Webcomic Tools

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jul 3, 2007

Filed under: Projects 30 comments

In response to Roxysteve here, I’ll outline the stuff I use to make DMotR. (I’m sure he’s right: I’ve probably done this before, but it was ages ago and I can’t find it now.)

I use Comic Book Creator to make DMotR. The software is not the best. It feels half-finished. I suggest taking a good look at the free demo and deciding if the software will cut it for you as-is. It isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.

Last year they were talking about CBC 2.0, which was going to have a bunch of much-needed features. In the forums they mentioned they were aiming for 1Q 2007. We are way past that point and it hasn’t even gone into beta. I don’t know what happened, but I suspect development on the product has stopped altogether.

The biggest missing feature is the ability to move and resize panels. This is a pretty basic thing, and the software doesn’t let you do it. You have to use one of the existing pre-made page layouts. If you look at DMotR, you may notice certain panel layouts appear over and over. Another glaring oversight is that it can’t fill round bubbles with text: It puts text into rectangular regions within a bubble, which can eat up a lot of excess page real estate.

There are a lot of useless features in there, like adding clipart (yuck) and sound effects (wha????) to your work. It’s an odd bit of software, to be sure.

There are many other small bugs and annoyances. I’ve come this close to running off and writing my own software that can do panel layouts, round text bubbles, thought bubbles, and fancy bubble outlines. It would be a fun project, but I couldn’t do it AND write a comic at the same time, and if I stop doing comics I won’t need it. Hmmmm.

Sorry. Where was I?

I hear there is a program called Comic Life for Macs, but I don’t have access to a Mac so I can’t tell you if it’s any good or not. (Actually, being Mac software, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t intuitive and polished, but I can’t speak from experience. I’d put money on it being a cut above CBC, though.)

The other major tool you want is this: Blambot. Lots of wonderful fonts. Many are free, the others are a reasonable (to me) $20US. The fonts look great and the site doesn’t pummel you with nonsense like many fonts sites do. In DMotR, the king of the dead speaks using their outstanding “Manga Temple” font. Aragorn issued his first decree (and Boromir mocked the Elves) using “Ale & Wenches”. Some of the sound effects use “BADABOOM”. There are a few other gems over there you may recognize as well.

The main font I use is “Pig Iron”, which comes with CBC. Actually, I use “Pig Iron Bold”, because “Pig Iron Medium” wastes miles of vertical space for no apparent reason. On the other hand, “Pig Iron Bold” has a defective Q with too much trailing space, which I have to correct manually using image editing software, after I’m done in CBC. (Although you can probably find a few places I forgot.)

I use Paint Shop Pro 8 for retouching. I use it to color normal word bubbles yellow (for NPCs) because CBC can only do white chat bubbles. I have to do quite a bit of Photoshopping to make the King of the Dead talk in that glowing green text. I also use PSP to do the “photoshoping” on screencaps, in order to make composite images, flip the scene, edit out unwanted characters, or whatever other abuse I need to do to Peter Jackson’s work.

There it is. That’s what I use. Good luck with your project.

Which reminds me: This comic is popular enough that I’m surprised nobody else has done something similar. Harry Potter? Aliens? Spider-Man? X-Men? Star Trek? Star Wars? The Matrix? There are tons of movies which are well known and take themselves very seriously, which are the two main ingredients for good satire. I keep expecting another movie comic to appear someplace, but it hasn’t happened yet.


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30 thoughts on “Webcomic Tools

  1. Haze says:

    furst l0olololol

  2. Telas says:

    Dying to see a Star Wars interpretation…

    George Lucas so needs a good skewering.

    And there’s so much material… bad dialogue, cheesy plots, nebulous motivation, 2-D characters, retcon… gods, the retcons…

    OK, my blood pressure’s rising again, and it’s after 5:00.

    Telas needs beer, badly

  3. Henebry says:

    I’ve used Comic Life on my Mac. A bit more processor-intensive than you’d think would be necessary. But great for quick creation of comics using photos from your digital camera (or other image files). Several preset quote bubble styles and the bubbles expand or contract as you add or take out words.

    I suspect a professional would use Photoshop – just as a professional photographer wouldn’t use iPhoto for photo management. But Comic Life, like iPhoto, now comes free on an iMac. And it’s easy and intuitive to use.

  4. Jim says:

    I’ll second the Comic Life hugs, I have it on my macbook and I think it’s neat.

    Combine it with the Comic Book filter on the Photobooth software, and I can create a useless little comic about my life.

  5. GreyDuck says:

    Hmm. This makes me wonder if my venerable copy of Fireworks 3 might turn out to be ideally suited for this sort of thing. Its strong suit is doing object- and vector-based things on top of raster-based material, and then exporting the results for the Web. I’m especially fond of the ability to copy and paste attributes (colors and effects, among other things) from object to object.

    When I have some spare time (HAH!) I’ll try it out…

  6. Adam Bloom says:

    Which reminds me: This comic is popular enough that I'm surprised nobody else has done something similar. Harry Potter? Aliens? Spider-Man? X-Men? Star Trek? Star Wars? The Matrix? There are tons of movies which are well known and take themselves very seriously, which are the two main ingredients for good satire. I keep expecting another movie comic to appear someplace, but it hasn't happened yet.

    I think it’s because the kind of person who thinks, “It would be funny to make a comic that spoofs Star Wars” is the kind of person who would read the amount of work you put into each comic and say, “OMFG WAT???”

    Whereas the kind of person who thinks, “I want to spend time and effort to make a high-quality webcomic” is not the kind of person who says, “It would be funny to spoof Star Wars.”

    You are the rare, and wonderful, exception.

