Making a documentary about comic books is like asking to be stabbed with a chunk of kryptonite. Few topics put a filmmaker at greater risk of irking their audience—if you cater too heavily to people who take their comics in plastic, you risk significantly narrowing your audience. If you pander to people who don't know Swamp Thing from Man-Thing, you risk alienating true believers.
Those perils are evident in 24 Hour Comic. Directed by Milan Erceg, it tells the story of eight people each trying to create a comic book in 24 hours. Filmed at Things From Another World on NE Broadway on May 18, 2013, the documentary sometimes strains to please too many different demographics, yet is saved by some startlingly revealing interviews that show what drove some of its subjects to embrace a challenge that tested their artistic vigor as well as their sanity.
Among the tested are Jacob Mercy and Pete Soloway (Pizza Gun), Rachel Nabors (Rachel the Great), David Chelsea (Snow Angel) and his daughter, Rebecca Celsi. Much of 24 Hour Comic is devoted to footage of them working at Things From Another World, where Erceg captures plenty of flashes of barbed wit, including Nabors' hilarious reaction when she learns that Celsi doesn't know who Boba Fett is. Unfortunately, the film is less attentive to the creative processes of the artists, which makes you wonder if Erceg was worried too much comics-shop talk would alienate a swath of the audience.
Of course, copious amounts of shop talk is exactly what comic book fans will be expecting. Yet they won't be disappointed by the unguarded moments Erceg has captured. In one, Nabors admits that she regrets inspiring other women "to pursue writing or poetry or comics for a living." The bluntness of both her and her compatriots makes 24 Hour Comic feel like a privileged glimpse through an industry keyhole, and is what keeps you entranced as the artists draw and the hours race by.
CRITIC'S RATING: 3/4 STARS
SEE IT. 24 Hour Comic premieres at Laurelhurst Theater on Thursday, July 6 at 7:00.