On March 23rd, Dark Horse is unveiling a hardcover of David Chelsea’s second volume of 24-hour comics titled, Sleepless: And Other Stories. Chelsea is a highly creative cartoonist and novelist who is following up his first celebrated volume with six more fantastical and humorous stories. Is it good?
Sleepless: And Other Stories Vol. 2 (Dark Horse Comics)
Before we get into the stories themselves, it’s important to illustrate what exactly Chelsea created within the project. Each of these stories comply with comic theorist Scott McCloud’s set guidelines for the complete creation of a comic in 24 hours, including writing, drawing, and editing. What we’re left with is an uninterrupted stream of consciousness and an almost personal connection between the reader and the creator. Chelsea, who holds an unofficial record for most published 24 hour comics, includes six of these stories which may have been printed elsewhere in some way shape or form, but everything contained in this book is the unedited and uncolored 24-hour novel as originally produced.
I acknowledge that creating a 24-page comic within the same amount of hours is an incredible feat, but with that being said you have to go into this book recognizing they were made in 24 hours. I might have had my expectations set a bit too high when I began the book. The forewords which proceed every story give detailed descriptions during the writing process, such as moments where Chelsea altered the storyline in order to fill up space. As a reader, it’s best not to know when sections of literature where created for the sole purpose of eating up space. I know that’s a necessary component of this particular comic challenge, but it definitely takes away from the overall reading pleasure.
I did thoroughly enjoy some of the stories however. Both “I.D.” and “The Girl with the Keyhole Eyes” contained a perfect amount surrealism and comedy that showed Chelsea’s imaginative talent. Almost all the stories break the fourth wall and demonstrate a fair amount of ridiculousness or absurdity, but the two aforementioned stories are a bit more serious in nature. They’re amusing in a whimsical manner and I’ve gone back and reread them since.
The rest of the stories are a little lackluster in comparison and a bit too far on the surreal side of the spectrum. There are too many random events that occur within the stories which leave no impression on the overall storyline. A plot shouldn’t be bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre (or to fill up the last five pages). Stories such as “I Like to Riff” and “Now Open the Box” resemble random and incoherent concepts without a strong central theme to hold them together. I suppose “Sleepless” is an apt title for the collection due to its lucid dreaming nature.
Is It Good
It’s apparent Chelsea is a talented illustrator and writer, but to the average comic book reader these stories are good for being written in 24 hours rather than just plain good. There will be many people who enjoy this collection, but to appreciate these comics to their full potential, you have to be a fan of fluid and spontaneous plots and recognize these comics as an accomplished literary feat, but not fully complete works like we’re used to reading.