AI drew this wonderful comic book series. You would never know

You might expect a comic book series featuring entirely AI-generated artwork to be full of surreal imagery that makes you tilt your head trying to grasp the kind of mind-altering madness. meaning you look.

That’s not the case with the footage from The Bestiary Chronicles, a free three-part comic book series from Campfire Entertainment, a New York-based production house focused on creative storytelling.

In The Lesson, a teacher tells students about the monsters that destroyed their planet. The team behind the comic used the phrase “Hitchcock Blonde” to describe the story’s heroine to AI art generation tool Midjourney, “and more often than not she looked like Grace Kelly,” says writer Steve Coulson.

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The visuals for the trilogy – believed to be the first comic book series made with AI-assisted art – are stunning. They’re also incredibly accurate, as if straight out of the hand of a seasoned digital artist with a very specific story and style in mind.

“Deep underground, the last remnants of humanity are gathering to learn more about the monsters that destroyed their planet,” reads a description for The Lesson, the third visually-rich retro-futuristic comic in the trilogy. All three are available to download now from the Campfire site, and are also available in hardcover and softcover print anthologies.

While the AI-generated visual art may tend toward the absurd, the photorealistic humans in The Bestiary Chronicles don’t have rearranged facial features, or protruding limbs at odd angles. The monsters – with their glowing eyes and surprisingly bad teeth – look like love children to Godzilla and Vhagar and can hardly be mistaken for anything other than rage-filled beasts.

This algorithm-assisted art seems tailor-made for the dark dystopian tale, which draws on tropes from the 1960 sci-fi horror film Village of the Damned and THX 1138, George Lucas’ feature debut in Hollywood. 1971.

“We’re seeing the rise of an all-new visualization tool that will dramatically change the storytelling process in the comics and entertainment industry in general,” said Steve Coulson, Trilogy Writer and Director. award-winning Campfire creative, who has created immersive fan experiences for shows such as Ted Lasso, Westworld and Watchmen. Its founders imagined the Blair Witch project.

For The Bestiary Chronicles, Coulson turned to Midjourney, a service that quickly turns short text sentences, or “prompts,” into images by scanning a giant database of visual art trained by humans. Artificial intelligence tools like this, Slab and Stable Broadcast are capture the imagination of the internet because they allow anyone to manifest images from text in intriguing and sometimes disturbing ways.

The Bestiary Chronicles is a 114-page science fiction odyssey about monsters born of human technological hubris. But it also highlights the remarkable progress of products like Midjourney, which are producing increasingly sophisticated and polished images.

“By the new year, even the trained eye probably won’t be able to spot one generation of AI among the rest,” Coulson said. “It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so we’re embracing the future as fast as we can.”

The generation of AI images is progressing so rapidly, he adds, that The Lesson, released on November 1, marks a clear visual step forward from the first comic in the trilogy, Summer Island, a story of folk horror in the mind of Midsommar which came out in August. During these three months, Midjourney underwent two upgrades.

A sepia-toned apocalyptic landscape from The Lesson comic

AI art-generating tool Midjourney has done an impressive job spitting out images of a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape for The Lesson, the third in a trilogy of comic books from production house Campfire.

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AI, partner of art

“Technology is changing our world, with artificial intelligence both a new frontier of the possible but also an anxiety-laden development,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, during the exhibition Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI opened in 2020 to explore the ever-expanding space where humans and artificial intelligence meet.

AI generating visual art, composing songs and even write poetry and movie scripts fuel some of that anxiety, raising ethical and copyright issues among artists and even lawyers. AI art is not created in a vacuum. It works by absorbing and reconstructing existing art created by humans. As machine-made art improves, will these humans – real graphic designers, illustrators, composers and photographers – find themselves unemployed?

When an AI-generated image won an art award in September, some artists weren’t happy. “We watch the death of art unfold before our eyes,” one Twitter user wrote.

Coulson, an avid comic book reader since age 5, is among those pondering the complex questions raised by AI art, but he doesn’t think tools like Midjourney will replace comic book artists. comics that he has loved for a long time. “These geniuses have an eye for dramatic composition and dynamic storytelling that I highly doubt machine learning can match,” he wrote in the afterword to Summer Island. “But as a visualization tool for non-artists like me, it’s a lot of fun.”

Dragons with open mouths and sharp teeth look like something out of House of the Dragon

Has Midjourney watched House of the Dragon?

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He does, however, consider Midjourney his true collaborator in The Bestiary Chronicles, even giving him author credit. Where a comic book artist can design a narrative and then create art to illustrate it, AI-assisted imagery has the potential to more actively direct the story, or even change its direction, thereby redefining in a way spectacular the entire creative workflow. Coulson compares this man-machine duo to improvisational jazz.

“I would never ask a human artist to just ‘draw 100 splash pages and maybe pick the one I like best’, but Midjourney will happily spit them out 24/7,” Coulson says. . “Then, after going through the footage, we start putting the story together, almost like a collage act, filling in the gaps along the way.”

The AI ​​art is the star here, but the humans had the deciding hand in which images were incorporated into the final version of each story. They experimented with text prompts and carefully selected their final images from several Midjourney offerings, making a Photoshop tweak here and there, but mostly leaving the work done to the machine.

The Campfire team, for example, liked the rich effect produced by the “olive green and sepia and teal newt print on watercolor paper” style prompt, so they often used it to give images an effect. pictorial. For The Lesson, the phrase “futuristic underground bunker in the style of JC Leyendecker” yielded the perfect retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic refuge.

“We also used the phrase ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ to describe our heroine, and more often than not she looked like Grace Kelly,” Coulson said. She’s a perfectly recognizable Grace Kelly, with no misplaced ears or dog muzzle.

“The advances in AI image generation over the past few months have been exponential and breathtaking,” Coulson said, “and this technology is only going to get better — faster than we can imagine.”

A page from The Exodus, showing rockets pointing upwards

Exodus, the second comic in the trilogy, chronicles humanity’s last attempt to save itself from the monsters that roam the planet.

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