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The #30Characters Challenge, Six Months Later…

| June 20, 2011 | 5 Comments

Last November, I helped organize the second annual 30 Characters Challenge, where creators attempted to create 30 brand new characters in just 30 days, one for every day of the month.  More than 150 creators signed on for the challenge, and last year’s work is archived at 30Characters.com.  It’s been more than half a year since #30Characters 2010 wrapped up, so I decided it would be worthwhile to see what’s been happening with some of the participating creators and their characters since wrapping the challenge.

Mainstream Coverage

Last year, the 30 Characters Challenge saw a huge increase in both participation AND coverage.  Just about every major comic news site mentioned the event.  But earlier this year, word of #30Characters spread into the mainstream.  The 30 Characters Challenge was one of the examples cited in New York Times best-selling author Seth Godin’s book Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People who are Poking the Box and Making a Difference“, which was in the top 10 of Amazon Kindle downloads for weeks.  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

In 2009, in an effort to break out of a creative rut, comic book creator Tyler James challenged himself to create 30 brand new characters in 30 days, one for every day in the month of November.  Inspired in no small part by Seth’s book “Tribes: We Need to You to Lead Us,” Tyler decided to do two things:

– Make the challenge public, creating a blog to share his new creations with the world.

– Make the challenge open, inviting other creators to participate.

And thus the 30 Characters Challenge was born.

In its first year, spread mostly through Facebook and Twitter, the Challenge attracted a small group of 20 or so participants.  Last year, the challenge grew five-fold, with more than 100 creators signing up to participate on the 30 Characters Challenge site (http://www.30characters.com.)  The Challenge included writers and artists, hobbyists and pros.  The community atmosphere created on the site is one of the most positive and supportive I’ve seen on the internet.  To date, more than 2000 new characters have been created during the Challenge.  Many of the characters born during the challenge have gone on to appear in comic books, prose, video games, and on T-shirts and other merchandise.  More importantly, the challenge created an environment for like-minded creators to connect, resulting in new collaborative partnerships and exposure for participant projects.  On a job interview recently, one of the 30 Characters participants pointed to the work he did during the challenge as an example of his creativity, skill, and speed.  It became a focal point of the interview…and he got the job!

The 30 Characters Challenge is now an annual event, and the 2011 Challenge looks to bigger than ever. Encouraged by the success of 30 Characters, Tyler has gone on to co-create ComixTribe (http://www.comixtribe.com/), a year-round site with the mission “Creators helping creators make better comics.”

To be included in a book full of inspiring stories is a great honor.  Definitely go download Seth’s book to read more great stories.  It’s free!

Creator Connections

By November, convention season is pretty much over.  One of the great things about #30Characters was that it created a supportive, positive, environment for creators to connect and interact (though virtually) throughout the winter months.  It brings me great pleasure to see those connections continue after the challenge is over.  2010 participant Rolando Garcia, for example, has gone on to team up with a fellow #30Characters alum, Michael Powell to create the new webcomic REVENGER, and is writing a story for 30 Characters alum Joe Cook to include in his next Shattered Myth collection.  It just so happens that the artist on that project will be Micah Weltsch, another #30Characters alum.  Joe was also invited to create a short story for a soon-to-be announced project being developed by Eric White, a two year challenge veteran. “We also became good friends,” reports Joe. “Just this past weekend, Eric and I attended our first convention as exhibitors in Omaha, NE.  Being right next to a fellow con newbie was great for the nerves.”

Vito Delsante made headlines at the end of last year’s challenge when he declared that all of the characters he created during the challenge would go directly to the public domain.  In an update to that announcement, game designer Sage La Torra incorporated many of those characters into his upcoming game, Powers For Good.

30 Characters As a Job Program?

One of the biggest surprises to come from last year’s challenge was the strong positive impact it had on the career of one participant in particular.  3D artist Tim Rozek writes:

30Characters was huge for me! I pushed myself harder than I ever have before, I got great feedback, I got to see some other great artists, and I got to really increase my skill level with zbrush. Sometimes forced creativity on a self-made deadline works out really well.  Pixeldust Studios in Bethesda, MD saw and liked my 30characters ( I also had applied there a few months before), but they specifically brought up that they were impressed by the range and speed at which I was creating characters, so I got the job as their new digital sculptor/3d general artist.

I’ve been there about four and a half months now and it’s been great…I’ve had my work on 3 separate television shows now. I had the distinct, and very strange, honor of creating the 3D Osama bin Laden character model for a show called Killing Bin Laden which aired on Discovery Channel and a few of it’s affiliates where we basically reinacted (via cg) the events that went down during  the raid on his compound (promo with model can be viewed here: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/killing-bin-laden-videos/).

…Needless to say, 30 Characters was awesome, and I see it as directly responsible for getting me to the position where I get to work on all of these awesome shows.

While it’s Tim’s years of hard work and talent that landed him this sweet gig, it’s a great feeling to know #30Characters played a small part in helping him achieve his goals.   As the Republicans and Democrats argue over how best to create jobs, I think the answer is now clear: Support the #30Characters Challenge!

