Monday, March 16, 2009

Radical Comic Designer 1.0.1 Review

Last week Radical Comic Book Designer 1.0.1 was released by Radical Breeze (Bryan Lunduke of Jupiter Broadcasting fame). This software is available as Linux and Windows binaries. However, this review will concentrate on the Linux binary solely, which is available as a 2.1 MB .deb, or .gz, download from Radical Breeze.

As the name implies, Radical Comic Designer is used to create comics and comic books quickly and easily. This is accomplished by dragging and dropping various comic elements; such as panels, speech bubbles, and custom captions; onto the comic page. These elements are arranged by dragging and dropping, resizing, and moving up and down relative to other elements.

With the comic layout complete, the logical next step is to add the artwork. Not being an artist, nor having any real preconceived comic notion, I simply used some JPG images I had on my hard drive. I should note that even if I were an artist, Radical Comic Designer is not designed to have the ability to create the artwork, as is explicitly stated on Bryan's blog.

Once dropped into a comic panel, pictures are edited by double clicking on them. Editing entails resizing or adding an effect. The picture editing effects available are: pixelated, oil painting, and sepia tone. Any other editing requires an external program, such as GIMP.

Once the comic is at a saving point, the comic project is saved in the Radical Comic Designer (RCD) format, while the working page can be individually exported to a JPG file. Additionally, the entire comic can be exported to either a series of JPG files or a single CBZ file, the latter of which can be read by the RadicalCodex comic book reader.

After spending a few hours working with this software, I found Radical Comic Designer to be a very cool concept. Also, I found the interface to be concise and intuitive. That is, becoming functional with this software requires neither a 2-inch thick manual, nor a PhD in nuclear physics. Overall, while not perfect at this stage of development, I expect Radical Comic Designer to quickly become a staple of any serious comic developer's arsenal of tools.

During the preparation of this review, Radical Comic Designer 1.1 was released with the following improvements:
1. Use of the keyboard cursor keys to assist in the arrangement the comic elements. This is helpful for fine-tuning the comic layout.

2. Set a default font (including color, size, etc.) for all new text.

3. A number of new picture effects (e.g., water droplets, ripples, etc.) have been added.

4. When quitting, if there are unsaved changes, the user is prompted as to whether or not the file should be saved.

5. Improvement to the rendering of speech bubbles and text.

6. A few other minor user interface tweaks and fixes.

And with that, I am off to see the wizard...

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