Comic-O-Matic Developer's Blog

What's Margo up to??

Recent Feedback for New Features

It’s been a year and a half since I last added anything to Comic-O-Matic, but it’s clear that people are still using it!  Hurrah! I got an email today from a user,, who sent along some suggestions.  I decided to post them here, with my responses.  Getting back under the hood, so to speak, programming Comic-O-Matic to add some new features would take some doing, but I’m perhaps far enough away from it now to be able to take the plunge back in.

So without further ado, here are the suggestions, and my off-the-top-of-my-head replies:

1) Add a BG image instead of a color.

Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that as a possibility… It would involve having users upload square images.  I have thought about setting up Comic-O-Matic so that users can set up their own accounts and save their work to it, and have links to their albums.  Allowing people to upload pix would fit right into that – but I haven’t done anything so far to make accounts.

I have thought about allowing users to select their own color backgrounds after the random one has shown up -but I haven’t gotten around to doing that – it’s still random within Nina’s palette for her Mimi & Eunice web comic (, but you can refresh to a different random choice until you get the one(s) you want.  Not very efficient!

2) Have an intro label either above or below (“Later that evening…”)

I’m not sure if I had a reason for only putting them on the top…  I can do it either place, but I think I put them on the top so that they wouldn’t cut off the feet. And I wasn’t giving the user a choice, mostly because I didn’t know how to make the interface work cleanly to offer that choice I’ll look into it.

 3) Be able to omit one or both characters.

That seems possible – just make the character choice be nothing.  That wouldn’t be too hard.

 4) Have a speech bubble with no arrow  (as in a frame with no characters.. they are talking, but out of view).

That’s a possibility,  Not sure how to represent that in the interface, though having an empty choice (talk, thought, nothing) might work.

The other thing which would be very useful would be to a) define my own eyes, mouth, character

I have thought about that, too, but again, it would require setting up accounts.  The parameters for making it work are a little tight – Nina made the character outline just for this (I added the Hallowe’en ones), and the eyes and mouths came from her Face-O-Matic ( – I programed that one first), which she created and originally had printed up on playing cards, to help in visual storytelling workshops. I met her when she came to the school where I worked to do some such workshops with our students, and immediately saw the web possibilities of the faces.

b) maybe add additional rows of modifiers, arms, legs, nose?

I had included the possibility of adding a nose, but in talking with Nina, she felt that noses really never add anything to the emotive aspect of the characters. Of course, they would help differentiate the characters.

The characters as is have really different configurations of arms and legs (paws/tentacles), making it harder to come up with variations.  One of the things I’ve liked about the interface is that it’s easy to build a strip, and I’m not sure adding that level of detail would help. Again, maybe if i were to set up user accounts, it might be possible to include pose variations for the characters used.  Hmm.. I’ll have to think about it.


New ideas for Comic-O-Matic

I haven’t been doing much with Comic-O-Matic since last summer – well, I added three Hallowe’en characters in October: a pumpkins, a Frankenstein’s monster, and a ghost (never got to doing the witch, tho!):

This past week, though, I finally figured out how to get my Face-O-Matic iPhone app uploaded to the iTunes Store. It’s now out of the “waiting for review” queue and is officially “in review”… Cross your fingers that it will make it through to the store soon, where you can get it for free! I’ve been giving more thought to where to go with Face-O-Matic and Comic-O-Matic in general. I need to figure out how to make sharing faces from the app easier than taking a screenshot and mailing it!  I don’t know how to add a share to Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc. so that’s on my list of things to figure out.

I think Comic-O-Matic on the iPad is something I’ve just got to do, but I need to learn more Objective C with XCode to be able to do it, though.

I had a new suggestion today about the characters: make their colors configurable, which is especially important for when you have, for instance, two cats in the strip.  This, of course, led to to think about having patterns available as well as just colors… SO, not that I have a ton of time right now, but if anyone is following this blog, or even reading it occasionally, I want you to know that I am still thinking and have improvements up my sleeve!  I’m also still thinking about how to have alternating characters in a strip – so, for instance, a cat could be talking with a dog in the first panel, a bunny in the second, and the alien in the third, etc.  And I want to add a color-picker for the background colors because they are still set to just generate randomly. While I’m learning how to develop within XCode (the current Face-O-Matic was done using Game Salad), I will still try to work out the logic of all these features on the web version of Comic-O-Matic first.

Recent feature requests

Comic-O-Matic is still in development, so I welcome any and all suggestions to make the basic better! These came in this morning from John Marshall, who has created over 50 strips about those Krazy Koch Brothers:

I would love to have the characters’ eye movements be able to mirror each other, to look at each other in the same way. So it would be great to have opposite versions of eyes 9, 12, 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23.

I had already been thinking about doing this, so I took this opportunity to make it so! I had to renumber some of the eyes, because I wanted the pairs of mirrored ones to be next to each other, so you now can find those 7 pairs at 9/10, 11/12, 15/16, 17/18, 22/23, 29/30, and 32/33.

For the mouths, it would be great to have a couple of open mouths that are neutral, so that I can have strips where I build up to a big smile or a big sad face.

I’ll pass this along to Nina and we’ll see what she might come up with!

The over-the-head effects are great – it would be nice to have a giant question mark.

Done! Put [questionmark] into the dialog and voila! A big question mark over the head of your character!

If possible, but I would love to be able to have a different character (or two different characters) suddenly appear in a panel. That way I could have [one character] talk with [a second character] about a third character and then in the last panel I could show [the second character] talking to that third character.

This request has come in a couple of times, and I haven’t figured out yet how to best implement it yet. Right now, it’s really easy to just select the two characters, and that’s that, so I’m not sure how I’d vary them per panel. This also ties to requests for more than two characters in a panel, or just one, so the solution may be somewhere in that mess. Stay tuned!


Last week I was thrilled to find that a Comic-O-Matic user actually sent me $5 through the PayPal donation link at the bottom of the page. I can’t express how amazing that feels: that someone out there likes this web-thingy I made and shared enough to voluntarily send me some real money in appreciation! Wow! I want folks to know that even though Comic-O-Matic is still under development, I plan to keep Comic-O-Matic FREE – even when I get to the point of adding a feature to let users set up accounts to save their strips – and I NEVER want advertisements cluttering the site. If you like what you see, please consider scrolling to the bottom of the Comic-O-Matic page and sending a little something to Nina and/or me in appreciation of her artwork and/or my programming. Thank you for just using Comic-O-Matic!

Three new characters!

Nina has made three new characters for your Comic-O-Matic pleasure: a dog, a bird, and a sperm!

Issues with dialog bubbles…

The dialog bubbles are a source of joy and frustration for me.  I’ve been asked about how much text can fit into each one, and it’s complicated.  I don’t just count characters or words, but the actual width of the characters, so i’s and l’s take up less space horizontally than m’s and w’s do, for instance.  I’ve also got a variety of ways of figuring out the vertical placement of the text, and line breaks, based on the number of words and the number of lines possible (5) and how many are needed, but there are still some issues I haven’t gotten cleaned up.

I am seeing a few things going on with the misplacement of the dialog bubbles.  Here, for instance:

Social Media Guru and Business Guy

Social Media Guru and Business Guy, by Marcio Saito

See the problem with the second character’s bubbles in the 2nd and 3rd panels, how the bubble is too low?  This only happens when there’s a panel line at the top, but it’s not clear why it broke in panels 2 and 3, but not panel 1:


Sample 1, by Margo Burns

There’s also the issue of the bubble sometimes being too high, as seen in the 2nd and 3rd panels:

The Customer Service Agent

The Customer Service Agent, by Marcio Saito

This I can reproduce:


Sample 2, by Margo Burns

This has something to do with how I count the words and characters, etc. for the line spacing, and I am working on straightening it it out. It happens primarily when people use only three short words.

Then there’s this issue: the text appearing below the dialog bubble:

sample 3

Sample 3, by Margo Burns

This happens when a user starts off the text in the form with a hard return. The first line somehow gets pushed down. I’ve tried to trap it before it makes the image of the strip, but that hasn’t worked, HOWEVER, if you make the strip again, the issue seems to resolve, likely because the hard return isn’t passed BACK into the form:

sample 4

Sample 4, by Margo Burns

So, these are the issues I’m trying to clean up. Any input is greatly appreciated!

Updated Beta Instructions

This morning, urged on by a couple of users, I finally set the default version of Comic-O-Matic to be the one with the drop-down eye- and mouth-pickers!  You can still get to the version that selects random expressions, which you uncheck to get new ones, but I tend to think that few people will actually use it.  I will see, won’t I?

I also watched the original video I made on how to use Comic-O-Matic, and it’s amazing to me how far it’s come in the past month. This spurred me to make a new basic instructional video for Comic-O-Matic that shows all the new features, so here you go:

Thank you for all your support!

New Feature: Talk and Thought

Talk and Thought LinesWe all know that comic strips have the option of including thoughts as well as talk in the bubbles over the characters’ heads, so I’ve now added the option to Comic-O-Matic!

I’d like to come up with a way to make the dialog bubbles look different for thought and talk, but nothing I’ve tried so far is working as well as I’d like it to. The line of little bubbles, indicating thought, work best when you don’t use all five lines of text in the dialog bubbles.


Panel Colors & Thoughts about “Skins”

25-color paletteI selected the panel background colors for Comic-O-Matic from the colors used by Nina in her Mimi & Eunice strips. Originally, I grabbed just 10, but today I have expanded the number of colors available to 25. By having more colors in the palette, the chances of having two panels the same color is reduced.  I will eventually set up a color-picker, to give users creative control over the colors of their panels, but for now, they are still just randomly selected per panel from this set.

I am also thinking ahead to the possibility that other artists might create sets of their own artwork to work with Comic-O-Matic, as “skins”, so that users could select from a number of artists for their strips. Each of these skins would include its own color palette as well as artwork and a font. (And maybe other things – I don’t know yet!) I’m not ready to do this now, but you never know what each new day may bring! Ultimately, I do want to get the scripts to a point where I’m not tweaking them daily, and then I’ll release a stable version on GitHub for anyone to copy and do whatever they want to with. I plan to have the release include templates for the pieces of artwork that Comic-O-Matic requires.  If you are an artist who is interested in this prospect and willing to release your art as freely for copying and reuse as Nina does, let’s talk!

Downloading your strips

Until I have permalinks set up for Comic-O-Matic to save your strips to the cloud (yes, they are in my plan!), I’ve tried to make it easier to save the strips you make. You can still do screen captures or right-click, but now when you make a new strip, there is a button beneath it that’s labeled “Download my Strip!” and it will save the file directly to your hard drive.

The file is named with the time you made the strip (down the the second!) plus your computer’s IP address. (Just in case someone ELSE makes a Comic-O-Matic strip at exactly the same time!

Where and how the file gets saved will depend on your web browser and how it is configured.


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