Comic Book Creator 2.0 – Cool tool with many possibilities

A little while ago I received a review copy of Comic Book Creator 2.0 (CBC2), US$49.95, published by Planetwide Games. My testing plan involved my son, Bas, a creative 11 year old who enjoys reading Manga comics and playing video games. I set up CBC2 on his notebook computer, watched the web-based tutorial videos for the product (very helpful), and he was off and running – well, almost. Turns out that in Windows Vista you need to run CBC2 as the Administrator, otherwise certain output functionality does not work properly. Based on similar problems with other titles under Vista, I put the blame here entirely on Microsoft. 

Once we overcame the Vista difficulties with the assistance of Planetwide’s excellent technical support service, we played with the software a bit to see what we could do. You start off by selecting a format for your comic book using supplied templates, most of which focus on letter size pages. I also came across a template editor written by CBC fan Jesse Pavel (see here) and I understand other templates can also be purchased from Planetwide Media.

Once you have your layout – and you can include pages with other template types in your comic book, incidentally – you’re ready to start adding content. CBC2 comes with a limited range of clip art to use as the basis for a comic book, but allows for the import of art via a variety of file formats, including JPEG format. You can then use various tools in CBC2 to add text boxes, speech bubbles, effects, and more.

My son’s first thought was to combine CBC2 with his obsession with Bungie’s Halo 3 on the Xbox 360. thanks to the ability to do screen captures from the instant replays in Halo 3, he was able to script a complete story idea and then capture the individual frames which I then helped him download from the Bungie web site. We then imported the screen captures into Comic Book Creator 2, and he applied speech bubbles and more to produce his first comic book – all of which took less than an hour once he had all the parts in place. Below is a sample page from the comic book he made (you can output the comic book to PDF, incidentally).

Sample Comic Book Creator 2 output using images from Halo 3

His next thought was to use Lego characters as the basis of another comic book, so I helped him set up a “stage” and he took pictures of the “action” he had scripted for his next project. Again, we imported those photos into CBC2, and he made his second comic book (excerpt below).

Sample Comic Book Creator 2 output using staged Lego characters

Bas is a bright kid, but Comic Book Creator 2 was a rather inspirational tool for him. He proceeded to make another couple of Halo 3 comic books to share with his friends over the course of the afternoon. We had some problems printing out the comic books, however, as the software would not allow us to print double sided on the double sided color laser printer we have here. We had to resort to outputting to PDF, and then printing from Acrobat to get double sided printing to work, and getting PDF output to work under Vista was initially a challenge because we didn’t know we had to run the program as Administrator (right click on the program on the desktop, click Properties, then click on Compatibility, and then put a check mark in the box that says to Always Run As Administrator).

That same night we celebrated a friend’s birthday at a local restaurant, and Bas’ idea was to give her a comic book of her birthday dinner, so we both took lots of pictures, and the next morning he whipped up a Birthday comic book, an excerpt of which is below.

Sample Comic Book Creator 2 output using photos from a birthday dinner

You can also add sound and video to comic books created with Comic Book Creator 2, and at the time we played with the software, it was also possible to upload comic books to a dedicated comic book web site which appears to have since morphed into something called MashOn and the original content we uploaded seems to have disappeared.

If making your own visual content is not your thing, Planetwide Media also sells licensed art in the form of bundled versions of Comic Book Creator. The licensed art includes material from Marvel, Virgin Comics, Speed Racer, National Geographic, and even Manga from TOKYOPOP, among many others. Each of those packages include the full release of Comic Book Creator 2, and you can use all the clip art, screen shots, etc. to make your own comic books. If you have multiple sets of source art, you can reference them all from one installation of the software as well. My only complaint about this packaging approach is that I would like to see a version of the software which has only the licensed art and not the software, under the assumption that it would be less expensive than having to repurchase the program yet again. The tutorials imply this might be the case, but I was unable to find purchasable content on the web site.

Comic Book Creator 2 is definitely a creativity inspiring program, good for all ages of users who want to be able to present their ideas in comic book layout form. The results with CBC2 are only limited by one’s imagination and able to create/find the base content.

I give Comic Book Creator 2 a 7.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale. That score could be improved if pre-developed content – more types of speech bubbles, clip art from a variety of sources, etc. – were more accessible, and if more templates, like for a standard 3-up newspaper comic format, were provided with the base software. And finally, the printing problems we encountered, while not insurmountable as we found a workaround, should not have existed in the first place.

 

One Response to “Comic Book Creator 2.0 – Cool tool with many possibilities”

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for the thorough review. I am looking at developing a web site using a comic book format for the layout and your review has definitely given me some ideas … and pointed out some of the challenges. Keep up the good work grin