Issue #3 update and sneak preview!!

Well, it’s been awhile since the last update, thanks in part to our old enemy COVID-19, and in part due to the fact that I’m doing something a bit different with issue #3. For the first two issues of The Crimebusters, I basically did the books in the Marvel Method — I drew all the pages and then went back and wrote all the dialogue

This time around, though, I decided the story was too complex for that, so I needed to do all the dialogue first. And that’s taken a lot longer than usual, as changes to the text necessitated reworking significant portions of the story.

After a couple extensive rewrites, though, issue #3 is finally in place to be drawn. And the good news is that the art is now the last step, so once the art is done, the book will be done and ready to go to Kickstarter!

Just when that will happen I’m not quite sure, as I don’t want to commit to anything given the nature of the world right now. But I have finished the first three pages in addition to the two covers I’ve shown previously, so I thought I’d give a little sneak preview of “The Spell of the Sorcerer!”


And the covers!

And the back cover!

Catamount Comics Expo convention report!

My report from the first ever Catamount Comics Expo!

On Saturday, September 14, 2019, I had the chance to table at my first convention, the Catamount Comics Expo in Burlington, Vermont!

It was a fun experience, very rewarding personally, though not so much financially. That’s mainly because there weren’t very many attendees. The showrunner actually put on a nice show, but the one area that seemed a bit lacking was promotion. The venue was nice, and the selection of comics and stuff was pretty good for a show this size, so I think if there had been more awareness of the event it would have been a big hit with fans. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like many people knew about it, so not many fans showed up.

However, those who did got to have a fun time, and I really enjoyed meeting the fans. I also really enjoyed meeting other creators, especially my table mate, Michelle Abreu. We had met once or twice before briefly as members of the Boston Comics Roundtable, but it was really fun to talk to her about her many cool projects, including custom made dice and dicebags that proved to be a big hit with gamers at the convention.

As for me, I went into the show with a few goals, basically none of which were met. But a couple came close! I was hoping to sell 10 copies of The Crimebusters #1, and I was also hoping to get 10 people to sign up to my mailing list. I actually sold 8 copies, and had three people sign up for the mailing list, so I came up a little short. But I’m very happy with that support and interest!

I also tried something new, which is prints. I’ve heard that prints are a big source of income for many small creators a shows, so I made up a bunch of prints. My goal was to sell enough to make back my money for printing them. Alas, this wasn’t even close. I did sell one print, to a friend who surprised me by showing up even though the con was over 3 hours from home for both of us. So that was a great treat! And now I have a bunch of prints, which I will be rolling out on my online shop over the next few days, so that’s cool too.

All in all, though I didn’t make much money, I did meet some cool new people and learned a lot from the experience. And I also met some other creators living their dreams, and even traded comics with some of them. I will be highlighting some of those books on my Instagram feed over the next couple of weeks, so check them out!

This was a cool experience, so I am looking forward to my next show, which I am happy to announce will be at the Northeast Comic Con in Boxboro, Massachusetts, from November 29 through December 1. It’s the holiday weekend, so if you need some gift ideas, come by and say hi! And of course I’ll be posting a lot more details in the weeks to come.

See you there!

A personal note

There’s a lot of things happening right now here at Crimebusters central. I had my first brief convention experience in August, and have my first solo shows coming up, first at Catamount Comics Expo in Burlington, Vermont on Saturday, September 14, and then at Northeast ComicCon in Boxboro, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving weekend. For those, I’ve been working on a ton of new stuff, including my first prints. And meanwhile I’ve also been plugging away on the second issue of The Crimebusters. Not to mention I finished fulfillment on the first issue Kickstarter!

So all of that is interesting and exciting and normally I would be spending the rest of this update giving you all the details and sharing images and everything. However, over the last few weeks, my comic book stuff has all been put on the back burner because of some real life stuff. Today, then, I’m going to get personal and talk about something important to me.

