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!

From concept to comic

In the next few days, I’ll be posting the splash page — in progress — so you can see what I’m doing, and what my thought process was in creating the splash.

Before I start getting into specifics, though, I thought it would make sense to begin at the beginning and explain what I am doing, where I am in the process, and where I plan to go. 

The basic idea for a Crimebuster revival has been with me for a decade now, but my first efforts at creating my own comic came in 2014. I learned a lot from that effort, which I will go into detail about at a later date, but one of the big takeaways was that the creative process I had adopted just wasn’t working for me. I was trying to completely finish each page before moving on to the next. The result was stultifying, with every roadblock feeling as though it was holding up all future progress. Every line was a bottleneck.

So this time around, I decided to use a classic comic book production line system. Of course, traditionally there are different people handling each step in the production line, but even though I am doing it all myself, I thought it would encourage work flow to do each layer of work entirely before moving on to the next. Plot the whole thing, lay the entire issue out, do breakdowns for the whole issue, do finished line work for the whole thing, then inking, then effects and word balloons, etc. 

I began plotting the story for The Crimebusters #120 at the beginning of 2018. By March, I was ready to begin the basic layouts, which consisted of thumbnails for all 28 pages, as well as basic notes on dialogue. I discovered I couldn’t lay out a page well unless I had an idea of how much and what dialogue was taking place during each scene, so this process was much slower than anticipated.

Original pencil thumbnail for Page 3

Still, after a few starts and stops, I finally completed the thumbnails at the beginning of October, 2018. I then set up my comic making program – Clip Studio Paint – and began the process of taking those thumbnails and actually laying out each page. First, I created each page, then laid out the panel structure. Working a little more than one page per day, I finished this process by the end of October. 

Next, I did detailed breakdowns for each panel on each page, taking the small thumbnails and rendering them full size — sketching out where the characters would be, the poses, the camera angles, etc. This took up up through Thanksgiving. 

 The breakdowns for the two-page spread on pages 8-9. 

Now I am in the process of doing the line work, using a pen and brush over the pencil sketches, tightening the work. I have so far completed four pages of line work, with 25 more to go. Since I will be on vacation for two weeks over the holidays, I anticipate this will take me until roughly the end of January to finish.

Once that is done, I have scheduled the inking for February, with dialogue re-writes, sound effects, special effects, and general editing scheduled for March. Assuming all goes as planned, I expect to have the first issue of The Crimebusters finished for the beginning of April, at which point I will head to Kickstarter, with the plan of getting the issue printed some time in May for distribution in June. 

It’s a long process, but so far, I have found that doing one job at a time has greatly improved my work flow, and the quality of the work. I am also learning a lot, and expect that the next issue will go much faster and smoother. I hope eventually to get to the point where I can do an issue every 4 months, though 6 may be more realistic.

So that’s where I am at! Next time, I will share the first draft of the first page of the series so you can see how things are coming along, what the (unfinished) art looks like, and get a feel for the flavor of the title. I will also explain some of the creative decisions on the splash page which would have felt very familiar to Golden Age readers. 

See you then!

Welcome to The Crimebusters!

Hello, and welcome to the production blog for The Crimebusters. Over the course of the next few months, I will be sharing inside details and stories from the creation of The Crimebusters, a new ongoing comic book series in the classic teen detective tradition, featuring the Golden Age hero Crimebuster and his new partner, Trixie Trouble.

First, a little about myself. My name is Scott Harris. I’m a professional writer and an amateur artist with a lifelong love of comic books. Though I have always wanted to create my own comic, it wasn’t until I discovered the Golden Age adventures of Crimebuster that my passion for comic book storytelling came into focus around a specific goal: continuing his saga, and expanding it with the creation of new characters, stories, and ideas. 

One reason I felt so strongly about the character of Crimebuster is my childhood love of teen detective stories. My personal favorites were The Three Investigators and Trixie Belden, but I would read anything featuring teen detectives, from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Encyclopedia Brown and Harriet the Spy. Its from this tradition that I came to create Trixie Trouble, a girl reporter with a nose for mystery and a taste for adventure who is more than a match for Crimebuster. 

Over the course of his original 14-year run in the pages of Boy Comics, Crimebuster faced plenty of dangerous foes and solved dozens of deadly mysteries. But perhaps his most unusual adventure came right at the end of the series. In issue #107, Crimebuster left the world of crimefighting behind in order to get his college degree under his real name Chuck Chandler, and thus become eligible to join the police force as an official detective. For the next dozen issues, writer Charles Biro detailed the college adventures of of Chuck and his roommate Stu Stuart, from stopping a ring of gold thieves, to surviving a plane crash in the Amazon jungle. 

Midway through Chuck’s sophomore year, though, the story suddenly ended when Boy Comics was cancelled with #119, cover dated February, 1956.

The Crimebusters #120 picks up where Chuck’s original series left off: it’s the fall of 1956, and Chuck and Stu are returning to Curtiss Tech for their junior year after an eventful summer break. Too eventful, it turns out, as one of the college’s most respected professors suddenly turns up dead. So was it suicide, as the cops claim? Or did he bring back more than just relics from his summer trip to Peru — like an ancient curse? It’s up to Chuck and Trixie to find out… if they can survive long enough!

The Crimebusters #120 is just the first in an ongoing series, but in the Golden Age tradition, I plan to tell a complete story in every issue. Those stories will eventually weave together to form a larger narrative though, with the broader saga of Chuck and Trixie’s college adventures set to run through #150. 

That’s my hope, anyway. And it’s a long way off, as for now, I’m working hard to put out my first comic book, learning the ins and outs of the creative process, not to mention the publishing side as well. 

And over the next few months, I plan to share what I am doing — and learning — as I go, from the initial concept work up through the planned Kickstarter launch and eventual publication. 

So I hope you will join me as I tackle this passion project. I love Crimebuster, I love Trixie Trouble, and most of all, I love comics, and I’m beyond excited to finally make a comic book — and make my dream come true. 

— Scott Harris

p.s. Don’t worry, fans of the original series:  Squeeks is still around!