Comic Life strictly amateur

Spoiler alert!Comic Life has been around for a long time on the Mac (and probably Windows) as a companion to Apple’s full fledged iLife apps. The apps were designed to open the door for beginners to media applications. But where iLife’s developers have added increasingly professional options, Comic Life remains an app for family and friends.

At first glance Comic Life appears to follow the model of Garage Band, iDVD and other iLife apps. They serve as first steps for beginners and amateurs to create media that will pass as professional to average consumers. Comic Life makes a good start, but falls short of delivering a complete package.

Comic Life makes it easy to load art work or photos into comic panels and pages and add captions and dialogue. It does a very good job of this. But without the tools to create comic art or distribute your comics for a moderate market, it remains a very good toy.

I say this because I’ve looked at the app since it started shipping with the Mac OS. It reminds me of the early days of PageMaker, which was a very small app with limited professional potential. But PageMaker kept developing and evolved into InDesign (and inspired Quark XPress). Comic Life hasn’t really evolved.

There may well be professional comic creation applications (I looked and couldn’t find any even though I’m sure there’s a market) but Comic Life remains a tool for social networking. So let’s look at what it does do.


Comic Life has no art tools, so you have to use media from outside the app. You can create your own sketches in another app, scan your artwork, or simply use family photographs. Considering the fact that every demo and promo I’ve seen for Comic Life uses family photos in the example comics, this seems like the main media people will use.

Comic Life provides a number of templates (or, at least, first page templates) to use as points of inspiration. The first page elements are already in place, but you will have to add the others. You can choose from custom page layouts or add your own panels, balloons and caption elements. All of the elements are located in a collapsable tray at the bottom of the screen and you can drag them into place on the page.

Comic Life provides a number of custom page templates or panel layouts to select from for your individual pages.

Once you import a media element into a panel you can resize it or move it into position. You don’t need to crop it, the panels hide any elements of the image that falls outside the borders. Once the image is in place you can add or reposition the caption and balloon elements and even reposition the tail of the word balloons to the mouths of the speakers.

Comic Life provides a number of elements to work with comic panels, including the ability to reposition images and reposition balloon elements with bezier curves.

Cats from the Siamese Rescue
web page.

Type controls are pretty good. You can add stylized banners and titles as well as change the type face and style. If your text doesn’t fit, you can resize the balloon until it wraps the way you want.

You have complete control over typeface selection and formatting, and can add custom page numbers.

Fish photo courtesy of Fritz Beck (Stock.XCHNG)

You can create comics of any length, although every page and every image adds significantly to file size. And there’s the rub, because there aren’t many ways to get your comic out to your family and friends. Y0u can print them or email the separate pages. Neither method actually produces a comic “book” so much as a series of pages. The help files point you toward professional print shops that will print your digital comic book, but producing a bound comic book can be pretty expensive.

You can also share your comics directly with other iPads so long as they are connected to the same wireless network in the same immediate location. Which means that other than comic nerd parties, you probably won’t have many opportunities to share.

What Comic Life can’t produce, after all these years, is a simple PDF file, comic archive file or ePub that can be read in standard comic or ereaders. You can create these files from images of your individual pages, but it requires more expensive software and is, quite frankly, a pain.

As a consequence, Comic Life remains an app for social networking and little else. Sure your mother will love your comic as long as you use family photos or bunnies. And your friends can come over with their iPads and you can share your comics.

But that’s pretty much it. You aren’t going to distribute these comics for use with comic apps or eReaders. And that makes Comic Life, for all it’s potential, a tool for hobbyists.

Jenny Manytoes rates Comic Life

Jenny Manytoes liked the comic I created with Comic Life, mostly because of the kitties and fish, but would take a nap next to the app itself.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, Entertainment and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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