Those of you who backed the first issue of The Crimebusters on Kickstarter probably read my project update talking about my Dad’s illness. For those who didn’t, on June 21, about halfway through the first issue Kickstarter launch, I got a call that a family friend had found my Dad passed out in his car. He had been in his car overnight, delirious from what turned out to be a blood infection. It turned into septic shock, and at the time I posted, things were very touch and go and it was unclear if he would make it.

Unfortunately, my father passed away on Monday, August 19.

Those two months between his initial illness and his death were very difficult for me, for my family, and most of all, for my Dad. He was in the hospital the entire time, recovering from one infection only to get another, and then another. Treatment was very difficult due to complete renal failure, as Dad had been on a kidney transplant list for nearly two years prior to his illness. That would have been his second kidney transplant, as he previously received one in 1997.

The ultimate cause of his kidney failure was a severe wound he received in combat during his second tour of duty in Vietnam on the night of February 29, 1968. He spent the next 18 months in recovery in one military hospital after another. He regained his ability to walk, got married, had kids, and lived a full life over the next 51 years. But the strain on his system, including recurring infections at the time (and possibly exposure to Agent Orange), ultimately led to his kidneys failing.

That, for me, is emblematic of the man my Dad was. He was quiet and unassuming, but he gave everything of himself for the people he loved. When he finished his first tour of service in Vietnam, he signed up for a second tour because he didn’t want to leave his friends behind. When my mom fell ill with cancer, he gave all his his strength caring for her; it’s no coincidence that his kidneys failed again in the year following her death. He wore himself out for her, and never complained.

And he did the same, in small ways and large, for my brother and myself. He wasn’t demonstrative with affection, but he was always present. When he entered the Marines in 1966, he became an OG Marvel fan, reading comics like Thor with his buddies in the service. So when I became obsessed with comics as a kid, something that didn’t necessarily sit well with certain people in my conservative religious community, Dad was always supportive.

When I just had to go to a comic book show in New Hampshire, even though I didn’t have a dime to buy comics, he drove me there. When I just had to have the latest hot comic — Batman #427 — he drove me to Rhode Island to buy the only overpriced copy I could track down. There’s an auction in Connecticut that might have comics? We went, and wasted a whole day for the chance to lose a low bid on a trashed copy of House of Secrets #92. When I wanted desperately to meet Stan Lee at a show in 1989? He drove me to Boston, and then waited for hours with me until Stan finally arrived.

He’d sit down with me and go through my comics, helping me strategize which back issues to buy next. And he’d read them with me too. Every month, after I finished reading the new issue of Groo the Wanderer, I’d pass it to Dad so he could have a laugh as well.

Right to the end, Dad was supportive. As stressful and trying as the past two months were, I’m grateful I had the chance to send those days with Dad, even as sick as he was. We were able to talk about things and say things that whenever had the chance — or the pressing need — to talk about before. And I also got to give him a copy of my first comic, which was a dream come true for me.

I don’t know whether Dad actually cared about comics, but he cared about me, and showed it by spending his time with me doing what I loved. That was Dad.

I miss him.

My Dad in 1978.

The Final Countdown

Just a few days left until The Crimebusters launches on Kickstarter on June 11, and I’m busy crossing all the i’s and dotting all the t’s, or however that works.

I’ve learned a lot about the process so far, both in terms of printing, and the Kickstarter campaign itself. One big thing I discovered is the review period for Kickstarter. They list it as 1-3 business days, so I worked feverishly to get my page done a full week in advance in case there were any problems and it had to be reviewed twice.

In fact, it turns out the main part of the process is automated, and took about 30 seconds. Apparently, their bots check to make sure everything is done correctly from a procedural point of view, but the actual content isn’t really reviewed. Which I guess is nice, as it gives me a few more days leeway than I expected. And it also explains why I occasionally see Kickstarter campaigns that are clearly breaking one or more Kickstarter rules with their rewards, as it seems no person actually looked to see if those rewards were allowed.

The upshot of all this is that my Kickstarter campaign has been approved and is ready to launch! I’ll be pressing the shiny red button to go live on the morning of June 11, and when I do, I’ll be shouting it to the four winds.

