Comic Life – iOS $5. Pro version $$29.99
Comic Strip Pro – Android $1
ComicBook! – iOS & Android $2
Comic & Meme Creator – iOS & Android $1
Comic book arts are no longer seen as anybody’s second-class cultural cliché. The art of the comic book lies in the artist’s ability to elucidate so much concentrated drama, emotion, and narrative truth with a few simple lines. Wouldn’t you know it? There are now apps available to help you put a comic strip together and tell your own stories. Not a great artist? There are also many mobile apps that can do the basic artwork for you.
The best of them, available for $5 in the iOS version, Comic Life, has the most features and looks positively fantastic on the big screen of your iPad. The app’s main gimmick is that you can utilize images you’ve shot with your device’s camera. You can then apply a number of added effects to them, as well as hand-drawn art. In other words you can create a traditional-looking comic strip or experiment with your own mash-ups and self-created art. As the app relies on your photos to create stories, you don’t need any drawing skills or permissions to have fun and be creative. Should you really become enamored, Comic Life Pro is available for $29.99
Having opened the app, tap on the + button to create a comic, you will then see a selection of comic strip templates with different themes, like wild west, futuristic and noir. The templates are automatically set up for you with story cells, headline space and background colors. All of this can be continually edited as you move along. A marvelous attention to detail makes for a very satisfying experience. Filling in your story cell is as easy as tapping with your nail on the little photo icon to import photographs. Photos can then be zoomed in on and rotated to fit your whim. Choices are wild then as you can pick freely from a number of effects that make images really look like comic book illustrations in color or black and white. Adding speech bubbles or bubble stickers that say ‘POW!’ and ‘BOOM!’ come at a tap. It’s also very easy to print and save.
There are very few negatives. It takes time to get used to various quirks. Sometimes the menus make no sense. More than a few of the icons are confusing. Like, why the image of an angry (I think it’s angry…) wild boar to facilitate a conjunction of images? All of this could have easily been solved with the addition of a manual. That would make things easy! You’re going to need some patience, but this app gives you massive bang for your buck if you are prepared to put the time in!
Comic Strip It Pro, a $1 Android app, works in the same way. It also works off turning photos into a comic strip. There are a few less choices available than Comic Life but it’s equally creative and satisfying. It also suffers from interface quirks, like, duh, who would have imagined a piggy bank icon with an arrow going through it means ‘save’? You really wonder what the designer geeks discuss when they meet to put their heads together about these things. Not quite as glam-looking as Comic Life, but still really great-looking.
A more expensive alternative is ComicBook! by 3dtopo, which is available via iOS and Android for $2. It’s chock-full of image effects to turn your photos into comics, but most of those effects are available exclusively via in-app purchases. Quite honestly, 3dtopo ought to feel a bit worried about their image and the lack of integrity they show through their annoying raw palms-out greed. Consequently, I can’t recommend it.
Comic and Meme Creator on iOS and Android for $2 is a better alternative. There’s a free edition, but if you cough up one more buck for the full pro version you’ll be able to unlock hundreds of image-editing features, some of which are absolutely spectacular images. Beyond your own photos, there are lots of characters, pieces of clever clip art and other illustrations for your comic story. It’s a personal quirk of mine that I’m a bit put off by characters that are generic versions of superheroes, though. It may not be as visually professional-looking as Comic Life or Comic Strip, but it’s still pretty good.
If you’re not a really talented artist these apps can be a spectacular way to spice up your family photos or create birthday and holiday cards you can share, too. I’m looking forward to using Comic Life at Christmas.