Comic Easel is a WordPress plugin that creates a custom type post for comic pages. It is a creation of Philip M. Hofer. Mr. Hofer also created ComicPress, a WP theme combine with the Comic Easel plugin. There are many online comics that use ComicPress. The advantage to using ComicPress is that there is no backend customization. It is out of the box and ready to go. The disadvantage is that ComicPress is not mobile responsive. It is why I prefer to use the Comic Easel plugin and create child themes to change. To use Comic Easel, users have to insert code into their themes. The code is in the back-end coding of the theme.
The other day I received a notification that the plugin is no longer active. I checked out its WordPress.org page and there was this notification-
This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
The Comic Easel website was not renewed. The last time Mr. Hofer posted on his website was back in 2019.
I have decided to work on this plugin. This will be a good exercise for me to maintain my education. The code for Comic Easel is sound. There is not a lot to change. I know there is a push for all WordPress themes and plugins to support Gutenberg. I am not skilled enough to change the code to support Gutenberg. With a little research, I am sure I can change Comic Easel to support Gutenberg.
The other day I got a Twitter friend request from an account called Toocheke. The bio read Toocheke was “A modern #responsive #WordPress theme for publishing #Webcomics. Optimized for the #Webtoon format.” Curious, I downloaded the theme to check it out. I was surprise. Toocheke is both a theme and a plugin to turn a WordPress site into a Webcomic platform. There is only one platform right now, ComicPress/Comic Easel. So I took an interest… what is Toocheke? How does it compare to Comic Easel? Is this the new kid on the block to topple the king?
https://thecomixscene.com/Toocheke/To test out Toocheke, I created a demo site at https://thecomixscene.com/demo-site-02/. Toocheke is seems like Comic Easel at first. It has the All Comics, Location, Chapters, and Character options. The similarities end there. Comic Easel allows a user to configure their Webcomics where as Toocheke does not. Comic Easel comes with load of options when posting a comic. Toochecke eliminates those choices. Instead, Toocheke works like Classic WordPress- you place your image in the body of the post. You can use an icon as your featured image instead of the comic. This is good because then only the icon will appear when sharing your link. The theme on the homepage is pretty straight forward… it is a list of your comics with a blog underneath.
Toocheke is lightweight. I downloaded the Toocheke Companion plugin and there was only a few files. The creators of plugin said that the companion plugin does most of the heavy lifting for the theme. I have yet to test the speed of a Toocheke site vs. a Comic Easel site but I like slim plugins.
The selling point for Toocheke is that it is a mobile responsive theme. This might “feel” like the theme is superior to ComicPress/Comic Easel. It is not superior but different. The main issue with ComicPress/Comic Easel is NOT the plugin nor ComicPress theme. The issue is that some Webcomics rely on the ComicPress theme as the one stop shop for all their needs. ComicPress is not responsive. User can alter any responsive theme they wish using the Comic Easel plugin. But many Webcomic creators are not web developers. Making modifications to the backend code is daunting. Other Webcomics rely on WordPress/Comic Easel multisite networks to manage their webcomics. These sites tend not to have a mobile first mindset with their theme options. Toocheke is mobile first and responsive. New WordPress networks focusing on Webcomic hosting should pay attention to Toocheke.
I do not think Toocheke will replace ComicPress/Comic Easel. As stated earlier, Comic Easel allows users to modify mobile themes. Toocheke is a mobile first theme with a plugin attached. They are two different applications that have the same… “flavor.” There is not an option to import ComicPress/Comic Easel files to Toocheke. Creators will need to stick with what they’ve been using. But, if a creator wants to do the work, they can rebuild their site from ground up using Toocheke. The theme is an amazing building block to reconstruct a Webcomic series.
I hope that the creators of Toocheke will stick with these theme. When I’m finally ready to open The Comix Scene to new users, I want to provide two options for their Webcomics. I look forward to see how Toocheke evolves.