That’s not the most exciting news of the week, though…

It’s real!!

Yes, there it is, the first (proof) copy of The Crimebusters #1!

I received this from the printer I am using, Comix Wellspring, which is a branch of Greko Printing in Michigan. Overall, I’m very pleased with the quality of the printing. There are a couple wrinkles I’m sorting out — I realized I had miscolored something on the back cover, for instance, and a few of the margins were off either due to my error, or my lack of understanding the printing process. Still, nothing major — everything took about 45 minutes total to fix — and it’s all part of the process. That’s what proof copies are for!

Now I’ll be going back with the corrections, and once I receive and approve the digital proof of the corrected edition, I’ll be placing my order. I expect by the time the proof process is complete, I’ll be a few days at least into the campaign and will have a rough idea of how many copies I’ll need (or can afford).

Plus, I’ll also be sending them the variant covers so those can be printed up as well. And speaking of that, as I promised last time, here’s a look at all four covers for The Crimebusters #1!

Created with GIMP

I’m also putting the finishing touches on the final reward, which I am super excited to show off. Once that reward is ready, I’ll be making a video to show it off, which I will probably share both here and as a Kickstarter update after the campaign launches.

I’m so excited! And I thank you all for sharing this journey with me. See you on June 11 for the launch!

The Numbering Question

I’m excited to announce that The Crimebusters #1 has reached a major milestone: I’ve sent it off to the printers! Right now, I’m waiting to get a physical proof copy so I can make sure it looks okay. If there are any necessary corrections, I’ll make those ASAP, but my hope is that by the time my Kickstarter campaign begins on June 11, the book will be approved and ready for printing. Then, by the time the campaign ends on July 3, I’ll have an idea how many copies are needed and can place the order and begin fulfillment as early as the end of July!

Of course, things happen, which is why I have scheduled into the campaign some extra time, with fulfillment not scheduled to start until September. if I can beat that estimate and get things out earlier, though, all the better!

Speaking of things happening, though, you may have noticed something different up in that opening paragraph. Yes, it’s true: I called this first issue #1 instead of #120.

It’s true: the first issue will now be numbered #1.

But it’s also true that this issue is still #120!

Let’s dig into it.

The Legacy Conundrum

Back in the day, it was industry belief that first issues sold worse than higher number issues. Conventional wisdom was that fans liked higher numbers because it was a sign of quality: if a title had run for 50, 100, or 200 issues, it must be good to last that long. So higher numbers were a signal to readers that they could trust they would receive quality.

As a result, publishers used different tactics to disguise new titles. DC, for instance, would often publish first issues with no number at all so readers wouldn’t know it was a new title, only adding the numbering to later issues.

Other publishers were even sneakier. Ziff-Davis, for example, would begin their titles with #5 or #10 and only revert to the real numbering once the book was established, which is why Cinderella Love for example has no issues #1-3, but has two #10s and two #11s!

Fast forward to now, though, and things are exactly opposite. On the one hand, collectors and speculators are more likely to buy a #1 for the perceived value of a first issue. And on the other hand, conventional wisdom holds that modern readers are turned off and intimidated by continuity. A high number is seen as a barrier to entry — nobody wants to jump into the middle of the story, and with most books being written for the trade, you’re almost always going to end up in the middle of some story if you pick up a random issue.

As a result, publishers like DC and Marvel are constantly rebooting their titles back to #1, searching for easy first issue money, but also as a way to try and provide jumping-on points for new readers. It’s a signal that it’s okay to start reading here.

Is this conventional wisdom actually true, though?

Well, nobody really knows. And that’s where my problem comes in.

Cutting the Gordian Knot

One of the reasons I began working on The Crimebusters in the first place is because I loved the adventures of Chuck Chandler in Boy Comics and wanted to continue his stories.

The first thing to go, though, was the title itself, as Boy Comics just wasn’t representative of what I was writing, especially with the introduction of Trixie Trouble.

