Ninety-Six Minutes Of Hell: trust us, it’s only a title….
By Gary Clap
Ninety Six Minutes of Hell gets its name from Gary Clap’s idea of creating another interesting twist on the idea of time limited production. We’ve had 24 hour comics, I know someone’s done the 8 hour/workday comic and I’m sure there are many variations already in existence that my poor, weak memory (or google, which substitutes for my memory more and more) can’t dredge up right now.
So Clap decided that he was going to spend his time in bursts of frantic activity – “draw a 4 panel comic as quickly as you can in 6 minutes“.
Why 4 panels? Why 6 minutes? You may well ask.
I’m guessing that both questions are answered by this phrase in Clap’s introduction to the mini comic: “it all began during an alcohol fuelled evening in East Anglia”.
Oh yes, drink. Ruiner of men and women throughout the age and responsible for so many downright dumb ideas, especially to comic artists and publishers.
Having said that, although the idea may be a little dumb, especially I’m sure, for Clap once he sat down and forced himself to start doing these 4 panel, 6 minute works, the actual execution of the thing isn’t.
Ninety-Six Minutes Of Hell is 16 of these 6 minute strips (16 x 6 = 96 minutes – see how it all makes sense now?). The strips range from great to good to a little hmmmm. But that’s to be expected somewhat with something pushed out like this – to the clock and to a limited 4 panel structure. The best you can hope for is a good, possibly funny idea. And I’m bloody certain I know I couldn’t come up with 16 killer gags for a 4-panel comic. Could you?
But Clap does remarkably well with his – there’s a quirky cartooning style, obviously light on detail but rather too focused on a stream of figures talking straight out of panel. And his strips have a good range, starting with the sublime melancholy of Andy Panda and other, similarly quiet, well pitched and funny gags of desperation.
There is an Andy Panda comic available – collecting strips from the webcomic – although disappointingly it’s far sillier college humour stuff done by others – and nowhere near as good as this for my money:
And then there’s the strips that deal with the process and the ridiculousness that comes with the realisation of what he’s undertaking:
And then we have the problem strips – many of which are problems purely because of the self imposed limits, both on time and length of strip. There’s several strips that fall a little flat, purely because they’re too constrained, where the gag needs a little more time to breathe, a little longer for the melancholy, the sense of desperation, to really sink in. But the format demands it stops. Dead. And we’re onto the next.
However, overall I have to say 96 minutes is well worth the considerably less than 96 minutes it will take you to read it. And God, that must be a horrible thing to realise – when a comic artist rushes to pack a strip into a timeframe of 6 minutes and it takes us lazy buggers all of 30 seconds to read it. Demoralising? Probably not even close to describing it.
Whatever, I’m rather impressed. There’s enough funny here, enough thoughtful stuff and not that much that falls flat. I’m keen to read more of Clap’s comics, I’d like to see what happens when he opens up a little and gets away from the straight jacket he’s voluntarily sporting here.