AI drew this magnificent comic series. You can say?

You’d expect a comic series featuring art generated by AI technology to be filled with surreal imagery that makes you bow your head trying to understand what kind of U-turn madness you’re looking at.

The same is not true of the images in The Bestiary Chronicles, a free comic book series in three parts from Campfire Entertainment, a New York-based production company focused on creative storytelling.

An image from a comic book with AI-generated art shows a woman who looks a lot like Grace Kelly

In The Lesson, a teacher tells students about the monsters that ruined their planet. The team behind the comic used the phrase “Hitchcock Blonde” to describe the heroine of the story to AI art generation tool Midjourney, “and most of the time she came out looking like Grace Kelly,” says writer Steve Coulson.

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The visuals of the trilogy, which is believed to be the first comic book series created with AI-assisted art, are stunning. They’re also astonishingly precise, as if they came straight from the hand of a seasoned digital artist with a very specific story and style in mind.

“Deep underground, the last remnants of humanity gather to learn about the monsters that have destroyed their planet,” reads a description of The Lesson, the visually rich third retro-futuristic comic in the trilogy. All three are available to download now at campfire siteand they also come in paperback and hardcover print anthologies.

Although AI-generated visual art can tend toward the absurd, the photorealistic humans in The Bestiary Chronicles don’t have rearranged facial features or limbs that stick out at odd angles. The monsters, with their glowing eyes and astonishingly bad teeth, look like the loving children of Godzilla and Vhagar and could hardly be mistaken for anything other than rage-filled beasts.

This algorithm-assisted art seems tailor-made for the dark dystopian story, which leans into 1960s sci-fi horror movie tropes. town of the damned and of THX1138George Lucas’s first feature film in 1971.

“We’re seeing the rise of an entirely new visualization tool that will radically change the storytelling process in both the comic book industry and entertainment in general,” said Steve Coulson, writer of the trilogy and creative director of the award-winning Campfire, which has created immersive experiences for fans of shows like Ted Lasso, Westworld, and Watchmen. Its founders devised The Blair Witch Project.

For The Bestiary Chronicles, Coulson turned to halfway, a service that quickly converts short text phrases, or “prompts,” into images by scanning a giant database trained on visual arts by humans. Artificial intelligence tools like this, Give him Y stable diffusion are capturing the imagination of the internet as they allow anyone to manifest images of text in intriguing and sometimes disturbing ways.

The Bestiary Chronicles is a 114-page science fiction odyssey about monsters born from man’s technological hubris. But it also shows the remarkable progress of products like Midjourney, which are producing ever more sophisticated and refined images.

“By the new year, even the trained eye probably won’t be able to perceive one AI generation from any other,” Coulson said. “It’s exciting and scary 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.”

AI image generation is advancing so rapidly, he adds, that The Lesson, which opens on November 1, marks a clear visual advance from the first comic in the trilogy, Summer Island, a popular horror story in the spirit of Midsummer It came out in August. During those three months, Midjourney went through two updates.

A sepia-toned apocalyptic landscape from the comic The Lesson

The Midjourney AI art generation tool did an impressive job of generating images of a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape for The Lesson, the third in a trilogy of comics from the production company Campfire.

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AI, partner in art

“Technology is changing our world, with artificial intelligence a new frontier of possibility but also an anxiety-ridden development,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the San Francisco Museums of Fine Arts, when 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 Y even writing poetry and movie scripts are causing some of that anxiety, increasing ethical and copyright concerns between artists and even lawyers. AI art is not created in a vacuum. It works by absorbing and rebuilding existing art created by humans. As machine-made art improves, will those humans (real graphic designers, illustrators, composers and photographers) be put out of work?

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

Coulson, an avid comic book reader since the age of 5, is among those pondering the complex questions posed by AI art, but he doesn’t think tools like Midjourney will replace the comic book artists he’s long loved. “Those geniuses have an eye for dramatic composition and dynamic storytelling that I highly doubt machine learning can match,” he writes in the epilogue 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 been watching House of the Dragon?

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However, he views Midjourney as his true collaborator on The Bestiary Chronicles, even giving him author credit. Where a comic artist can conceive of 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, thus drastically redefining the entire creative workflow. Coulson likens this human-machine duet to improvisational jazz.

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

The AI ​​art is the star here, but humans had the deciding hand in the visuals that made it into the final version of each story. They experimented with text cues and handpicked their final images from multiple Midjourney offerings, doing a Photoshop adjustment here and there, but mostly letting the machinework stand.

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

“We also used the phrase ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ to describe our heroine, and most of the time she came out looking like Grace Kellysaid Coulson. That’s a totally recognizable Grace Kelly, no misplaced ears or dog muzzle.

“The advances in AI imaging in the last few months have been exponential and mind-blowing,” Coulson said, “and this technology will only get better, faster than we can imagine.”

A page from The Exodus, showing rockets pointing upwards.

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

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