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December 18, 2009

Secrets of the Comics Kingdom

Filed under: comics,fun,what's new — Nick @ 8:48 pm

Newspaper websites that show comic strips syndicated by King Features Syndicate (KFS) have been using the Reed-Brennan Media Associates (RBMA) as a source for their strips; one example is the Houston Chronicle comics page for which the color comics come from rbma. Some of the complaints of the rbma-served comics are their small size, occasional flakiness of their server, and inability to directly link to their comics (although that’s certainly their prerogative and I don’t fault them for it).

Some newspapers, such as the Toronto Star, are now serving these comics from a source called the Comics Kingdom. Although their interface seems a bit clunky and script-heavy, they do have the advantage of also providing higher-resolution images than are available through rbma. Moreover, they are (so far) allowing hotlinking directly to their images.

Inspection of the url for images coming from the CK reveals they have the general structure:

http://content.comicskingdom.net/feature/feature.yyyymmdd _size.gif

where:

feature = the id of the strip
yyyy = year (4 digits)
mm = month (2 digits)
dd = day (2 digits)

_size could have values of _small, _med, or _large (525, 665, or 760 px wide, respectively, at least for several strips I looked at)

For example. today’s (Dec. 18, 2009) Rhymes With Orange, large version is:

http://content.comicskingdom.net/Rhymes_with_Orange/Rhymes_with_Orange.20091218_large.gif

A little experimentation has revealed a hidden archive that seems to go back to Nov. 1, 2007, at least for several strips that I tested.

Again, for Rhymes With Orange, that would be:

http://content.comicskingdom.net/Rhymes_with_Orange/Rhymes_with_Orange.20071101_large.gif

After a bit of poking around, I fond another interesting hidden feature: Leaving off the “_size” argument shows an even bigger picture, one that seems 1200 px wide for
the comics I tested. For example, here is a 1200 px wide Family Circus panel, in all its glory:

http://content.comicskingdom.net/Family_Circus/Family_Circus.20071101.gif

Oddly, the few Sunday strips I tested seem to be “only” 1000 px wide, although strips farther back in the archive seem to be bigger.

Oh, one more thing. It seems that it is possible to get a peek at the future. For the last couple of weeks, I noticed that on Saturday they upload one week’s worth of strips in advance.

I stumbled across these features while trying to build a Comics Kingdom strip viewer and also trying to teach myself php at the same time. After a few false starts and a lot of rebuilds, I put together a Comics Kingdom Viewer page in which a user can either select a number of strips to view at once, or else select a single strip for any given date that exists in their archive. I made the output for the multi-strip viewer page “bookmarkable,” so that it should be possible to bookmark a daily reading list. I also made “forward” and “back” links so that one can step through the archive day by day.

Nick

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