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?
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!
Before I get to the conclusion of my three-part look into the character creation process behind the development of The Crimebusters co-lead Trixie Trouble, just another quick progress update. I’ve had some health issues that have slowed me down some, but I am plugging away nonetheless, and am currently working on page 24. My best guess is that the linework will be completed the last week in February. My hope at this point is to also get all the first draft dialogue and word balloons in place before March 1st. Fingers crossed!
Okay, so in the previous installments of Asking for Trouble, I covered the process of designing the character from the ground up in terms of personality and history. That leaves the most basic thing, though: what she actually looks like.
In a visual medium like comics, coming up with the right visual design is key. With that in mind, I again looked at what I already had, which is the visual design from Crimebuster.
What I wanted to do was come up with a visual look for Trixie that worked on its own, but also which complemented and contrasted with Chuck’s design. And what immediately jumped out to me was less color and more light and dark.
Though Chuck’s colors are all bright, they are also all on the darker side: deep red, deep blue, navy pants, black hair, etc. That immediately suggested to me that Trixie should be on the light side.
The first thing I settled on was that Trixie would be blonde with blue eyes. Then I took a look at the color scheme for her clothes. I wanted to use classic, simple colors that could have been in use during the Golden Age of comics – primary colors mostly. The four color printing process wasn’t really great at doing things like coral or magenta or teal – it’s for blue, yellow, red.
I eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted Trixie to have the same colors in her costume as Crimebuster, just with different emphasis. At first, I considered giving her a blue top, but as Trixie is also a bit of a tomboy, I planned to dress her in jeans. Since I didn’t really want to do blue on blue, I finally hit on the idea of a white top, with blue and red accents, as opposed to Crmiebuster’s red top with blue and white accents. Giving them the same color scheme would help them visually fit together as a team (on the covers, that is, since the interior is going to be black and white), but having white be Trixie’s primary color would further the visual contrast in terms of light and dark shades.
There was still the issue of what she as actually going to wear, though. I wanted something graphically simple and bold. Again, I derived my main inspiration from Chuck’s costume. Originally the C on his chest was supposed to stand for Culver, the military academy he was attending in his first appearance. Later, it supposedly stood for Curtiss Tech, the college he is current attending. But in both cases, of course, it really stands for Crmiebuster.
I realized I could use this same conceit to give Trixie her own letter T – for the Tech in Curtiss Tech. As it happens, monogrammed letters, and letterman sweaters, were a big fashion trend in the mid 1950’s, when The Crimebusters takes place, so giving her a letterman sweater with the Tech T on the breast was thematically perfect.
I finished the design with a pop of color via the red shirt underneath, and some hints of her rebel nature with the offset rolled of pant legs and the saddle shoes.
And that’s it! No doubt going forward, design tweaks may present themselves as the characters and situations evolve — these outfits are fine for the fall of 1956, but n a couple issues, winter will be approaching and something warmer might be needed. For now ,tough, I’m pretty happy with how Trixie’s design turned out!
Thanks for reading, and check back next week for another update!
Before I get to the second part of this exploration of the creative process behind the design of my co-lead character Trixie Trouble, just a quick progress update on The Crimebusters #120: As of today, I have completed the linework on page 13, and am starting in on page 14. There will be a slight delay, as I am taking the weekend off to attend the Arisia science fiction convention in Boston, but my hope is that by this time next week I will have completed page 15, which will put me at the halfway point now that the story is set to be 30 pages.
Okay, so back to Asking for Trouble! In the first installment, I looked at why I felt it was necessary to create a co-star to appear alongside Chuck Chandler. This time around, I’m going to look at the process of actually creating the character that became Trixie Trouble.
The first thing I had to do was look at the dramatic necessities of a co-star. With Chuck Chandler, I had a defined quantity. Chuck has certain character traits: he’s smart, honest, dedicated, loyal. He has a sense of humor in that he appreciates other people’s jokes, but he’s not a jokester himself — he’s serious, straight laced. He’s also very self-confident, a man of action: he’s not introspective, but has a very strong sense of wrong and right, and doesn’t question himself when it comes to what is just and unjust. Above all, his paramount principle is fairness.
In order to have dramatic tension between Chuck and his partner, the partner had to challenge Chuck. The partner had to be someone who wasn’t like Chuck — someone who would call him out on his shortcomings, and push him to think about things.
In other words, I felt Chuck needed a partner who he could argue with, rather than agree with all the time. At the same time, though, the new character had to be a true partner, rather than a sidekick. Watson challenges Holmes all the time, for instance, except Holmes is always right and Watson is always wrong, so they don’t have an equitable partnership. I wanted a true partner, which means someone who has a point of view which is different from Chuck’s, but equally correct. Both Chuck and the reader have to respect the partner, or else it doesn’t work.
