Strip Creator

Strip Generator - composition screen for the comic Combinatoric smArt

Strip Creator is web-based comic strip authorware which streamlines the process through a method of handling word balloons combined with a library of character icons.

Unlike the recently reviewed Strip Generator, however, Creator emphasizes highly structured dialog rather than free-form composition with images. Each panel can have up to two characters in it, facing in either direction, and each character has the option of thinking or speaking one unit of text. In addition, background images can be added to create context.

This MadLibs-esque composition process gives the user strong encouragement to block out a scene and then begin crafting the dialog to work within those constraints. Because most actions cannot be depicted, they are implied (”you won’t say that when you see the gun in my pocket”), rather than being illustrated with awkwardly redundant dialog (”I am shooting you now with this gun!”).

Creator is less technically impressive software than the freeform, layer-aware Generator - for example, image mirroring in Creator is hacked in through redundant library items rather than truly supported, and there is no visual browsing of available options. However Creator does take advantage of the constrained design to provide innovative features that Generator lacks, in particular automatic word balloon placement and a “random comic layout” button, which is a kind of writer’s block antidote. Pushing the button populates all three panels with a basic scene from which to imagine a story - an elephant talking to a stick figure in a bar, a pregnant woman looking at a squirrel on a park bench, or two identical robots standing in a grassy field.

Focus on witty dialog at Strip Creator might be due to a number of reasons - the accountability that comes with a registration requirement, the presence of active moderation, and (perhaps) the interface that emphasizes writing. It would be interesting to open up two blank systems with different features but similar account policies and see what use patterns developed over time.

Finally, the aesthetic style is quite distinctive. Creator uses a particular kind of mashup style, mixing characters lifted (with artist permission) from various web comics in front of backgrounds which may range from flat, to rendered, to photographic. With the wide variety of cartooning styles, head sizes are wildly (and necessarily) inconsistent, vector art holds conversations with pencil sketches. Where Generator provided libraries of black and white pixel art, all scaled so as to build coherent scenes, in Creator, a gentle madness reigns.

Bonus Points for Originality

Strip Generator - composition screen for the comic Combinatoric smArt

This composition is a WRT original. It makes a bit more sense if you are familiar with the original characters (Maura, a sarcastic alchoholic pornographer from Diesel Sweeties, and Butch, the introspective psychopathic killer from Chopping Block)… but not much.

Narrator: In intercomic hyperspace, Maura and Butch meet to resolve some weighty issues of art and philosophy….

Maura: Everything we’ve done up till now has just been a recombination of the available conversations. I want to be part of something truly new, and I don’t care how much I have to drink to do it!

Butch (listening): I’m not sure new is possible. No matter how I reshuffle her limbs, Mother still calls all my work derivative. “Texas Chainsaw for Hacks,” she says. Ha. Ha. I can hear her laughing now…

Maura (concentrating): [I can… I will! Outside the box… Outside the box…]

Butch (musing): …yet, even with preordained options, the WAY we choose must count for something! The voices said I HAD to whack that mailman, but running him down in a UPS truck should get me style points….

Narrator: But the icons and archetypes of comics are not dispensed with so easily….

Maura (grinning): Woah there on the style-bragging, hockey-mask. I may be canned pixel art, but you and Jason are showing up to the Psycho Prom wearing the same dress.

Butch (aggrevated): [Great. Even in hyperspace, all women remind me of Mother.]

1 Response to “Strip Creator”

  1. 1 WHAK'd has another online comic strip maker, create as many single cells as you wish to make your own comic ebook ;)

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