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What's Margo up to??
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, http://williamahuston.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-fracker-and-nimby.html, 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 (http://mimiandeunice.com/), 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 (http://www.faceomatic.com – 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.
Nina has made three new characters for your Comic-O-Matic pleasure: a dog, a bird, and a sperm!
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.
I 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!
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.
Where and how the file gets saved will depend on your web browser and how it is configured.
And the new features just keep coming! Now you have the option of adding a line of text at the top of any (or all!) of the three panels to set the scene: “Washington, D.C.”, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”, “The next day…”, etc.. Granted, it will cost you a little real estate usually reserved for dialog, but it’s optional.
Maybe not as sexy as the emoti-thingies, but it’s been on my list of enhancements for a while, and I woke up this morning and just did it!
In my quest to give users more creative control, I thought that being able to choose the direction of the characters face would be helpful. As I work toward this goal, I’ve made some changes to the basic display, so that now characters are “aimed” at the center of each panel, more as if they are actually talking. This really only makes a difference for three of the five current characters who have feet, hands, and/or tails. Watch in coming weeks for switches beneath each panel that will allow you to change the direction of the characters in each panel to suit your own wishes: characters will eventually be able turn their backs on each other, chase each other, etc. For now, though, they are facing each other as the default while I work on expanding this capability.
Thanks for all your support!
The original TrueType font used by Comic-O-Matic is based on Nina Paley’s handwriting, freely available under CC-BY-SA licensing at Archive.org:
Unfortunately, she didn’t have any need for international characters like the upside-down question mark used in Spanish or accents and umlauts.
Using font-editing software, including the free BSD-licensed FontForge (http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/), I was able to add characters, so now the following characters are available in Comic-O-Matic:
At some point, I’ll see about releasing it as an OpenFont. I have other features of Comic-O-Matic that I want to spend my time on just now, but if there are other characters that users want added, please contact me!
Cartoon characters don’t just speak in words, they sometimes speak in pictures, so tonight I’ve been taking a breather from the twitchiness of interface design (curse IE!), and have added another feature to making the comic strip that I hope folks will like: Emoti-thingees!
There are currently eight special words that you can use instead of dialog text. All you have to do is put one in square brackets, and voila! the emoti-thingee appears over the character’s head !
The special words are: cloud, storm, sweat, steam, heart, bubbles, lightbulb, and curse
Having prioritized the request of being able to select eyes and mouths, I’m facing a lot of browser issues – predictably. This is what the latest revision looks like:
I have not put it as the default yet for the Comic-O-Matic site until I get more feedback on it and have tweaked it to suit myself – but you can still right-click and save any strips you make using this interface the same way you save from the main page.
As always with your feeback, let me know platform (Windows, Mac, Linus, Android, iOS, etc.) and browser (Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome, etc.) and version, if possible! Screenshots are always helpful.
What do you think of the display including the numbers of the parts in red?
As always, thank you for your time, attention and support on this project!
INTERNET EXPLORER: IE doesn’t display the eyes and mouths in the drop-down menus, which is why I added in the numerical designations for the parts.
ANDROID OS on Droid phones: The Android OS on Droid phones doesn’t like scrolling menus on ANY webpages, so I am still looking for a workaround for it.