I quickly identified some traits I wanted my character to have. The most important was a sense of fun and adventure, which brings with it a sense of humor. Chuck, bless him, is a great straight man, but he embarks on most of his investigations out of a sense of duty. I wanted someone who enjoys mysteries, who embraces the unknown, who gets excited about cases — someone whose enthusiasm will drag both Chuck and the reader along for the wild ride.
Since I had already decided I wanted to add some hint of the supernatural to my stories — ghosts, ghouls, creatures, and whatnot in the best Scooby Doo tradition — the idea of a Mulder and Scully type relationship quickly presented itself to me. Chuck isn’t the type to believe in any of this nonsense, but more important than being a skeptic is the fact that his curiosity is limited by his need to take action. What I mean is, if an alien kidnaps a cub scout, Chuck’s priority is going to be rescuing the kid; the fact that it’s an alien isn’t important.
I wanted someone who could act as the eyes and voice of the reader and express a sense of wonder and excitement at the weird cases they encounter — someone who would be amazed and thrilled to see an alien. Heck, she would much rather it be an alien than not. Just as Chuck is less of a skeptic and more of a pragmatist — if it’s not germane to the case, it’s irrelevant — the partner would be less of a believer and more someone who wants to believe.
As I mentioned before, I also pretty quickly decided that the series needed a strong female voice, something that Chuck’s previous adventures in Boy Comics were sorely lacking.
That gave me this list of traits for Chuck’s new partner:
adventurous – brave
sense of humor
excited by mystery – curious
delighted by the unknown
These all felt reminiscent of the classic girl detectives like Trixie Belden, especially the idea of a character who loves mysteries so much she just wants to believe everything is a mystery — to the point of it routinely causing trouble for her and everyone around her.
But these traits also seemed to me to have a lot of overlap with another classic literary trope from the same 1930’s-1950’s time period: the girl reporter. Lois Lane is the perfect example of a character who has all of these traits — rushing headlong into danger because she needs to solve the mystery is pretty much her entire schtick.
With that in mind, I started to craft an identity for my character. As an homage to classic teen detectives from the same time period that Chuck Chandler originated from, I decided to give her the first name Trixie. But I also wanted her to be a reporter. Starting from there, I worked out a backstory: as a youth, my Trixie was a rambunctious tomboy, athletic and adventurous. But two big events as teen had a big impact on her: her parents divorced, and then she was stricken with a serious illness that left her bedridden for a year.
Confined to bed, she had to turn to reading so she could experience adventures vicariously. She voraciously read detective magazines and crime novels, as well as newspapers. By the time she fully recovered, she had gained an encyclopedic knowledge of detectives both real and fictional, as well as a love for the written word. She decided to attend college to study journalism, with the aim of becoming either a private detective or the next best thing — a journalist.
Along the way, she couldn’t help but insert herself into all sorts of situations where she didn’t belong, solving crimes and getting herself and her friends into massive amounts of trouble.
Which is where the name came from, of course. I wanted a name that had the classic comic book alliteration of a Chuck Chandler or Peter Parker. So I began a list of words and names that began with TR to go with Trixie. I soon narrowed it down to two: Trueheart, and Trouble. Trueheart sounded more like a person’s actual name, and was nicely evocative of her spirit, but I liked Trouble as well, so I decided to just give her both: real name Trixie Trueheart, but her nickname is Trixie Trouble, because wherever she goes, trouble surely follows.
And this brought me back around to the idea of someone who could challenge Chuck. One thing that struck me reading through Chuck’s adventures is that, unlike most superheroes, Chuck was never really a vigilante. Very early on he became a protege of Loover, first when Loover was at the FBI, and then when Loover was the New York City District Attorney. So Chuck has always had the benefit of working with the authorities, meaning he’s never really had to think about or question his belief system. But what would he do if he had to work outside the system — like Trixie? Would the ultimate boy scout actually choose to break the law in order to serve a greater good? What’s ultimately more important, order, or justice? The ends, or the means?
Chuck has never had to think about that sort of thing. He’s someone who has always seemed to think there’s simply a right way and a wrong way to do things. But with Trixie on board, she’s about to bring him somewhere he’s never been: the moral grey area. And I can’t wait.
Thanks for reading! Next time I will discuss some of my inspirations, both for this issue and series, and just in general as a creator. And then the following week, I will conclude the Asking for Trouble series with a look at how I designed Trixie look! See you then!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!