Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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June 2006, Week 4 -- Make a Comic Book. Print a Comic Book. Be a Comic Book.

My Comic Book Creator

   This is no laughing matter. What we have here is a program for making comic books. It may sound silly and trivial, but not to us superheroes.

 

   Comic Book Creator is for the PC from Planetwide Games. The title is self-explanatory, and mastering it is easy. The program comes with comic book page layouts of empty frames. You fill those frames with scenes grabbed from video games, your own photos, movie stills, drawings, etc. This is all done with drag-and-drop.

 

   About a hundred cartoon drawings are supplied to start you off, and hundreds more are available for free at the company's Web site: www.mycomicbookcreator.com. You can also get a free trial of the program there.

 

 

 

   The standard version is $30. And there are two other versions: One is based on the new movie comedy "Nacho Libre." Sony Entertainment Online (https://store.station.sony.com) offers a $35 version for players of the hit game Everquest. Unlike the standard version, the Nacho Libre and Everquest Comic Book Creators don't let you add your own art. Other content will soon be available from National Geographic, Paramount Pictures and Nickolodeon.

 

 

 

   In order to make any content useful in the creation of a comic book, the program itself comes with a built-in frame grabber. This is a utility that allows you to freeze and save anything you see on the computer screen. Once you have the pictures you want, you can move them into the ready-made comic book templates and add text balloons. The balloons are blank; you fill in the text.

 

 

My Comic Book Creator

   At first this seems like an exercise for kids. Kids can do it -- the program is easy to use -- but it turns out that businesses and schools have already shown interest. A business can easily make a clever product promotion comic book, and at least one has already begun a training manual in comic book style. A school teacher has started using it to make comic books to teach science.

 

   The finished comic book, and individual pages, whether for fun, business or education, can be saved as a PDF, JPEG, BMP and other formats. This means it can be sent by e-mail, posted to a Web site or simply printed out. You will soon be able to post your own comic books to www.comicbooksociety.net. If you visit this site now you can see the first four comic books posted and flip through the pages just like viewing a paper comic book.

 

 

 

Maps with Commentary

 

 

 

 

 

   Schmap.com has travel guides to 28 cities, 14 of them in the United States. You start by downloading a bit of software that installs the guide. Then you choose a city and a category within that city -- like restaurants, hotels nightlife, etc. What makes the site especially interesting is that you see comments and pictures by locals.

 

   When you click on any city, a list of categories appears in the middle of the screen, a map on the left and subject information on the right. We clicked on Las Vegas and chose "top attractions." Among the many shows and lounge acts, we found out you can tour a gallery of paintings by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and others at the Bellagio Hotel.

 

 

 

   Other cities on the list include London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami, etc. More are added on a regular basis.

 

 

 

   A pull-down menu lets you click on attractions, hotels or whatever. For each category, little squares appear on the map. Click on any of those and you get detailed information, plus a Web site address if there is one.

 

 

 

Snap, Print and Eat

Computer Cake

 

   Epson has just entered a field that was exclusively Canon's: printing pictures you can eat. These are often used for cake-frosting.

 

   Both companies make edible inks and edible paper (rice paper is often used) that print sharp pictures that can be transferred to cakes, pastry and even lollipops. You've probably seen examples in stores; now you can do it too.

 

 

   You can find printers and ink at www.kopykake.com, www.tastyfotoart.com and www.computercakes.com. Marcelle Costanza, the author of a crafts book we like ("Creative Computer Crafts" from No Starch Press), says she does not put edible inks in a printer that has previously been running regular ink; she keeps a separate printer for cake pictures. This may be overly cautious, but it isn't as expensive as it might seem, since some of the Canon printers are quite cheap.

 

 

 

Video Chit-Chat

 Grouper

 

 

    The first webcam covered the coffee machine in the faculty lounge at Cambridge. Pretty exciting stuff. Now they're everywhere, and you can watch what's happening at toll booths in Finland and local bars in Africa. (Just do a search on "webcams" with any of the browsers out there.)

   A video site with a slightly different take is www.grouper.com. This lets you use your own webcam to post a video comment on just about anything. People who see yours can send their own video comments in response. These are little debates called "shout outs." They also have "mash-ups" and other video oddities.

 


 

 

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.