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!

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.

Asking for Trouble (part 1)

The original impetus behind this project was my love of the Golden Age, public domain character Crimebuster, and a desire to continue his comic book adventures. It wasn’t far into the development process, though, that I realized I need to create a new partner for Chuck to work with, which is how I ended up creating the all-new character Trixie Trouble. 

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the character creation and development process from start to finish, so in this first installment, I’ll look at the reasons behind the creation of Trixie Trouble and how I slowly drilled down to the character I have now, and who will be making her debut in The Crimebusters #120. 

Though it ran for 117 issues over 14 years, there were surprisingly few recurring characters in the pages of Crimebusters series in Boy Comics. There was Crimebuster himself, and his sidekick Squeeks the monkey. There was also the district attorney Loover, Chuck’s mentor, and the villain Iron Jaw, Chuck’s arch enemy. 

And… that’s it, until Chuck went off to school in #107. At that point, writer Charles Biro introduced a whole new group of supporting characters in the form of other students at Curtiss Tech. Stu was Chuck’s new best friend and roommate, Jabbo was the new archenemy, an Iron Jaw toned down for the college set. And there was also a sporadic love interest name Annie, who appeared in a whopping three issues. That, however, also made her the only recurring female character in the entire series history. 

When I began developing the story that would eventually, after years of work, morph into The Crimebusters #120, I felt the biggest problem was actually Squeeks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Squeeks. But there were three big issues with Squeeks:

1.  First and most obviously, Squeeks is a monkey, which means he doesn’t talk. This means when Chuck is working out cases, he can monologue at Squeeks, but he can’t have a conversation, which severely limits the writing options. I felt Chuck needed someone not just to talk to, but someone who would be able to challenge him (more on this in the next installment), and that’s not Squeeks.

2. Secondly, as a monkey, and Chuck’s pet, Squeeks is inherently subordinate to Crimebuster. I felt that what Chuck needed, though, was a true equal and partner rather than a sidekick. Squeeks is always going to be a sidekick — a great one, but a sidekick nonetheless. 

3. Finally, my choice to pick up the original continuity presented a problem, because Squeeks was essentially written out of the series when Chuck went to Curtiss Tech. He does appear in a couple Curtiss Tech stories, but for the most part, he’s absent, which makes sense: the school isn’t likely to let a student keep a pet monkey in the dorm. If I wanted to use Squeeks, I’d have to really come up with a weird rationale to have him around. 

Once I ruled out Squeeks, it was also pretty easy to rule out Stu. Stu doesn’t have the same problems as Squeeks; Stu is an equal to Chuck, he can talk, and he’s at Curtiss Tech. But he has a different problem Squeeks does not have: Stu is boring as hell. I do have plans for Stu that I think will prove interesting, but he just didn’t fit.

With all those factors in mind, I settled on the idea of creating a female counterpart to Chuck. I felt this worked thematically very well. By the end of his series, Chuck was firmly operating in the classic teen detective genre, and that is filled with great female characters like Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Veronica Mars, and many more. It also filled a major gap in the storytelling. Annie, god bless her, was about as nondescript as possible in her handful of appearances. Boy Comics, after all, was aimed at boys, and didn’t really consider girls much. 

That doesn’t appeal to me, though. I wanted a strong female character, a detective who could match Chuck as an equal partner. Someone who could stand on equal footing as a main character in her own right. My story, I realized, would need to be as much about her as about Chuck.

And once I realized this, the parameters for actually creating Trixie became clearer. With Chuck, after all, I had a known quantity. After reading 117 issues worth of Crimebuster stories, I had a good idea of his personality, strengths, and weakness. For narrative and dramatic reasons, I needed to create a character who offered something different — who had different strengths, different weaknesses, different quirks. Someone who could challenge Chuck, and vice versa. 

But she couldn’t just exist as a compliment or foil to Chuck — she had to be interesting enough in her own right to pique curiosity, command attention and carry the narrative. She had to feel like she had her own 14-year backstory of adventures and experiences. 

In classic comic book terms, this had to feel like Power Man and Iron Fist teaming up for the fist time: two leading characters who just happen to work even better together. 

The process of designing that personality, and the process of designing Trixie’s look, are things I will explore in the next installment.

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!