Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Comics software sucks

I apologize in advance for this rant...

One of the pre-installed applications on my new macbook is the "comic" making program "Comic Life." I'd played with the demo before, but figured I'd jump back in with this one to see what was changed. What didn't change was my opinion of it: not good. (It's basically a goofy photo album making program)

This has been my opinion of many of the other programs as well, ranging from Comic Book Creator to Strip Creator to Comic Creator to The Balloonist, as well as (less so) Manga Studio and Comic Works.

While some of these are very well designed programs, such as Comic Life, all of them are fundamentally deficient in the way that they are built. That is, I have the feeling that they were designed by people who have little understanding about the theory behind comics. It's one thing to have advice or commentary from people who make comics, its another to actually understand the structure of the medium and how to best utilize software to manipulate it. Especially if you want it to be used as a professional grade system, it is embarrassing not to take this into account.

(While I wouldn't be surprised if some companies consulted comic artists, I'd be very curious, for example, if Scott McCloud has been consulted on any software like this, as he is the most well known theorist out there).

For instance, a few things I noticed after using Comic Life for about half a minute...

Isn't it a bit curious that in the selection of templates for pages there aren't even standard grids, yet they do include layouts that I've experimentally seen to be problematic for readers? Why is it that when you drag in a panel, it simply appears on top of the others, and not bound within some sort of layout schema? Why do you have various templates for balloons and bubbles, instead of a generalized Carrier field that takes different representations, tails, etc. (and my god how annoying the sound effects are...)

... just to name a few. I could probably go on for pages.

Most of these programs fall into similar patterns, structuring the software as a design program... which is fine if you want to do a modified drawing program, but not if you want to be a visual writer. Even the seemingly well thought-out and evolving Comic Studio is doing things far different than I would think most useful or efficient.

As I might have mentioned before, I've had designs for a "comics" software program for about 5 years now, but have no coding skills (and little time) to work on it. So, if there's any talented and enterprising programmers out there (or companies that don't want your current product to suck so much) that would like to give it a go, feel free to drop me an email.

3 comments:

Neal said...

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about Baloonist, this is the only one of these programs I've bothered to try and I thought it was pretty nifty.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of building this kind of functionality into some future version of WCN (with AJAX technologies, it's getting easier and easier to build website-only software that works a lot like a desktop application).

Let's talk.

Joey

Keith said...

It took some time to find your post Neil, but now that we have we'll chat privately to see if we can implement your suggested improvements. We're always keen to improve Comic Life and we appreciate feedback. :-)

-Keith Lang
plasq.com
Makers of Comic Life