I just recently was referred to a relatively new service called Bitstrips (Thank you Laurie!). This online service is apparently for the more artistically challenged to come up with comic strips. If you can come up with the words, the characters you’ve helped design can speak it in a comic strip.
Some of you may know that I authored 3 strips in February here, about the Olympics and the IOC, two of which are still applicable. I fished for someone to draw and allow me to upload those strips – exactly the service that Bitstrips offers. So I’ve already needed the service that Bitstrips offers. So why not figure out how to use Bitstrips in this public forum?
The first thing you might need to know is that you can use normal copyright subject to rules in the licence agreement. I wanted the possibility of someone translating my work for free so instead I wanted to use a Creative Commons licence. According to Bitstrips I was only able to use a Creative Commons Non-commercial, Share Alike licence. Bitstrips doesn’t allow the other Creative Commons licences, but for your enjoyment you can see them at creativecommons.org .
Now, all I had to do was to try the service by starting at bitstrips.com .
The first thing I did was to create characters. The character generator is a features based visual of the character you intend to use. Three characters ought to do for my two strips. I made the man and woman black to represent sub Saharan Africa and Cubehead of course was given a cube head and a middling dark tone to represent North Africa. Africa has never been granted an Olympics before. Everything else I chose was based on whimsy.
After generating some characters, you can start on the strip. I chose a three panel strip. I usually work with 4 panels but I adjusted. Some of the scene making is drag and drop. Some of it is touching one of the special button functions then manipulating the character. Sometimes you can use a click and even sometimes a double click helps you do what you want. Some of the functions are intuitive, some are not. It took me about 2 hours to create the first strip and the three characters. It would go much faster the next time, especially since I can now use stock characters.
My first strip was marred by text balloons. The standard type of balloon I used gets a smaller and smaller “attribution tail” as you add in more lines of text. The cartoon I was doing was ‘Happiness is an alien’. The man’s 3 line text balloons barely have a tail when he uses 3 lines of text. And, unfortunately the 5 line speech at the end has no tail at all. Thus, if you were to look at this cartoon in a certain way, it appears that the woman is saying the text plus her own line.
I called this strip series “The IOC Files”. But at the Bitstrips’ site, you can’t find that by doing a straightforward search. 163 comics come up. You have to search through all of these to find mine. I’m still not sure it’s there because I gave up. All the cartoons that use the word “file” seem to show up. Usually they have something to do with the X-Files. You can find my strip if you search for larryrusswurm – my user name. I think the search function has to do with how you save your cartoon when you are first publishing it. Automatically it chooses to do it under your name but there is an option to save it as a ‘bitstrips series’. Ideally the search function would work under both conditions.
The 2nd cartoon had a feature that I couldn’t find Bitstrips capable of. I think it’s common enough in cartoons to display the outside of a store with signs in the windows, so Bitstrips ought to have this as a background or scene. As well, I didn’t see a simple sign function. To get around this I tried to “make” the outside of a store by the “shapes” function and using the ‘text boxes’ as the signs for the business. This second cartoon only took about 20 minutes. That makes this a realistic option to drawing as a drawn cartoon takes about 20 minutes to do. And 10 minutes was figuring out the store front with shapes and text boxes. I can definitely see doing a cartoon in 10 minutes and each time having learned a little something new.
Anyways I do fault Bitstrips for not having the outside of a store, school, different houses and office buildings to set the scene of a strip. This I think is very important in the telling of a strip.
So what do I give Bitstrips as a critique? Well, despite all my complaints (I’m going to send a link to this blog to Bitstrips so they are aware of the problems I noted), I give them a 4 ½ stars out of 5. Don’t forget that I needed this particular service in February even though I didn’t know Bitstrips existed.
And even if you never want to write your own comic strip, you can spend loads of time just reading the strips of others.
Here are the two cartoons: