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:


This time around, I want to talk about inspiration and motivation. But before I get into that topic, time for my regular weekly progress update. I am currently working on the linework for Page 18 of 30, and expect to finish it later today. I expect Page 19 to be a fast one, so when the calendar turns to February, I will likely be working on Page 20. I originally hoped to be done with the linework for the whole issue at that point, but between my two week holiday and the decision to add 2 new pages to the story, things got a bit backlogged. Still, things are moving along, and I expect the linework to be completed some time in the week after Valentine’s day.

So… inspiration!

I’ve already talked some about the direct inspirations on this project, like Scooby Doo, the original Life with Archie, Archie’s Weird Mysteries, the Three Invesitgators and Trixie Belden, Lois Lane and Veronica Mars. But this time around I want to talk about inspiration in general — what I find inspiring, what recharges my creative juices, what excites me and makes me want to make comics.

Early on in the process of creating The Crimebusters #120, I attended MICE 2018 – the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, which is filled with dozens of self-publishing comics creators. In a very real sense, indie comics are the lifeblood of the medium. Not only are self-published comics done for the love of the craft, but they also provide a fertile forum for new talents to develop their skills. Many comics professionals began in self publishing, where they often had far more creative freedom than is possible working for a big publisher on licensed properties.

Because of this, self-published comics have an incredible breadth and scope. Anything you can think of — anything they can think of — has a comics about it. And while the skill and talent levels vary wildly, that’s also part of the charm. There’s little artifice in indie comics. Nobody is phoning it in or faking it. You only self publish comics if you love comics, and love making comics, and that spirit I found tremendously inspiring. Opening a self published indie comic is a thrill, because you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s guaranteed to be someone’s dream come true.

Comics I bought at MICE 2018.

I also recently had a chance to travel to Berlin, Germany, where I visited an amazing art collective called NeuroTitan. Part gallery, part art shop, and part interactive experience, NeuroTitan was like the ultimate embodiment of the artistic vibe we found throughout the city. Berlin is a place that seems to have really embraced street art, from the murals on the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall to the graffiti in the subway tunnels.

Nowhere was this more evident than at NeuroTitan. Located in a hidden courtyard, the entire approach to NeuroTitan is covered in intricate street art, with paintings, graffiti, and stickers covering every surface. Up a flight of stairs is the store itself, which is a collective of art prints, postcards, t-shirts and — of course! — self published comic books. And through the store is the gallery, where the artists in residence display their works in interesting exhibits that cover a range of social and political issues.

Leaving NeuroTitan we couldn’t help but be jazzed about making stuff, making art, and making comics in particular. It was an energizing experience.

In the NeuroTitan courtyard.
A self-published German comic I bought at NeuroTitan in Berlin.

Finally, earlier this month, I also attended the Boston science fiction convention Arisia. Dancing, gaming, and singing take place side by side with a fantastical art show, and a dealer room filled with novels, art prints, and strange creations. Plus thee were dozens of interesting panels touching on creativity in different ways, such as the panels on Writing for Comics and Writing with Tarot Cards.

But there are also hands on workshops. Want to learn how to make chainmail, or play the theramin? No problem! This year, the highlight for me in terms of workshops was the blockprinting workshop, where we learned how to carve stamps out of blocks of rubber and then hand-make prints.

And most of all, there’s the cosplay, and the community it creates. Seeing fans dressed up in elaborate costumes they built themselves simply out of love for the character is the perfect mix of creativity and geeked out fan joy, which is how I feel about comics when I love them most.

It’s inspiring to be around people who are passionate about things. Passionate about creating things, passionate about the creation of things, and passionate about the creative process.

Now don’t you just want to make a comic book?!

Progress update, Steranko, and the Soviet montage theory

Next time I will return to my extended look at character design and how I came to create our leading lady, Trixie Trouble.

For now, though, I wanted to give a short progress update, and explore one of the pages in progress.

After taking two weeks off for a trip abroad, I’m back at work on the line art for The Crimebusters #120. It’s taken me a couple of days to get back in the swing of things, but I just completed page 10 or 30, meaning I’m officially one third of the way through the line art.

You may note that I said 30 pages, as opposed to the 28 pages I referenced in previous posts. One thing that has slowed me down a little bit is the decision to add two pages to the story.

These pages were actually part of my original plot, but I later cut them because I felt they weren’t strictly necessary to advance the plot and I wanted to streamline the narrative as much as possible. However, upon reflection, I decided the pages were necessary for character reasons. Stories, after all, aren’t just about plot, they are about people, and these two pages I think will provide valuable character moments that will strengthen the story overall and make it a better read. Sometimes slowing down is better than speeding up.