But I really wanted to hang onto to the numbering. I personally have always been drawn to higher numbers titles, both as a reader and a collector. The promise of continuity, of mythology, of backstory — that’s the good stuff! And since I am keeping Chuck’s backstory — and referencing it at times in this very issue! — it just felt right to start The Crimebusters with #120.

Yet… I also want the book to succeed. The fact is, there are only a handful of people in the world who know or care about Chuck Chandler, or will buy The Crimebusters because they are fans of Boy Comics.

I’ve done everything I can with the story to make it accessible, as it’s a self-contained mystery adventure. Each issue is going to be a jumping on point, because each issue is it’s own complete story. And yet… if new readers don’t even pick up the book because of the number on the cover, they may never find out that the stories are right for them.

Conventional wisdom may be wrong, but it’s conventional because people believe it — including potential new readers.

The more I thought about it, the more I had to conclude that I was limiting my audience by have the number 120 on the cover instead of 1. Even if everything else is exactly the same, the frustrating fact is that some percentage of fans, however small, will pass the book by just because of what they think that number means. On the flip side, though… I think almost anyone who would buy the book with a #120 on the cover will still try it with a #1.

Even after all that logic, though, I was stuck with one fact: I personally want the comic to be #120 and have a #120 on the cover! And that’s when I came up with this elegant copout solution: I’m just going to have both.

Now, Marvel tried something like that once with their legacy numbering, where they just had both numbers on the cover of each issue. It worked. But it was also kind of ugly. And besides, I didn’t want the lower number on my copy! I only wanted the higher one. So it was a compromise that didn’t really fully satisfy either group.

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that I’m just going to print some copies with a #1 on the cover, and some with a #120, allowing you to choose which number you want.

In fact, I’ll announce now that there will be four different covers to choose from!

  • The regular cover will be numbered #1
  • The Legacy Number Variant will be a Kickstarter exclusive cover; it will have different artwork (to be revealed soon!) and will be numbered #120
  • The Trixie Trouble Mysteries Variant will be numbered #1 and will feature new artwork (to be revealed soon!)
  • The Boy Comics Variant will feature the classic Boy Comics logo, it will feature new artwork (to be revealed soon!), and will be numbered #120

The regular cover and the Legacy Number Variant will be the same price, so you can pick whichever number and cover you like better — or get one of each if, like me, you can’t decide! The Trixie Trouble Mysteries and Boy Comics variants will be a little bit more expensive, but only a few bucks.

Anyway, that’s why the regular cover has a #1 on it now, and why I’ll be officially calling this issue #1 going forward.

But between you and me, I still think of it as #120 in my head — and I’m planning to do a Legacy Number Variant for each issue going forward, primarily because I want to have the covers with classic numbering in my own personal collection!

In the next week or two, I’ll be sharing the art for the three variant covers. There’s less than three weeks left now before the Kickstarter campaign launches on June 11, so there will be a lot of reveals between now and then!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon!

p.s. Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to make sure you get all the latest updates sent directly to your inbox!

What about the back cover?

So, I have now completed 16 pages, leaving me with just 14 pages that need inking and shading added. Yes, I am officially past the halfway mark! At this pace, I expect to be done with the main story in two weeks. I still have a few things to do after that’s completed — the inside front cover, a two-page text feature, and a four page comic backup story — but the bulk of the first issue will be done. The next step is getting ready for Kickstarter, and right now I am aiming for the first week of June to launch the book.

It’s all very exciting! But this week I found myself spending some time on a part of the comic I usually don’t think about at all: the back cover.

As a long time comic book reader, I am used to back covers being advertisements. And while some of those back cover ads have become kind of iconic to comic book collectors — the art lesson ad from late 60’s Marvel just screams back cover to me, as does the Red Ryder BB gun ad from the golden age — usually, I don’t even notice them.