Inspiration

As I mentioned above, 30 Characters originated with a personal desire to break free of a small creative rut.  It’s been interesting to hear how the #30Characters has inspired other creators to continue to challenge themselves creatively.  Rolando Garcia had this to say:

At the end of October 2010 I was given the horrible news that I would be laid off at the end of the year. It was disheartening, but it would have been soul crushing without 30Characters. Thanks to the challenge I finally “came out of the closet” with my creative work. I got a lot of positive feedback from friends and people who I never thought would have bothered to read them. I also got to know a few of the other challenge-takers and felt like part of a community. It inspired me to keep at it by starting my own website on which I now write regularly (www.roshow.net). Hell, I started drawing again, something I haven’t done since middle school, more than half a lifetime ago.

Melanie Dawn McGreevey was also encouraged to continue to work on creative projects after completing the challenge. The 30 Characters challenge forced me to push my creative side harder than ever, and I am a very creative/active mind,” she told me.  Specifically, it lead directly to her working on a new webcomic, Beautiful Tragedy.

And for Vito Delsante, 30 characters just wasn’t enough.  As of January 1, he has continued to create characters for a personal 100 Characters Challenge. He’s currently up to #59, and come November 1, will jump back into the 30 Characters Challenge to help him get to 100.

30 Characters in New Projects

Another exciting thing to watch is the development of projects featuring characters created during the challenge.  Rolando Garcia wrote a Christmas story featuring some of his #30Characters. Writer Ian Struckoff partnered with several great artists to bring his #30Characters to life last year.  His characters the “Nebula Sirens,” created along with Daniel Govar, are showing up in a one-shot comic called “Failsafe.” The artist on the book is Ryan Cody (Icarus, Popgun, Villain Jesus Christ: In the Name of the Gun) and Ian has just launched a Kickstarter to fund the project.

Since November, Joe Cook has introduced about 2/3 of his #30Characters new characters into the Shattered Myth universe, either through cameo’s or larger story arcs. “Forcing myself to create new characters AND create backstory for those characters gave me ideas for dozens of story arcs,” Joe reports.

As for me, I’m moving ahead with THE RED TEN, a story that features 12 of my #30Characters from last year.  I’m working with artist Cesar Feliciano to bring this project to life, and it’s really shaping up to be something special.

Looking Ahead to #30Characters 2011

While Summer is just getting started, I’ve been around long enough to know Fall will be here all too soon.  The 3rd Annual 30 Characters Challenge will hopefully give us something to look forward to.  The 2011 #30Characters Challenge will be sponsored by Comixtribe, so expect more participation, buzz, and a few surprises.

Interested in Participating in the 2011 Challenge?

  • If you’d like to get on the #30Characters 2011 Mailing List to be notified when registration goes live, simply send an email to 30Characters@comixtribe.com, or leave a comment below expressing your interest.  (Note, alumni from previous year’s challenges are already on the list.)
  • If you want to find out more about the challenge, check out the official 30Characters site’s FAQ.  Note, it’ll be a few months before it updates with 2011 information, but most items will remain the same.
  • Stay connected with #3oCharacters by following it’s hashtag on Twitter and by liking the #30Characters Facebook Page.

That’s it for the six month’s later recap.  If you were a #30Characters participant who I haven’t heard from, please sound off in the comments below, and let me know what you and your characters have been up to!

***

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy, and writer of the upcoming superhero murder mystery mini-series THE RED TEN. His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.

Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.

Contact Tyler via email (tylerjamescomics@gmail.com), visit his website TylerJamesComics.com, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook

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About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at tyler.james@comixtribe.com.

Comments (5)

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  1. Hey Tyler! This article was great! It’s fun to see the different avenues a project like this will take you down.
    I run a webcomic and I have consistently used my “30 Characters” creations as springboards to new storylines. As I am still cartooning only as a hobby, I am not able to put in the time required to fully develop a graphic novel, but I have started to lay the groundwork for one of my characters (Chrys “La” Crosse) and I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities for the story. It may come very slowly, but I intend to get it done at some point in my life.
    Thanks for putting together such a worthwhile project! It is always fun to create (and be out of the comfort zone a wee bit!)

  2. I am all over this again this year Tyler! Please include me again.

  3. Great article Tyler, and I’ll definitely come back for 30 Characters Challenge 2011!

  4. In the aftermath of the 30 Characters Challenge, I’ve taken my creations and used them to populate my U Cre-8 Comics Signature Series. Each of the characters was intended to be a part of the U Cre-8 line, where they would be used in kid-friendly tales to both introduce to the comic book form and inspire them to create their own! Earlier this month, I kicked off my U Cre-8 campaign with the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Summer Reading Club, where I travel to all the branches in the city and instruct classes up to 30 students at a time on how to create their own comic characters and I use the Signature Series characters as sample creations!

    I want to thank you Tyler for your invite to take part in the 30 Character Challenge! I can’t wait to see what I’m able to come up with taking part this year!!!

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