The amazing Toon-o-Matic

So here's how we lay out and draw our panels. As I've explained, this module is intended to be baroque and interesting -- that may mean it will be cantankerous and hard to maintain, but as long as it draws cartoons when I tell it to, that's good enough for me. I'm showing you the code just for kicks and in case you find it interesting.

Here are a few panel layouts and the graphics they produce when laid out on a small background. Note that some of them look bluish; that's because the little background is a shrunken Boxjam-blue bitmap but in conversion to GIF the blue turned into the background color and I don't feel like post-processing. Sue me. They look good enough for illustrations.
<cartoon background="littlebkgd.bmp">
<cartoon background="littlebkgd.bmp" rowformat="2-2">
<cartoon background="littlebkgd.bmp" rowformat="2-1">
In case you're wondering, this presentation is a simple form of literate programming, whereby code and documentation are generated from the same source document. This version is rather straightforward, as I'm not inserting code blocks from other pages, just running down the list. If you find this easy to deal with, you might want to read more. My open-source work is all done in a literate style. (Helps me find problems when I need to fix them.)

The first thing we do is load our cartoon. It's assumed to be in cartoon.xml in the main cartooning directory. This all is supposed to run in one directory, by the way, for ease of planning.
open O, "cartoon.xml" or die "Can't find cartoon.xml";
$cartoon = xml_read (O);
close O;
The cartoon XML notes the background image we'll be using, so let's make sure it exists. (October 31, 2000) - but if we're not using a background, but instead we're using a solid-color generated background, then do that now.
if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'background') ne '') {
   $background = xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'background');
   die "Can't find background $background" if (!-e $background);
} else {
   $background = "null:";
(November 4, 2000)
If we specify a gradient for the background, this is the place to take care of it. Otherwise, if the background ended up as null: let's default to a white background.
if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'gradient') ne '') {
   $background = "gradient:" . xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'gradient');
} elsif ($background eq 'null:') {
   if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'color') eq '') {
      xml_set ($cartoon, 'color', 'white');
This phase, at least, operates by taking cartoon.xml and decorating it with explicit specifications for the cartoon. Later some of these will come from the style library; for the time being, they're hard-coded. Note that any of these values may be overridden in the original cartoon.xml. After this phase of processing, we'll write the resulting XML to panels.xml.
xml_set ($cartoon, 'linestyle', 'simple') if !xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'linestyle');
xml_set ($cartoon, 'rowdir', 'horiz')   if !xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'rowdir');
xml_set ($cartoon, 'rowformat', '3')    if !xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'rowformat');
xml_set ($cartoon, 'border', '1')       if !xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'border');
xml_set ($cartoon, 'gutter', '7')       if !xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'gutter');
Next step is to use the Image Magick identify program to glean the size of the background (if the background is an image). I do that in a function far below, but the results get used here.
xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-x', '0');
xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-y', '0');
if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'background') ne '') {
   @size = image_geometry ($background);
   xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-w', $size[0]);
   xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-h', $size[1]);
(October 31, 2000)
If the height and width are specified explicitly, then we'll change panel-w and panel-h to match, and we'll also include a -size directive in the background specifier for convert to work with.
$height = 200;
$explicit_size = 0;
if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'height') ne '') {
   $height = xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'height');
   $explicit_size = 1;
   xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-h', $height);
if (xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'width') ne '') {
   $width = xml_attrval ($cartoon, 'width');
   $explicit_size = 1;
   xml_set ($cartoon, 'panel-w', $width);
if ($explicit_size) {
   $background = "-size ${width}x$height $background";
Now, we scan the panel structure of the XML. As we do, we also mark each and every panel with its location and size. The main cartoon wants to lay out its panels horizontally, and subpanels of panels alternate default layout directions (so that unless I tell the code otherwise, a subpanels of a top-level panel will be arranged vertically.) I can use the "rowformat" attribute to tell the code how many panels should go in each row.

There's a lot to this, and I'm not going to document each piece. Live with it.
$panel_number = 0;
@panel_list = ();

# OK, scan for panels.  Just to make the whole thing more baroque, I'm putting the recursive subroutine
# right in the middle of our script; more top-level processing goes on below this.  Isn't that cool?
panel_scan ($cartoon);
sub panel_scan {
   my $parent = shift;
   my @panels = ();

   foreach (xml_elements($parent)) {
      next if $$_{name} ne 'panel';
      push @panels, $_;
      push @panel_list, $_;

   return if (!@panels);

   # Find actual row structure.
   my @rowformat = split /-/, xml_attrval ($parent, 'rowformat');
   my @actual = ($#panels + 1);
   if (xml_attrval ($parent, 'rowformat')) {
      my $rowoffset = 0;
      my $actual_offset = 0;
      $rowformat[$rowoffset] = 1 if !$rowformat[$rowoffset];
      while ($actual[$actual_offset] > $rowformat[$rowoffset]) {
         push @actual, $actual[$actual_offset] - $rowformat[$rowoffset];
         $actual[$actual_offset] = $rowformat[$rowoffset];
         $rowoffset = 0 if $rowoffset > $#rowformat;
         $rowformat[$rowoffset] = 1 if !$rowformat[$rowoffset];

