So I became a webcomic author this past week. Of course, I've no artistic talent and no hope of being as good as the webcomics I like. But never mind all that. I realized I could do a webcomic, and moments after that realization came the comic itself. It's only been a week but it's drawing a tiny Tumblr audience, and these comics are easy enough to make that hey, sure, I can do this for a while. Let's see what happens, right?t The plot summary follows.
"MASAKA THE YOUNG LADY OF HIGH SPIRITS. MAJIDE THE KNOWING OF MYSTERY. THEIR ADVENTURES IN GAMING KINGDOM IT BEGINS TO MOVE WITH LAUGHTER AND E KIMOCHI"
The program I'm making this in is called Comipo, and make no mistake, it's a toy. It works for my purposes-- because I'm making an absurd 4-panel gag comic written in Bad Scanlation English-- but this program isn't going to magically crank out pro-quality work for you. That's not what it's about. That's kind of why my comic is the way it is. Play to the tool you're working with, right?
The fundamental idea of Comipo is that rather than drawing characters (which we all know is totally hard and stuff), we manipulate 3D models and 2D images into the comic we've had in mind. Really simple images like the print club-style avatar I use for the Tumblr (seen above) come out in minutes. All this one involved was picking out facial expressions from a menu, and a little tilting of the models to make it look natural. Working with the models is easy and smooth and fun: you just have to be careful with zooming and expanding the models, as the black cel-shaded lines can come out looking rough and choppy depending on how the character is posed.
You can import any image you like into the comic, but Comipo's very extensive library of premade backgrounds and sound effects actually cover quite a lot of ground. I don't use the many supplied photo backgrounds, for the most part: I think the clash between 3D models and live images is too distracting, especially when they're supposed to be directly interacting with those backgrounds. I use effects and patterns, and Comipo also has a truckload of those.
The characters I'm using for the comic are the exact same as Comipo's default characters. The thing is, you see... you really can't get very far from these defaults. Comipo uses just two base bodies, a male and a female. The two characters you see above share the same body, and there's no adjusting body type or other physical features. The second female model, meant to be a teacher, is the same girl body in a schoolteacher's outfit. The male models are the same way.
In short, in the world of Comipo everybody is made of different parts swapped onto the same two doll bodies. And they're all moe-style highschoolers with only hairstyles and eye colors to separate them. (The guys are really half-assed: imagine a "make your own boring, nondescript lead of a harem anime" generator.) Again, there isn't a huge variety of those distinguishing factors either, and the more characters you try and make with Comipo the more obvious it is that they all look just like each other.
Poses and facial expressions are better, but here there's interface trouble as you have to slog through a long list to get close to the one you need. I've already started to make note of the numbers of useful poses (like the above). While time-intensive, a manual posing option would be nice for people who really want to work this program hard.
Your subject matter is pretty severely limited by all these factors: it's cutesy high-school comedy or go home. The more strenuous the posing you put these models through, the weirder they start to look. Obviously the biggest request by Comipo users has been the ability to import other 3D models into the program-- the vast world of Miku Miku Dance models will make this very interesting when it finally makes its way into the English version of the program.
As it stands, Comipo is absolutely not worth $50 unless you're just that curious, which I was after toying with the free demo. $25 is the absolute highest this should be going for. With a little more variety and freedom this toy could be a vast playground, but as it is it's a walled-in high school. Of course, that doesn't matter much to me: I already have more than enough here to make the Kawaiikochans go on for a decade or three. But then, I never said I was an ambitious creator!