor by AAC director Jimmy Jay.   

Our goal was to break the record for “most
contributors to a single book” and “shortest time frame” to do
so.  I was intrigued and needed no more convincing: I wanted to be a part
of this.  I got my scheduled time from Jesse (9:45a) and, since I didn’t
have a table this year, this allowed me into the convention hall before the
general crowd and made my way to the back of the hall. I got my stuff prepared,
“clocked in” (by signing into a log book) and got ready for whatever
they set in front of me. The idea was simple: each writer, with the exception
of the first, writes 2 pages that are face-to-face.  The artists are then
handed a page of script with a panel circled that they are to draw – just one
panel: portrait-oriented.  4 panels to a page and each panel has to have
some text (sound FX counted).  Each panel has to be inked and have some
color (even if it’s just highlights).

Since I was early, but not first, I was handed page 2
of the script with panel 2 circled.  I set up my phone so I could watch
the clock: I had a fairly generous 15 minutes to do a single panel with at
least one color accent.  Not a problem: I’ve done more with less time…on
occasion.  After placing my 1″ margin on all sides of the paper for
cropping, I set to work drawing two fairly simple characters exchanging money
and two lines. That’s it. I was pretty much done just at the tail end of the 15
minutes. I called out that I was finished and the artist next to me looked
over: 

     “You need a color accent.”

Oh, NO!! And my 15 minutes were up! Great, I’m going to disqualify us right out
of the gate! Luckily, I overheard someone saying “The 15 minute time limit
is just for scheduling purposes, it isn’t necessary for our record.” I
breathed a sigh of relief.   I tossed my color accent in (heavy
non-photo blue pencil) and “clocked out”: proud that I was a tiny cog
in a giant, creative machine of awesomeness.

I wandered around the floor a bit, circling back to
the table every 10-20 minutes to see a new group of artists and writers,
scribbling and typing away.  I even made sure to make my way back and take
pictures of my friend Jenn while she drew her own panel.  After a while, I
started to feel like I could have taken a bit more care with my panel. 
Just as panic and doubt started to settle in, optimism piped up: “At the
end of the day, you are part of something *GREAT*.” And I carried that with
me for the rest of the day.  Even if nothing had come of it, we took up an
incredible endeavor.

Sunday morning I woke up to a picture on my Facebook
feed of a stack of printed comics and the preview words: “Ladies and
Gentlemen, mission accomplished.”  ReadyComics had worked incredibly hard to make
sure the books were printed and ready for sale on the floor that day.  A
majority of the sales would go to Hero Initiative, which is an organization that
“creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency
medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into
paying work.”.  The final count on the book was 101 artists, 1 cover
artist, 12 writers, and 2 editors.  We were going up against Kapow! Comic
Con who had 61 contributors in London, UK in April of
2011.  Along with myself, artists including Eric Mengel,
Steven E. Gordon,
Val Brazier
(née Hochberg), Deryl
Skelton
, Jeff Piña, Andy Bohn drew their single panels to the scripts
penned by such writers as Kyle Higgins, Tom Hutchinson, Eric M. Esquivel, Brian Pulido
and Ken Kristensen
and edited by Shawn and Jesse. We had completed the creation of the book in 11
hours 15 minutes and 38 seconds.
A sense of
pride welled up in me. Not only for myself, but for every other creative that
got to be a part of this moment. 

I got into the convention hall and, shortly before I had to be at a panel, I
saw some of my artist friends carrying around the printed book. I was told that
they were at Jesse James’ table and I had better go quick because they’re
selling a lot of them! I made it over as fast as I could and picked up 3 copies
(each artist would get their own comped copy eventually, but I couldn’t
wait!).  After my panel, I set on a goal: get as many of the artists and
writers to sign one copy of this book.  I was having the writers sign the
cover and the artists sign their panels inside. I also wanted to make sure to
get Rob Liefeld’s signature since he was nice enough to do the cover. 
Obviously, he is the only artist that would sign the cover.  

