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HyperComics attempts to capture magic of comic books online, and fails

HyperComics attempts to solve that dilemma for today's wanna-be Stan Lees, with a free service that lets you browse and share amateur comic books.

When I was a kid, I had ambitions of becoming a legendary comic author like Stan Lee. The one thing holding me back from that dream (aside from my poor drawing skills) was distribution--how was I going to get people to look at my creations? HyperComics attempts to solve that dilemma for today's wanna-be Lees, with a free service that lets you browse and share amateur comic books.

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HyperComics uses a flash-based browser to navigate and explore entire comic books. There are basic zoom and page navigation controls, along with a toggle that lets you switch between one and two page views. At first glance, it appears easy to use, although to move around the page you need to maneuver a small highlighting box as opposed to just dragging on the image. This can be a real pain, especially if you have a small monitor or are running at a low resolution. There is however a cool page-turn effect, complete with flutter. Tragically, even that can't make reading comics on the site fun. Some elements don't scale well, leading to some jaggy images and unreadable text unless you zoom in really close.

HyperComics is tied to a software program called Comic Book Creator, the application you need to use to create files for the site. You can't just send image files (JPEGs or PDFs) to the site. The Creator program usually costs $30, but it's free to the first 5,000 people who sign up and post work to HyperComics. In the meantime, you can use a trial version to upload, but it lacks some of the more advanced features. Either way, it's a 172MB download, which is on the large side for people with slow connections.

There's a social bookmarking element to HyperComics beyond looking at other people's work. As a site member, you can rate and comment on comics as well as have your own blog and post in the forums. Your site profile keeps track of work you've submitted and commented on, as well as your favorites. Despite these features, there's not really a "most popular" section of the site--you have to manually sort through the content and find comics users have ranked.

Compared to a comic contribution site such as Comic Vine, HyperComics appears to expect too much from the casual user. Installing a paid-for program just to contribute to a Web site is a lofty expectation. Where Comic Vine succeeds is its user-friendly interface coupled with a submission system that runs in your browser. If Hyper Comics could find a way to let people create their own comic books on the Web without the need for a program, I think they'd be moving in the right direction. As it stands now, HyperComics seems like little more than a marketing tool to get you to buy Comic Book Creator.