This is an ongoing blog series as I develop a new comic strip. If you missed the other articles, here they be!

In this installment I’m going to show off a few more main characters and discuss some thinking and some surprise things that popped up!

Meet Sam..

I know I wanted a REALLY BIG GUY or wanted to include some sort of “entertainment” character or a fire dancer. I came up with Sam, who is based on all the awesome Tahitian and Samoan Fire Dance performers who are often part of Hawaiian dinner shows at Tiki establishments around the country.

Sometimes when creating a strip, you’re tempted to put too many “main” characters from your pool. With SAM, I decided to combine a few “main” character ideas into one guy, because in this case it makes his character a lot more interesting. Sam gets to wear many hats around Trader Don’s, not only does he make powerful drinks, he also performs weekly fire dance and knife throwing shows on Fridays. He’s also sort of a “bouncer” type and protector of the bar. He’s the guy who’s sent to go find Will Rongo to tell him he’s inherited a bar and shows him around.

Meet Betsy

Betsy is a waitress and manager of the current Trader Don’s. A love interest for Will. So, I’ve mentioned before that only people who drink the special drink at the bar are able to see and communicate with the enchanted tikis, the interesting thing about Betsy is, she doesn’t drink at all, so she’ll never see the little characters. When she happens upon someone talking to thin air or a tiki pole, she just assumes they’ve had too much to drink.

I’m debating getting a little risque with this character… maybe she’s into Burlesque or is known for doing one of those burlesque hula hoop shows. Maybe this makes Will uncomfortable or intimidated by her confidence or lifestyle. 🙂

Group Shot

I wanted to see what the these three main characters looked like together at the bar. I’m pretty comfortable drawing them now, and I also feel like instead of 5 main characters, I can accomplish a lot with these three leading the story, and the secondary characters mixing things up. I still think there will have to be the one “old guy” for sure, as a grump curmudgeon, but he can just be a bar regular, not a staff member of Don’s.

Miscellaneous Sketch

I have a few pages in the sketchbook where I just wanted to play around with how people might look, or how tiki statues might look inside Trader Don’s.

I’m also toying with background panel design. Basic weaves or patterns on the walls can look interesting and subtle, but still give the feeling of being in a tiki bar or tropical themed restaurant/bar.

Chucked some random tiki masks of different styles in.



A funny thing happened on the way to Trader Don’s

While visiting my new friend “Tiki David” up in Cleveland, I fell in love with this photo of a “llama tiki bar” I saw in the Tiki Modern book. If you know my past comic work, then you know why I’d be in love with a Llama bar. Hahaha.

I tried hunting a vintage one down, but to no avail. From what I learned, only three of these were made. So I decided to contact some woodworkers to see how much it would cost to recreate one.

As luck would have it, the first guy in the Pittsburgh area I contacted, David DePaul, turned out to be a master woodworker, and a hell of a talented dude who, well, was looking for something different to do to supplement his bigger work.  I invited him out to the Coffman home for him to take a look at our collection of tiki stuff and he was blown away. We hit it off right away and before you know it, we’re talking partnerships and all kinds of big, crazy fun ideas!

We may try to produce some limited edition “Trader Don’s” tiki liquor cabinets. Here’s a peek at the design sketch. I’m working on a pattern for him now and it’s going to get made! The universe is crazy awesome…

I think it’s kind of neat to build the things that will be inside Trader Don’s, and then actually have them in real life. I gotta say, as a tikiphile, I friggin LOVE my tiki liquor cabinet. Not sure if there’s a market for custom made ones, but if not, I’ll have a few in my house! 🙂

Don’t overthink… DO.

There’s a danger in overthinking a project like this. I think when you’re at about this stage in the development where you have some interesting characters and situations for series of strips, you’ll definitely know if you really want to do this thing or not. In my case… I’m sold. I’ve been having a blast thinking about and sketching things for this comic. For creators out there, it’s important at some point to just STOP thinking and developing and jump right in and start making some sample strips and putting things together. From here on in, you can design some characters or environment on the fly… the biggest part from this stage will now be the writing. You just gotta jump in and start writing it. Can you make it funny? Thought provoking? Memorable?

Next time… can I write this??? 🙂 I’m going to work up the first week’s worth of strips and show you some of my tricks for making things “sticky” – Stay tuned!

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