This has meant a slow down in my process as well, though, as these pages, unlike the other 28, hadn’t been thumbnailed and laid out already. Still, that process has now been complete, and the linework for the first of the two new pages is done, so by the end of this week I think I will be back to the spot in the story I was at previously — only it will be page 12 now, instead of page 10.

For today’s preview, though, I wanted to backtrack a bit and give you a look at page 4 in progress. This is a page that I think will look significantly different once I get to the inking stage, as it takes place primarily at night and in the dark. So the blacks and shadings will add a lot of texture, as will sound effects. But here’s what it looks like at the moment:

The middle of the page, where Chuck sneaks out of his dorm room to investigate the crime scene, was a sequence I particularly enjoyed working on. This sequence is going to be wordless, though it will have some sound effects.

This sequence is heavily influenced by the work of the legendary Jim Steranko, who often used these sort of quick, small panels to create a narrative — or just set a scene — letting the art guide our mind into putting 2 and 2 together to get 4.

Originally, I planned a typical panel sequence here, but felt constrained, as in order to fit this much plot into such a small space felt like it would require a lot of exposition. Though original Crimebuster writer Charles Biro was far from shy about using dialogue data dumps, I wanted to avoid this when possible in favor of something more visual and dramatic — which is what Steranko is all about.

Here’s a look at his famous wordless love scene from Strange Tales:

Throughout The Crimebusters #120, I tried to utilize various storytelling techniques from masters like Steranko, both to keep the book fresh as well as to see which techniques work for me, and which don’t. This sort of wordless montage, which artists like Steranko borrowed from the film work of greats like Eisenstein, is something that I think is absolutely great in specific, small, and restrained uses. You can’t just do this for any sequence, but when you use it for the right sequence, it just all clicks. I will definitely be keeping this in my arsenal going forward!

Thanks for reading! Next time, I will be back for part 2 of my exploration of the character design process for Trixie Trouble.

Return of the splash page!

First, a quick update. I am now done with the line work through page 6, and am beginning page 7 today. The line work is taking me a little longer than expected, but at the present rate I should be done with it around February 7, so we’re still more or less on target with my original estimates.

Today, I wanted to share a first look at some of the internal art, beginning with a the splash page — which is still very much in progress. 

Take a look!

First, the in progress parts. This has the line work, but I haven’t yet added in the inking and effects. For example, Death Mask’s black cloak will be getting a lot of inking, there will be a darker background behind Death Mask, and Death Mask’s crystal ball will actually look like a crystal ball instead of just a circle — I’m going to be adding some texture elements and effects to it that should hopefully make it look like a glass globe. 

Another thing still in progress here are the fonts. I like the font for the speech inside the scroll. But the other fonts, particularly the dialogue font, need to be changed. And there need to be some alterations to the word balloons, as they shouldn’t touch the edges of the panels like they do now. 

Overall, though, I am pretty happy with how this page is looking!

I did want to discuss the layout of the page in a little more detail, though, as the design for it intentionally harkens back to the Golden Age of comics. Nowadays, opening splash pages (when they are used) are part of the narrative. But for many years, splash pages had a slightly different purpose, dictated in the large part by the fact that most comics in the Golden Age were anthologies. 

As a result, the splash page essentially served as an internal “cover” for each feature in the book. Take Action Comics for example: while Superman was on the cover of every issue after a certain point, there were still other ongoing features within the book, like Zatara. Since these second fiddles didn’t get a cover spot to hype the character and tease the story, the splash page would serve this function. And since these features were often limited for space, with just a few pages to tell a complete story, often these would be half splashes, like I am using here. 

These splashes would also often be symbolic, showing thematic elements from the story rather than narrative ones. So frequently, the scene shown on the splash didn’t literally occur in the story, but instead would give readers a feel for the tone of the story. 

For my purposes, in addition to those general Golden Age guidelines, I also wanted to continue the tradition from Boy Comics of having an introductory speech from the writer laying out the moral of the tale. This is something Crimebuster’s creator, Charles Biro, did in every issue of the series, and I wanted to carry on this tradition, in part because I think it helps set the tone for the story. As the whole concept of the teen detective has a bit of a retro feel to it, I think having a classic Golden Age style splash page is an important and useful way to get readers into the mood of the story before being hit with plot and the exposition that necessarily comes with mysteries. 

So there it is! To close, here’s a look at a classic Golden Age splash page from Boy Comics starring Crimebuster. See you next week!