Me, I love the thing because as you'll know from reading earlier posts I cannot draw a straight line, or at least I can't see one. I have some kind of problem with one eye, something to do with depth perception and my left eye has lost some seeing power, and for some reason I see a straight line and draw it, and it turns out to be squint. So thank goodness for the fantastic brain power of Kevin Forbes, the cartoonist behind the comic strip Simulated Comic Product, for he has given the world Boxen, which is at present in its Beta state.
This is the sort of programme that will have the Luddites squealing, but I couldn't give a flying bat's fart, I have a painful eye and I intend to use this programme. Take a look at the top line where you decide what your comic template will be. Now, you can do a lot of things with this little gem, including, setting the 'gutter at .25, the margins to, about .25, then set the 'width' to 4.25 and the 'length' to 13.25 and the 'line' to .030. After that you can just 'right-click' in there and add 1 or 2 or 3 panels, of equal size, then export it as a 300 dpi png file (you'll have to open it in PS or PSP or whatever to save it as a tiff or a jpeg. And you have a lovely 300dpi print resolution comic strip somewhere around the standard comic strip size of 13"x4".
You can then work with the thing and reduce it for the web, if that's your aim.
The goodness doesn't end there, you can make up single panels, comic book pages, Sunday-size comic strip templates, you name it. For template lovers like me (remember my eye!) this takes the guessing out of making my 'graphic novel' templates. Generally, I work small and make the pages almost 'same-size', around 9"x7", and I like to stick to a format, when I can, for instance 6 or 9 panels a page. So I can make 300dpi templates, print them out on a conventional printer, draw on the page, and scan it back in. Of course, if you want to, you can open the png in PS and convert the lines to a pale blue (non-photo blue) and trace over then giving the panels a hand-drawn look.
As I say, my hats off to Kevin, this is a great little toll, I think it's great that he's taking the time and effort to do this.
Next up, and this is another really handy tool for web comic artists, is the 'dirty little secret' of the Mac-users, Comic Life, by Plasq. What use is this to me with my PC and my dislike of all things Smarty-panty-Maccy? I hear you ask. Well, this multi award winning little powerhouse, which handles templates, word balloons and lettering, is currently being Beta-tested for Windows and if you head along to the Plasq site you can join in and take part in the testing. It sounded, last time I looked in, as if this 4th incarnation of the Windows version of Comics Life is going to be the last beta before a stable Windows version is released. If it's your thing, go get it.
The next two webcomic tools are services, created by cartoonist and computer programmer, Ryan North, the guy behind Dinosaur Comics. In all, so far, Ryan has created three tools to aid webcomic authors, Oh No Robot, a webcomic transcription tool which creates searchable text databases for comics:
RSSpect, a method of creating RSS feeds for websites;
and Project Wonderful, a pay-per-day auction-based ad serving system.
As far as fonts go, I'd recommend Ron Evry's Witzworx, which, such is the generosity of the man, he almost gives away. It works at low and high resolutions and there is no problem about you using it for commercial reasons, if and when your comic project starts bringing in the money:
Most times it the bitchiness and the pettiness and the in-fighting amongst the creatives in the cartooning community that gets the news, but there is a generosity of spirit out there that is often overlooked. If you do get round to using some of this stuff, drop the creators a quick line and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.