Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
I really enjoy Web-based comic strip tools. I once had ambitions to be a comic illustrator, although I lost interest about the same time I discovered video games. I still enjoy a good doodle here and there, which is where sites like Toonlet can offer a great deal of fun for the creatively inclined. Toonlet is a comic strip builder. We've covered several others like it before, although it's somewhere between that build-your-own Simpsons character maker and Mr. Picassohead. You're given a wide (and I do mean wide) array of body parts to fit together, letting you create your own Franken-comic book character.
The character-building tool runs in Adobe Flash and is set up to let you create your own reoccurring strip with characters built right in the engine. You can fine-tune each character off of a set of emotions, which lets you quickly dial in a preset to match the situation when back in the strip-creation screen. This helps you avoid having to go in and tweak every body part or facial expression if you're feeling lazy, although you can still jump back in to make edits if you're looking for a higher level of control.
What's interesting about Toonlet compared with some of the other comic strip builders is that each strip is set up like a forum post. Other people can reply with their own strips, and with a quick glance you can view the original and replies in the order they were posted. It makes it an exploratory process, and even the smallest text response requires some level of creativity.
I don't see Toonlet replacing a solid foundation in illustration techniques (since you're using other people's art), but it sure is fun to play with. It also manages to pack a whole lot of customization into a small package. Going forward I'd like to see Toonlet add a way to upload your own creations into the character builder, but it's already got more than enough items in there to quell most folks' thirst for body parts for the time being.