I bounced around the con hall semi-sporadically trying
to gather as many signatures as I could, attempting to use the daunting list on
the inside cover as a “checklist” of sorts. At one point, I happened
to see Rob Liefeld chatting with someone at their table. I waited patiently as
I *hate* bothering the guests during their time on the floor.  After a
moment, he looked to me and I asked, “Are
you going to be doing signings today?” He looked down at my book and
reached for it and the Sharpie I was holding “I can sign that right now
for ya.” I thanked him and shook his hand.  I’m usually fairly
collected around guests, but just in case, I wanted to step away with my
dignity in tact before anything “fanboyish” was said.
At last
count, I finally got 8 of the writers and 68 of the artists to sign the book
and I got to meet some new creatives and talk to them for a second about their
work. Some of the folks involved were *big* pulls (Marc Silvestri of Top Cow
even contributed a panel), some will be “big pulls” before we know
it.  I definitely plan on carrying the book with me to different cons and
sketch events so I can get the signatures of everyone involved.
I contacted Shawn Demumbrum about some of the final details
of the book:
RD: What were the two records we were attempting?
SD: “Fastest time to produce a
comic book” and “Most contributors to a published comic book”

RD: What is the difference between something being considered
“published” or “unpublished” for Guinness?

SD: Guinness requires “verified sales” of 400 copies…each copy has
a numbered Attempt sticker for easy registration

RD:  OK. And the “most
contributors to a published comic book” record is still weighing on having
400 “verified sales”?
SD: Yes. We have to submit all the evidence to
Guinness.  We will be submitting our evidence package in the next two
weeks and Guinness can take up to 8 weeks to verify.
RD: Did you have a different mindset going in than when you did
other books or did you just treat it like any other project?
SD: Jesse and I originally talked
about this two years ago with a plan to host it at Phoenix Comicon. I backed
out with a few weeks to go. I couldn’t wrap my head around the logistics to
make it happen. I had two booths at the con and Jesse was Manager of Comic Book
Programming. This had to be the only thing we worked on if we did it. I was
having panic attacks just thinking about it. I told Jesse I couldn’t do it. 

    He approached me again four months ago after we put the Jack
Kirby Tribute book together in less than two weeks. His ability to work with
guests and my production skills seemed like a good fit to try to tackle this
project. We starting planning this four months ago. Jimmy Jay lended his
support. He gave us space, tables, electric and access to the hall before and
after hours.

    First, we looked at the record holder. Kapow! had 3 panels
per page and 20 pages. We knew we would need to increase that. I’ve seen 4
panel per page books. It seemed like a good standard. If everything stayed the
same, we would barely beat the Argentina record by 2. 80 artists, 1 writer, a
letterer and an editor. We wanted to make it tougher for someone to break. We
increased the page count to 25 pages, lessened the burden of the writer by
breaking it up into 2 page increments (except for the first writer who wrote 3
pages). Because it was a giant continuous, organic, spontaneous adventure
instead of something that had been plot out in advance or headed by a story
runner, it added some complexity that most attempts might have difficulty
duplicating. Every writer had to read the pages before him before he could
start. Jesse got busy recruiting people we knew and people who would be at the
show. He had around 50 people by Thursday night and started recruiting the rest
at the show. We had a few people who turned us down and even a few who laughed
in our faces. We knew if we could do it, even if we didn’t break time that fans
would be clamoring for autographs of the participants on Sunday which was why
ReadyComics was so important. We brought them in early in the planning. We
wanted to have printed copies available on Sunday for people to purchase and we
wanted to have proceeds benefit the Hero Initiative, a charity important to the
both of us. Anthony, at ReadyComics, told us that if we could have the print
ready files to him by midnight Saturday, he would get us the books by Sunday
when the show opened. He worked his butt off and the books look great. Even
though it is only 28 pages, this is the biggest and most complex publishing
project that I’ve worked on. Everything could have failed if everything didn’t
fall into place. Lao-Tzu said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with
one step.” I give Kyle Higgins a lot of credit. If he hadn’t started
writing that first page, the book wouldn’t have been done. Everything else was
momentum.
 By the time
of this writing, I’ve had almost a week to think about my experience, and it
boils down to this: To be a part of something of this magnitude is humbling. it
acted as a great equalizer from aspiring, small press creators to the big,
heavy-hitting names in comics.  The trappings of the industry fell away
and we were left with a gathering of creatives that just wanted to do something
awesome!  I’m honored to have my name printed among these folks. Big
thanks to everyone involved with this monumental endeavor!  If you’d like
to pick up a copy, they are available through Jesse James’ eBay store here!
Our thanks to Shawn for sharing his time with us and congratulations to everyone involved in such an amazing project! 

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