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CES: Comic Book Creator

Marvelheroes Planetwide Media of Aliso Viejo was here showing off Comic Book Creator 2, the latest version of a computer program that enables people to make their own comic books. In essence, it helps users arrange photos, graphics and videos into comic-book-style panels, then overlay text in comic-book-style word balloons and caption boxes. It also makes it easy to post one's creations to blogs and social networks.

It's just the kind of tool that remix culture thrives on, because it can recontexturalize all sorts of media into a comic-book setting. In fact, Planetwide encourages this kind of mash-up by offering versions of the product that include imagery licensed from the likes of Marvel Comics. The addition of Marvel characters, however, forces Planetwide to subtract some of its software's most compelling features. For instance, Marvel doesn't allow its images to be mixed with anyone's personal media. (Some licensees impose this restriction and some don't.) As a result, Comic Book Creator can't be used for, say, a series of panels showing Wolverine battling the neighbors' cat. Nor does the Marvel version encourage posting to the Web.

You could argue that Marvel has to protect its characters and trademarks. Those characters and trademarks are valuable only if people are interested in them, though. So which approach seems more likely to sustain that interest: allowing Marvel figures to be part of the remix culture, or trying to keep them out of the fun?

-- Jon Healey

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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