Comic Chat | Tasty Research

Comic chat

December 4, 2006 at 1:09 pm

I remember using Comic Chat in elementary school and trying it on my new Internet Explorer installation. It was the first chat program I had used, and I found it both exciting and scary to be able to speak to complete strangers. Comic Chat is an application that generates comics from online chat and uses the IRC protocol.

I was surprised to find this article on Comic Chat from the authors from 1996. Interestingly, it was published on SIGGRAPH, the leading computer graphics conference in the academic world. Reading this article, I find that Comic Chat is a lot more complicated than I initially thought.

Comic Chat creates realistic comics that are mostly made up of characters, speech bubbles, and blackboards.


In order to create a comic, characters have to be placed in a panel. Comic Chat uses cues present in the text to create the character’s gesture and expression. Things like smileys :-), the use of “I” or “You” and punctuation marks would change the appearance of the character. In addition, the position and alignment of the characters is determined by a greedy algorithm. The following strip provides examples of positional and alignment problems: a speaker is missing in the first panel, the characters in the second panel are not facing each other, and the outer two characters in the third panel talk about the two characters in the middle. The fourth panel shows a correctly drawn panel.


Comics generally use four different types of balloons,

  1. Speech bubbles for normal text, drawn with a solid outline and tail
  2. Thought balloons for what a character thinks, with a solid line but a tail of ovals
  3. Whisper balloons for private conversations, with dotted outline and tail
  4. Shout balloons for calling out text, with a jagged border (not shown in the picture)


Determining the dimensions and placement of a speech bubble is determined by a complex algorithm that you will find in the work. There are many things to consider when placing balloons, such as: B. Placing them so that they are read in the correct order so that they do not overlap, so that they are slightly above the speaker’s head and leave room for the tails.


Panel breaks are calculated to properly absorb the text and make the comic appear more natural. Breaks can be made when there are too many characters in a field or when there is not enough space for the text. A break is also introduced when a character speaks twice to ensure that a character does not have more than one speech bubble per panel. Panels are usually close-ups of characters to get a good view of the active character. However, sometimes a downsized shot is taken to show the surroundings and the characters in the scene.

Although Comic Chat is obsolete and few users use it to chat online, it still has some value today. While reading this article, I realized that the web comic Jerkcity is built out of Comic Chat.

You can download a copy of Comic Chat if you’d like to try it out.

Kurlander, D., Skelly, T. & Salesin, D. (1996). Comic chat. Process from SIGGRAPH ’96: International conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques, 225-236. [PDF]

Entry filed under: Chat, Communication, Graphics, Internet, Microsoft.

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