Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Comic Book Creator 2.0

I was offered a chance to preview this software and jumped at it. I'm not an artist and I'm only a mediocre writer, so I gave up on presenting you with a clever finished project along with this review. I will say that I do plan on using this for a couple of ideas I have in mind in the future. Nothing super, but stuff I hope will be pretty cool. So, let's start the review by installing the software...

Anyone who knows me knows I'm picky about what I install on my computer, and I hate programs that don't allow me to customize the installation. This program didn't have much to customize on the install, but at least allowed me the choice of whether or not I wanted quick start and desktop icons. That's a plus.

The documentation is a bit dry and technical. There was no simple guide linked from the readme file. Activation seems to require an online connection, which won't be a problem for most people, but the help is also online and in forum format, which makes it almost useless unless you have a lot of time on your hands. The most useful help is in a series of tutorials also available online. While I was able to figure out much of the basics myself, I eventually turned to the tutorials for more specific help (specifically the placing of speech balloons). I would have preferred to have that help available offline in a standard help file.

The set of basic backgrounds and clip art that comes with the program is fairly weak, but the program can use any image on your harddrive, so you are only limited by how well you can scan/import images to your computer. There are also extra sets of images available on the download page for the program, so you can beef up your graphics choices fairly easily.

Using the program will be intuitive for anyone familiar with comic books. You put in your background, add characters, text boxes, speech ballons. All very simple. You get a choice of layouts, which can help you focus. You can change the size and dimensions of your images in the program, and even call up your standard image editor from within the program, while working on a page.

Here's a sample strip, the result of using only the packaged clip art available on the website and very little thought:

Clip Art Strip

I did note some odd quirks with the program. I got frustrated when the program apparently lost my set of backgrounds... until I figured out how to quickly reset it and realized I'd reset it wrongly myself. The display could use some serious customization, as it doesn't allow me to set it up to show an entire page on my display (1280X800). There are a lot of scrollbars that could be eliminated with a slightly slicker design or just some user options. The comic strip size templates still saved as a full page jpg, leading to lots of pointless white space. Most of the problems were very minor annoyances, but there were enough that it starts to add up.

I didn't even try to get into the options for sound and animation, as I like my comics nice and static and silent. But those options exist for people with those interests.

The upshot is that this is a great program that will help you tie together the elements of a comic book into a series of pages that look pretty darn good. But it won't turn you into an artist or creative genius, it just helps the process along. I think this is a great toy, but could also be a potentially useful tool. If you think you might like it, give it a try, then let me know what you think.