   # Stash it for debugging and all-around baroqueness.
   xml_set ($parent, 'actual-rowformat', join ('-', @actual));

   # Now parcel out horizontal and vertical space based on the actual row structure.
   my ($row_coord, $row_width, $col_coord, $col_width);
   if (xml_attrval ($parent, 'rowdir') =~ /^v/) {
      $row_coord = 'panel-x';
      $row_width = 'panel-w';
      $col_coord = 'panel-y';
      $col_width = 'panel-h';
   } else {
      $row_coord = 'panel-y';
      $row_width = 'panel-h';
      $col_coord = 'panel-x';
      $col_width = 'panel-w';

   my $rowpos = xml_attrval ($parent, $row_coord) + xml_attrval ($parent, 'border');
   my $rowtotal = xml_attrval ($parent, $row_width) - 2 * xml_attrval ($parent, 'border') - 1
                                                    - (xml_attrval ($parent, 'gutter') * (@actual - 1));
   my $rowportion = $rowtotal / @actual;
   my $row_len;
   foreach $row_len (@actual) {
      next if !$row_len;
      my $colpos = xml_attrval ($parent, $col_coord) + xml_attrval ($parent, 'border');
      my $coltotal = xml_attrval ($parent, $col_width) - 2 * xml_attrval ($parent, 'border') - 1
                                                       - (xml_attrval ($parent, 'gutter') * ($row_len - 1));
      my $colportion = $coltotal / $row_len;
      for (my $i=0; $i < $row_len; $i++) { # Step along the row...
         $r = $rowpos;
         $c = $colpos;
         $rowpos =~ s/\..*//; # Integer portion only -- IM doesn't render lines well if they span pixel boundaries.
         $colpos =~ s/\..*//;

         $r -= $rowpos;
         $c -= $colpos;

         my $panel = shift @panels;
         $rwidth = $rowportion + 1;
         $cwidth = $colportion + 1;
         $rwidth =~ s/\..*//;
         $cwidth =~ s/\..*//;

         if (xml_attrval ($parent, 'rowdir') eq 'horiz') {
            $max = xml_attrval ($parent, $row_coord) + xml_attrval ($parent, $row_width);
            if ($rowpos + $rwidth > $max) { $rwidth = $max - $rowpos; }
            $max = xml_attrval ($parent, $col_coord) + xml_attrval ($parent, $col_width);
            if ($colpos + $cwidth > $max) { $cwidth = $max - $colpos; }
         xml_set ($panel, $row_coord, $rowpos);
         xml_set ($panel, $col_coord, $colpos);
         xml_set ($panel, $row_width, $rwidth);
         xml_set ($panel, $col_width, $cwidth);
         xml_set ($panel, 'linestyle', xml_attrval ($parent, 'linestyle')) if xml_attrval ($panel, 'linestyle') eq '';

         if (xml_attrval ($panel, 'name') eq '') {
            xml_set ($panel, 'name', "panel$panel_number");

         if (!xml_attrval ($panel, 'rowdir')) {
            if (xml_attrval ($parent, 'rowdir') =~ /^v/) {
               xml_set ($panel, 'rowdir', 'horiz');
            } else {
               xml_set ($panel, 'rowdir', 'vert');
         xml_set ($panel, 'gutter', xml_attrval ($parent, 'gutter')) if !xml_attrval ($panel, 'gutter');

         my $panel_list_length = $#panel_list;
         panel_scan ($panel);
         if ($panel_list_length != $#panel_list) {
            # Using a side effect is baroque, isn't it?
            xml_set ($panel, 'linestyle', 'none');

         $colpos += $c + $colportion + xml_attrval ($parent, 'gutter');
      $rowpos += $r + $rowportion + xml_attrval ($parent, 'gutter');

(November 4, 2000) If any panel is decorated with a gradient, then we take care of that now. We treat a color specification for the panel as a gradient for the purposes of drawing. (A blue panel is thus a gradient from blue to blue.) Gradients in ImageMagick are always top to bottom; an interesting extension would be to be able to specify gradients in any direction, but that would require rotating, cropping, and pasting. I won't get into it today.

This first step prepares the background image for the panel -- note that this means that technically we're going to be able to use external image for this at some point. Again, since we're not addressing sizing, I won't get into it today. But this would be the place to do it.
foreach $panel (@panel_list) {
   # Background color or gradient.
   $gradient = '';
   if (xml_attrval ($panel, 'color') ne '') {
      $gradient = xml_attrval ($panel, 'color') . '-' . xml_attrval ($panel, 'color');
   if (xml_attrval ($panel, 'gradient') ne '') {
      $gradient = xml_attrval ($panel, 'gradient');

   next if $gradient eq '';

   print "Creating background image for " . xml_attrval ($panel, 'name') . "\n";
   xml_set ($panel, 'background', xml_attrval ($panel, 'name') . "-bg.gif");
   system "convert -size " . xml_attrval ($panel, 'panel-w') . "x" . xml_attrval ($panel, 'panel-h') . " gradient:$gradient " . xml_attrval ($panel, 'background');
Now we wrap up by defining how we call identify to get the size measurements of our background image.
sub image_geometry {
   my $background = shift;
   print "Determining image geometry of $background.\n";
   system "identify -verbose $background > outfile.txt"; # This is the baroque way of doing this.
   open O, "outfile.txt";
   my @s;
   while () {
      if (/Geometry:/) {
         @s = split /:/;
         my $size = $s[1];
         $size =~ s/ //g;
         @s = split /x/, $size;
   close O;
   return @s;
Cool, eh? I can't wait to see what I do next.

This code and documentation are released under the terms of the GNU license. They are additionally copyright (c) 2001, Vivtek. All rights reserved except those explicitly granted under the terms of the GNU license. This presentation prepared using LPML. Try literate programming. You'll like it.