With that in mind, I had just presumed the best way to go for my comic would be advertising. I’m planning on doing a small print-on-demand run for the book, as I don’t think demand will warrant a full offset print run, and many on demand comic book printers offer a discount if you advertise their company on the back cover. It’s not a huge discount on a per book basis, but if you’re doing a hundred or two hundred copies, it can add up pretty quick. So that seemed like a decent deal.

As part of my research into Kickstarter, though, I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to the Comix Launch podcast by Tyler James. This is a podcast that has a very specific niche: it’s specifically about how to launch comic books on Kickstarter. And there’s almost 200 episodes! Who knew there was that much to say about launching comics on Kickstarter, right?

While not all of it is relevant to my particular project, one tip that Tyler shared was that you should never put the printer’s ad on the back cover of your book. Why? Because he felt that the back cover is the best selling point you have for your book other than, of course, the front cover.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. If the front cover grabs you, what are you likely to do? Well, open the book and flip through it, of course. But also, turn the book over. While this is maybe less common with comics, think about all the graphic novels and paperbacks you’ve purchased over the years. The back cover has the synopsis and pull quotes from other creators and critics recommending why you should read the book.

Well, I don’t have any pull quotes, because the issue isn’t done, much less read by anyone else. But the other half I can do — give potential readers information about the story and why they should read it. The back cover functions differently than the front, which is a good thing; it doesn’t have to follow the rules of comic design, it can get into the nitty gritty. The front cover brings them in, and the back cover cinches the sale.

With that idea in mind, I designed my back cover, and spent the last few days working on it. It’s possible I may make some minor tweaks to this before publishing, but for now, I’m pretty happy with the results.

And who knows? Maybe by next issue, I’ll have some cool pull quotes to put on the back cover!

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with another project update. I’m not sure what it will be about, but in the coming weeks, I plan to share some of the other features in the book, such as the inside front cover and the text features, and I will also discuss Kickstarter itself and the rewards I’ll be offering. If you have any ideas for rewards you might want, let me know!

See you next time!

First issue sneak preview now available!

I’m excited to announce that the sneak preview of the first issue is now available to read!

Right now, I have completed the first nine pages of the 30 page story, while the other 21 pages only need inking to be complete. I’m currently expecting this process to take me another three weeks, at which point the main story for the first issue will be complete!

Of course, there will still be things to do — I am planning to do two variant covers, as well as a four age backup story starring everyone’s favorite crime fighting monkey, Squeeks.

Still, I thought this would be a great time to show people what I have been working on. With an estimated completion date forth story of around April 21, I am currently aiming for the first eek of June to launch my Kickstarter efforts. When the Kickstarter goes live, it will include a 6 page preview of the story. But since those first six pages are already done, I thought, why wait?

You can read the sneak preview here!

Andi fhat grabs your fancy, feel free to hit the “Contact Us” button above to drop me a line and get added to the Crimebusters mailing list. or, you can also follow The Crimebusters on Facebook either by clicking on the Facebook icon to the right, or following this link.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed making it!

Font madness! Plus: a project update!

First, a project update. I’m almost done adding all the dialogue to the whole book. All the dialogue is written, and I have just a couple pages left where I need to add the word balloons.

One thing that delayed this stage of the process as long as it did was simply not knowing what font I wanted to use. That will be the focus of this week’s blog post. Before I get to that, though, I also took a small detour from dialoguing the book to finish the art on the splash page. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking the art right up until print time to make sure it’s as good as it can be, but here’s a taste of what the book will look like when it’s all done:

Now, about those fonts. Eagle eyed readers will notice that the font I’m using for Chuck and Stu’d dialogue has changed since I first posted the rough draft version of this page last year.

At the time, I had the idea that I wanted a font with lowercase letters, as I thought it would allow me to fit more dialogue. And since there’s a lot of dialogue in this issue, space is at a premium.

However, it just didn’t look right, so I set about trying to find a better option. And the problem wasn’t finding a better option, it was choosing from among what seemed like an endless array of options.

There are actually several websites online that have tons of free comic book fonts, plus a couple that specialize in comic book fonts, both free and paid premium. Blambot is probably my favorite of these sites. They have a very cool feature where some of their fonts are free if you are going to make comic books with them, and are only paid if you want to use the for some other purpose. I love that they are supporting independent comic book self-publishing in this manner.