  7. chiefnewo says:

    In some ways however other movie comics would not work as well as this one. With DMotR you have two sources for humour, not to mention that LotR is pretty much the basis for D&D, yielding even more funny.

    That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see a well done Matrix piss-take comic.

  8. Miral says:

    Google points at http://www.bmoviecomic.com/. Not quite the same sort of thing, but it’s the closest I could find. (In my 35 seconds of searching, anyway.)

  9. Dhauzimmer says:

    I struck this one back in ’03 – not a comic per se, but similar in concept:


  10. whitehelm says:

    You mentioned it in http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=799 at the bottom, though it wasn’t as detailed as this post.

  11. Jimmie says:

    Shamus, You’ve very nearly inspired me to take a crack at a movie-inspired comic but one thing holds me back: time. I don’t know exactly how long it took you to pull screencaps from all three movies, but I suspect it’s somewhere on the order of “a whole lot”. Well, that and I’m not entirely sure I have the equipment necessary to do it (though I have my trusty Core Solo Mac Mini, so perhaps I do).

    But mostly time. How much time do you estimate it takes to put together just one comic?

  12. Shamus says:

    Jimmie: Time is a tricky one. It depends on the strip, and on your own standards of quality. At the start I was very sloppy. Characters would change settings and clothing several times during a single conversation, their expressions didn’t always match the dialog, and I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to capture “pretty” panels. I’ve gotten faster at using the tools, but in spite of that comics take longer now because I REALLY hunt around for good expressions, matching backgrounds, and nice-looking frames.

    So, if you are happy with the quality of the strips I did at the start of DMotR, then you can probably put out a comic in well under an hour. Comic #2 is about a half-hour job.

    If you start to get picky like I did and you start photoshopping and going through the movie a frame at a time, then you’ll need between one and three hours per strip.

  13. Elethiomel says:

    As for Star Trek, there *is* “Tribbles and also troubles”, which is a very well done retelling of Trouble with Tribbles in “cat macro”/”lolcat” style, with single images and captions (with “cat grammar”). Like a comic, it’s “sequential art”, and like Twenty Sided Tale, it’s made using screencaps.

  14. Randolpho says:

    I’ve actually seriously considered doing a screencap comic like yours, but I worry it’ll be too derivative. I’d just end up using your jokes.

    Besides, you’ll eventually run out of LotR material eventually, and I’m sure you’ll want to move on to the other movies…

  15. I briefly considered doing a Star Wars spoof in much the same vein, but when I tried to break out the material I discovered two problems:

    (1) Although there is a Star Wars RPG (several actually), the memes and tropes are not as firmly established as with D&D. So you lose a major source of the humor.

    (2) I wasn’t able to find a unique angle to bring to the material. It would have just been DMLOTR-but-with-Star-Wars. And while I think it would be pretty nifty to see you tackle that as your next comic after DMLOTR, I’d just look like a rip-off artist.

    And I’m busy pushing out D20 supplements and producing a play (John and Abigail) for the Minneapolis Fringe Festival at the moment, so I’m swamped. :)

    Justin Alexander

  16. Robert says:

    Comic Life is really cool. As Henebry says, it does use a bit more CPU than seems warranted, although if you turn of the animation that makes a noticable difference.

  17. Maxie Zeus says:

    I’ll add my praise for Comic Life. I only discovered last Friday that I have it on my Mac; it took me only ten minutes to figure out how to do just about anything it was capable of.

    It’s quite powerful but easy to use. I rigged up this random page (using pre-made screenshots I already had on my computer) in only 20 minutes: http://anbat.toonzone.net/cextrac/random.jpg Most of that time went to figuring out which images to use.

    BTW, Shamus, there appears to be a Windows beta available:


  18. Maxie Zeus says:

    … damn “remote linking” prohibition. Er, you might have to hit “refresh” or something on that first link …

  19. Rob says:

    Another vote for Comic Life. I suspect it’s not quite as flexible as the tool you’re using (although I only have the free version, the paid version probably has more stuff).

    I did a little comic about my dog a few months ago. It’s here:


    The cool thing about Comic Life is that, if you have a .Mac account with Apple, you just pull down one menu choice, “Publish to .Mac”, and it builds the web pages for you. This includes a title page, Next and Prev buttons and all of that. Very, very easy.

  20. Rustybadger says:

    As I said before, Comic Life rox0rs. We use it for making “How To” PDFs for our staff (how to install printers, change Firefox settings, etc) using Tiger’s nifty screencap process. Also my kids do things like make comics from their holiday pictures for their grandparents.

    And I am still serious about starting a “Mac for Shamus” fund.

  21. Chaz says:

    I really enjoyed watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuXod-voF48&eurl= of the guy at http://www.wondermark.com making a comic. He has very different style and needs, but I got some great insights on how he creates his comics.

  22. Ben says:


    Comic Book Creator 2.0 was released December 4th, 2007. A little late, but it lives.

  23. Guys! David Morgan-Mar (of Irregular Webcomic) et al. are doing the ENTIRE Star Wars hexology (or starting on it…) with Darths & Droids. And they’ve cited DMoTR as inspiration, which is how I found out about it, actually. http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/darthsanddroids/

    Jar-Jar Binks makes a lot more sense when you know the player is someone’s baby sister who got dragged along.

  24. John says:

    I just found http://www.webcomicbookcreator.com and i am realy enthousiastic with it. I can import mp3, flv, i can add hyperlinks in text balloons and it exports as image or flipping book ready for the web.

  25. Jordan Hunter says:

    Ever hear of Darths and Droids? Their first page links directly to this one. It is hilarious, you have to read the bottoms too for the full enjoyment. Seriously, go to darthsanddroids.net right now and read from the beginning. The quality gets better as it goes too.

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