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Normally, I don’t use this space to promote comics-related commercial products. But then again, most comics-related commercial products aren’t nearly as cool as Balloonist, and aren’t the creation of my friend Dave Horlick, as Balloonist is. Dave is both a cartoonist himself (anyone who went to Cornell in the mid 1990s remembers the odd genius that was Gerald Gazelle) and a computer programmer, so he’s the perfect guy to create the next great thing in computer-based cartooning.

What is Balloonist, you might ask? Dave (or, technically, this product announcement that he wrote) will be glad to tell you:

Balloonist is cross-platform comics layout software. For busy comics professionals and comics-minded graphics designers, Balloonist represents a big improvement over lettering guides, rulers, and general-purpose illustration software.

Balloonist seeks to accomplish for comics what word processors have done for writing. Using traditional tools, it’s an effort to trace a page full of panels. It’s work to draw or position cut-out word balloons. And lettering the text inside those balloons is tedious.

But the real disadvantage of existing comics workflows is their inflexibility. Want to nudge an overlapping word balloon, or shift a panel? You usually have to start over from scratch. Often, time constraints make us settle for second-class layout.

Not anymore!

With Balloonist, moving and re-sizing the components of a comic is as easy as dragging your mouse. You can even move the gutters between panels! Throw in support for vertically-oriented languages, shape merging, ties, font styles, and multiple levels of Undo, and you have the underpinnings of a comics revolution. Or at least a great new tool.

Anyway, those of you who live to modify and mock the daily funnies might be particularly interested in Balloonist’s Gouache tool, which lets you replace the text in word balloons from somebody else’s comic with your own bon mots. I’ve been pimping this fine piece of software in my adstrip for the past few days, so some of you may have already checked it out. The rest of you can learn more by heading over to the main Balloonist page.

In slightly less meretricious news, my latest Cartoon Violence column is up on Wonkette. (If you want to read my political cartoon commentary but can’t be bothered with the rest of Wonkette’s offerings, you can subscribe to this RSS feed.) And I’ve got another Geek Comic of the Week up on Since these are weekly occurrences, I won’t be promoting them every time they happen from here on in, but you can see when each has been updated last in the Other comics-related stuff Josh does section of the sidebar.