Another great source for comic book fonts is Richard Starkings’ Comicraft. Most of their fonts are paid only, as they have been one of the top resources for the big publishers since the 90’s. They have some great looking fonts, though, so depending on your project, they may be a good option.

For me, though, I didn’t want to spend money mainly because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted from a font. So I ended up running a font test. i downloaded a dozen of the most promising fonts, and then lettered the same panel over and over using each font, so I could compare directly like vs. like.

In the end, I went with a Blambot font called Letteromatic. It felt the most like a comic book to me, while still presenting a high degree of readability. The only thing I don’t love about it is how the letter Z looks, but it doesn’t come up enough to really matter.

Even then, I still had work to do. Though Letteromatic was mostly great, it was actually a little too wide for my needs. Luckily, in Clip Studio Art, the program I use, you can adjust all the details of the fonts. I first changed the kerning, which is the space between letters, and then adjusted the horizontal ratio, which squeezed things in horizontally without changing the vertical size and shape.

The end result is what you see in this sample – other than the italic font I used for the opening scroll speech. That is done in Komika. I tried to keep things consistent throughout the book by using Letteromatic across the board, but in a couple of places I went with special fonts to highlight certain things. This includes the use of a couple weird fonts that essentially act as a cipher code.

Don’t worry, though. If you want to break the code I will be offering an official Crimebusters Fan Club membership kit that includes a Junior Crimebuster Decoder book to allow you to read along at home.

But I’ll talk about that more some other time. Next week I hope to post another project update with a look at some more art in process. Thanks for reading!

Project Update!

Well, it took longer than I expected — or hoped — but I have finally finished the initial linework for all 30 pages of The Crimebusters #120!

When I originally began the linework at the beginning of November, I hoped it would take me two months. My initial timeline had me finishing at the end of January.

Three things slowed me down. First, I took a 16 day vacation overseas, where no work was getting done. Secondly, I have had some health issues over the last month that have slowed me down. And third… well, this stuff just took longer than I expected!

I also added to pages in the middle of the process, going from 28 to 30, and those pages added more time because I had to do all the layouts as well.

Still, the linework is all done now. So what’s next?

Well, the next step of the process is adding all the dialogue. I’m going to go through the entire issue and add all the dialogue and caption boxes, and possibly some sound effects.

I may also add a few special effects — speed lines and such — because once this phase is done, I am going to print up a few ashcan copies to distribute to friends in the hopes of getting some feedback on art and dialogue changes that may be necessary during the editing process. I am particularly concerned with the storytelling — I want this to be a clear, clean, and easy read from start to finish, so making sure there’s nothing confusing in terms of panel layout, artwork, dialogue, or plot is paramount. I know my art has limitations, but telling the story clearly is more important to me than looking cool.

While my first readers are going over the issue, I will be taking a small break from the panel to panel artwork and change gears to do some other projects that need to be completed before the book goes to Kickstarter and gets published. Things like the Kickstarter promo image and the cover(s) for this first issue, as well as character bio artwork for this website need to be done. I’d also like to work on technical things for the website like the mailing list and the storefront, as well as write up bios for the rest of the characters.

Once I have gotten feedback, I will then proceed with rewriting the dialogue and, most time consumingly, finishing all the artwork with inking and special effects. I originally had planned on a month for inking and a month for preparing the Kickstarter campaign. I suspect the inking will take longer than a month, but I don’t know how long the Kickstarter campaign will take to set up, so for now I am tentatively still aiming for a May 1st live date for the Kickstarter, with the understanding it could be pushed later in the month, or even as late as June 1.

As always, I’ll be giving updates each step of the way, and I look forward to sharing more — and more complete! — art and pages as we get closer to finishing this first issue.

I’m excited!

Next time around, I will dive into the thrilling world of fonts. But for now, here’s a look at the linework for Page 26: