About the Characters
The Birth of Belt Boy
It was a few years ago that I thought of The Heroes of C.R.A.S.H. I’m not quite sure totally what inspired me to draw this team of superhero kids. I will draw whenever some little spark of an idea pops into my head. Robots, mythological-looking creatures, cute critters, people, monsters, whatever. I guess I just might have been on a superhero kick at the time or something. In any event, I wanted to create some superheroes that weren’t like your run-of-the-mill, stereotypical hero. Or did I … ? I wanted to create a sort of caricature of the stereotypical hero, with a few extra twists. Innocent, brave, smart, hopeful, loyal, and all that other goody-two-shoes stuff that people want a hero to be. I took things a bit further, though, than one might expect. Belt Boy is more than simply hopeful; he’s almost over-optimistic. He’s more than innocent; he’s naïve . And he’s more than smart, he’s a scientific genius. I must make it clear that being naïve is different from being stupid. I will confess that his intelligence and naivite are based on myself, as I had always been a gifted student who was pretty naïve from a social standpoint (I feel as though I've matured a lot since those early days and am somewhat less naïve than I once was... but "somewhat" is a key word there.). We are also both easily amused by things (Give me a piece of bubble-wrap and I can keep myself amused until every single bubble on that thing is popped. I've actually gotten bubble-wrap for Christmas. Which I've asked for.). Not only is basing a character on an aspect of myself a common and useful practice among cartoonists and authors, but cranking his intelligence and naïvité up a notch made for a hilarious juxtaposition. Belt Boy is totally brilliant with science, but seems to be so clueless in seemingly every other manner.
When I first drew Belt Boy, he looked just plain manga-style. Though his costume has changed very little, his body shape and facial features were unmistakably manga. I’d like to point out that his goggles are the result of animé and manga influences, particularly Digimon (An underappreciated show, which I feel was ignored because it was assumed to simply be a Pokémon knock-off, when this was far better a cartoon). I gave him a utility belt, because to go with his stereotypical personality, I had to give him a stereotypical power. This gave me two options: either Superman-esque powers, or cool gadgets. I felt that the former had been overdone (Most cartoons which feature a superhero as a recurring character have someone with Superman-like powers, such as Major Glory on Dexter's Laboratory, or the Crimson Chin on The Fairly Oddparents. And let's face it, the Powerpuff Girls have Superman's powers, just in a smaller, girlier package), so I chose the latter. I gave him a utility belt, a stereotypical way to keep stereotypical gadgets. I gave him a classic, all-American color scheme (Red, White, and Blue), to emphasize his parodying of traditional superheroes even further (Red and blue are common in hero costumes... just look at some of Marvel and DC's most famous heroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Captain America. All of them wear red and blue, and a few of them wear white as well). All he needed now was a name … Utility Belt Boy! My best friend Chris thought that was a bit too long and suggested I shorten it to “Belt Boy”, a suggestion I’m glad I went with.
The Making of the Maiden
Three is usually a good number for a basic cast, often (But not always) consisting of two boys and a girl. The idea of a heroic trio has been used everywhere from Mucha Lucha to Harry Potter to Kim Possible to Danny Phantom to Totally Spies to Sonic the Hedgehog to The Fairly Oddparents and beyond. Even shows with larger casts, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, usually focus on three characters in one episode (Usually on SpongeBob, it’s always either SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward, or SpongeBob, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs, or Spongebob, Sandy, and Patrick, etc.). Why is three the magic number? It’s usually just enough variance in characters to make things interesting, but not so many that it complicates the plot. Trios usually – but once again, not always – consist of the main hero, his/her main squeeze, and the guy who makes all the sarcastic quips. Once again, I decided to take this tried-and-true formula, and inject a little of my own personal brand of humor into it.
Titanium Maiden is not your average, skinny little waif of a heroine. She’s a contradiction in terms; the total opposite of most stereotypical female roles. Most female heroines are lithe, supermodel-looking women, only a few of which have an athletic look to them. Titanium Maiden is much more muscular than traditional superheroines, not to mention most women and even most men. Heck, even She-Hulk – the strongest and most muscular woman in mainstream comics – looks like Olive Oil compared to her. This is not what the rules of society believe a woman should look like, super-powered or not. Stereotypes also dictate that if a character – man or woman – is muscular, that character must be a brute with grammar comparable to that of Tarzan. Once again, not the case. Titanium Maiden is quite intelligent – smarter than Cannon and less naïve than Belt Boy. I also took the stereotype that muscular women were unfeminine, and turned that around as well, making her a sort of valley girl in an Amazon’s body (Granted, her "valley girl-ness" hasn't really been demonstrated that much yet, but I plan to remedy that soon.). I also twisted the valley girl stereotype at the same time, by making her smart, as previously stated (Her valley-ness is not so extreme that she seems like one of those stereotypical, airheaded types who says stuff like, "Ohmigawd! Like, he totally, like, likes me! I should, like, go shopping!". Stereotypes are funny, but they can be overdone. Or feel dated. This would be both). Society seems to believe that muscular women look ugly as well. I did some online research to draw Titanium Maiden (I wanted her to look muscular rather than just lumpy), and figured out where that stereotype comes from. Many female bodybuilders use steroids, which makes them look a lot less feminine facially, as well as – ahem – “chest-wise”. However, in my searches, I found female bodybuilders who steered clear of steroids, and actually had quite beautiful faces. I wanted that look for Titanium Maiden, but, once again, taken to an extreme level. Titanium Maiden is far more muscular than any female body builder in real life, but I think that I made her face look beautiful. In fact, I think I’ve given her one of my best female faces I’ve ever drawn. I think it’s all in the catlike eyes. I also made her … how should I put this … well-endowed in the chestal region. This was for two reasons. First, I wanted to embellish her femininity a bit further, so that she stood out from steroid-pumped, flat-chested bodybuilders, and so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a pretty man with a ponytail (While I think her femininity is obvious from just seeing her face, some people might be a bit confused if she was shown as flat-chested.). The second reason is pure and simple: it looks good. This is both from an artistic standpoint (I tried drawing her less-endowed, and she wound up looking like her chest merely had pectorals, rather than breasts), as well as from a bit of a fanservice standpoint. I would never lower any of my characters to the point at which they’re nothing but fanservice, but if I draw characters that look attractive, I don’t think that’s a problem. Anyhoo, her name was originally Glamazon, but that sounded too cliché . I changed it to Girlossis, but that sounded just plain awkward. Several changes later, I finally settled on Titanium Maiden. As she says herself, "Iron Maiden" doesn't sound strong enough (Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if there was already a superheroine out there named Iron Maiden).
Cannon was the easiest to create, and fills the role of the sarcastic guy quite well. The sarcastic guy role plays two important roles in any good story. Number one, he deals with all the chaos around him with his sense of humor (Which can make us - the viewers/readers - feel comforted in that it's not just us who thinks that something is ridiculous, or that a situation is not so dire that it can't be laughed at). Number two, he's a great outlet for cartoonists to let out the ugly sides of themselves they keep hidden so they don't look like jerks. Charles Schulz had Lucy VanPelt, the guys at Looney Tunes had Daffy Duck, and I've got Cannon.
He’s based on my obnoxious side, as well as on my best friend Chris (Although he reminds me of my friend less and less and of myself more and more, I still envision his voice as being that of my friend when imagine him speaking). This is the side I show when I’m in a bad mood, or when I feel like annoying my little sister (Especially the latter... heh heh heh!). He is drastically different from Belt Boy in personality, but nonetheless represents a part of myself. He's that little voice inside me that wants to say how stupid I think something or someone is. Cannon has the guts to say things I don't - or shouldn't - say. He complains as much as I would like to... and then some. Occaisionally, he spends so much time complaining, that he fails to see the good or beauty in things, which very well may be why he sees Titanium Maiden as freaky-looking, while Belt Boy, who can easily find the good in things, sees her as the most beautiful thing he's laid eyes on. Cannon is more likely to see the world from a so-called "practical" or "realistic" way (Though most of the time, people who say they see life that way are just using another word for "negative", and that's the case with Cannon. While my opinions may be behind many of his rants, I don't find fault with as many things as Cannon does.). In many ways, he takes on the viewpoint of the reader, noting how cliché – or un-cliché – the storyline is at the moment, or pointing out any plot holes or anything else one might find ridiculous. This puts a little crack in the fourth wall, a crack that may occasionally break open.
When it comes to sarcastic comments, he can dish it out, but can’t seem to take it too well, and I feel I reflected that in his appearance. He’s the skinniest, least-athletic member of the trio, but is the most heavily armed and armored. His offense is his only defense, in terms of both his personality and his weaponry. His weapon is also like his mouth, in that he’s always shooting both off. I like the green and purple color scheme I gave him, This was partially borrowed from a rejected hero I’d once made who had an electrified whip for a hand and was armored much like Cannon. This whip-powered hero I’d invented in elementary school was created one day in the swimming pool, when I attached a green pool noodle to my hand via a short noodle-linking tube. Though the idea was later phased out due to the obvious and inevitable “whipping boy” jokes, I borrowed aspects of his look to create cannon. To add a touch of drama and seriousness to his character – as well as to explain some of the mechanics behind Cannon’s cannon – I wrote into his history that he lost his right hand years ago (Note that his right hand has segmented fingers, while his left doesn't. His prosthetic hand's paint job was made to be the same color as the glove on his left). How, you ask? Well, that’s for you to find out, so be sure to read my comic for the answer! Hee hee hee!
The Entity that is Enticia
While I have one main trio of heroes, I still needed a supporting cast. Enticia (Pronounced "ehn-TEE-see-uh") is, while it's not apparent yet, one of my deeper characters. I've only scratched the surface of her character in the comic, so I can't reveal too much yet. But suffice it to say Enticia's more than meets the eye. She enters the comic as a rival hero to our main three, and seems pretty shallow, bordering on villainous. She attempted to seduce Belt Boy, tried to trick Titanium Maiden, and has a small army of "boyfriends" under her control (Thanks to her super-pheromones, which can attract any man). But unlike many "rival" characters you see on TV, we caught a glimpse of her life at home. Here we met her little sister, Daisy, who brings out a more tender side of Enticia. I believe that most people do have a tender side, but we often hide it, lest we seem vulnerable. She and Cannon both dress to hide their vulnerabilities, Cannon through his armor, and Enticia through her seductive appearance.
Enticia's appearance was largely borrowed from Halle Berry, particularly the hairdo (Perhaps the coolest hairstyle I've drawn) and Catwoman-esque leather outfit. I put broken heart-halves on the hips of her leather pants to represent the fact that her relationships with her guys are pretty superficial and there is - as you can see - no real love present. I gave her the retro platform boots on a whim, figuring they just seemed to go with her pants pretty well. She is not as busty as Titanium Maiden, but does not need to be. Titanium Maiden's bust was meant to make her seem more feminine, while Enticia doesn't need that. While a large bust certainly doesn't hurt when attracting guys, I wanted Enticia to use her style and attitude (And of course, her powers) to look attractive. Truly beautiful women don't just look pretty... they dress and act like someone who's pretty. Titanium Maiden has natural beauty, but she's too shy to use it. Enticia, however, takes advantage of every good feature that God gave her, and it seems to be working for her.
In a comic about a school, you need to have teachers, for obvious reasons. I didn't delve terribly deep to create Battle-Axe Beatrix... unfortunately, she's based on an actual teacher I've had. Back in elementary school, she was my first "mean teacher". She's every bit as rude, stuffy, and insensitive as her C.R.A.S.H. counterpart. She had told me once, in fact, that I was "too creative". So now, here I am, all these years later, using my creativity to create a character based upon her (Plus I'm also a substitute teacher). Gotta love karma. I was tempted to make her a villain, but I felt the character made an excellent "uptight teacher" character. So she's good, but still a major pain-in-the-butt.
Most people who know me in person know that I love to rant. I go on rants all the time. But I had a teacher who went right past "ranting", soared through "rambling", and hit "blathering" right on the head. You know the type. He can never answer a question with a simple yes or no answer, and most of his stories go off on useless tangents. He was the most boring teacher I ever had. I often found myself doodling in the margins of my notebook during class when he was off on one of his tangents, some of which evolved into Windbag. Windbag, while dull as dirt, is good at getting annoying exposition out of the way, so his place in the C.R.A.S.H.-iverse is not without meaning.
On my first day as a student teacher during college, I looked down at myself in my shirt and tie, and I felt like a little kid playing dress-up. It was hard for my mind to wrap around the idea that I was the teacher, not the student. I was also nervous about being responsible for the development of about two dozen children in their early, formative years. One way I dealt with my fears was through Shadowy Sentinel, who's also new to the teaching scene. She deals with many of the same insecurities I dealt with... some of which creep back into my mind just like they do to any teacher... or any human being, for that matter. I believe that true courage comes from dealing with fear and doubt and doing what you know you can do. Shadowy Sentinel knows that she has the know-how to teach the material, but she needs to believe in her abilities, which is what she's learning to do. That's the funny thing about teaching... often, you wind up learning quite a bit yourself.