By Monte FergusonThere are very few new programs that are truly unique. They just seem to spring up fully formed. Once youíre run across them you wonder why no one has made a program like that before. Comic Life is one of those programs.
Comic Life does one thing and it does it extremely well, creating digital comics.
It ties into all kinds of Apple technologies. It integrates with iPhoto so you can easily browse and import pictures from your photo library. It also allows you to export back to iPhoto so you can make your creation into a book. A Quick Comic Tool lets you select an iPhoto album and instantly turn it into a laid out comic.
You can also plug in a video camera, or use your built in iSight, to capture images directly. Using CoreImage filters you can transform your pictures into works of art in their own right. Drawing upon the Quartz rendering engine, built into MacOS X, makes for smooth text and balloons.
Pages can be any size you want. You can use a wide variety of page formats, say for publishing to video or the web. Comic Life comes with quite an assortment of page templates to choose from. You can also create your own. A page organizer lets you access and reorder pages. You can also mix fonts and styles in the same balloon or paragraph.
Putting It All Together
All of the classic elements of the comic book are built into the program. You get a nice, clean comic book font. There are all kinds of speech balloons, like whisper or exclamation, to match the situation. You can even resize them by dragging them. Custom lettering lets you have fun distorting, rotating and otherwise coming up with exciting sound effects fonts (think WHAM!) and dramatic titles. You can also use captions for setting a scene or adding additional details. Panels in the pages automatically crop images and balloons to their edges.
Publishing and Exporting
Sharing your work is just drop down easy. Of course you can always save your comic as a PDF file. If youíre a .Mac user you can directly export your comic to the web. .Mac users can also add an RSS newsfeed. Comic Life also lets you export to QuickTime so you can create a movie and put it on a DVD or a video project. An Email This button allows you to export your comic to your email program, converting the file into a format and size appropriate for email.
Comic Life is a a fun and intuitive program. You can quickly get up to speed with the built in templates. The iPhoto browser is very well done in that it allows you not only to see images in iPhoto, but drag and drop them into your comic. I also liked the option to add photos via a webcam or iSight. The addition of CoreImage filters and Quartz rendering engine support brings a real polish to the output. In fact theyíre so well integrated you just play with them to get the effects you want.
The only con I can think of is once you sit down with this program it can quickly become addictive. Although the developers try to potential business use for the program, I just donít see it taking corporate America by storm. Itís just too fun to be taken seriously by businesses
Itís rare when I get to have this much fun playing with a program. Sitting down with Comic Life took me back to my childhood. Some of my fondest memories involve reading comic books and designing my own stories. Not all of them were masterpieces. But it was just fun creating them. Thatís the type of feeling I got with Comic Life. It was fun just trying to make a comic.
You donít need a background in graphic arts or an understanding of design to use this program. You just need to have a sense of adventure.
Posted: Friday, February 15th, 2008