AI art made headlines this week for beating humans in a fine art competition. This caused a storm of conflicting opinions in the art world. And now there is a new evolution in skirmishing. A graphic novel that features AI-generated artwork will go on sale next week.
A graphic novel that features artificial intelligence (AI)-generated artwork with compelling imagery has hit virtual newsstands. And, it only took 100 hours to make.
The topic of AI-generated art has exploded. Anyone who loves the idea of the future Metaverse is intrigued by the idea of how many virtual worlds can be created like this. The idea that the Metaverse is even closer than we think using this kind of technology is tantalizing to Metaverse enthusiasts. But for now, the question bothers a lot of people in the art world.
AI Art and Graphic Novels
Author Kevin Hess is a science fiction enthusiast. His favorite book is star maker by Olaf Stapledon – first published in 1937. The book describes the history of life in the universe and discusses philosophical ideas such as the meaning of life, birth and death, and unity between civilizations. Hugely popular science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke said it was “probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written”.
Hess decided to pay homage to his favorite book (which is now out of copyright due to its age) and reimagine it as a graphic novel. He used the AI-art generation platform Midjourney to create what could be the world’s first fully illustrated novel. Not only is it the first fully illustrated novel… It’s the first fully illustrated novel where an AI created the illustrations. And this is where highly skilled artists who have studied their craft for years start to get excited.
Classic literature in the form of graphic novels
Nowadays, there are many graphic adaptations of famous novels. However, they are not the same as the original novels – they lack the full text of the novel and rely on art to communicate the missing parts. This is where Hess’s book is different.
In total, Hess’ graphic novel has 706 fully illustrated pages. Says Hess, “I wanted to bring the visual feel of a graphic novel with an epic, sweeping story to a deserving and somewhat forgotten novel. It is visualized for modern readers in a way that simply would not have been possible until now. star maker is by far my favorite novel, and I’ve been trying to get people to read it for years.
AI Art – Getting Started
Hess dabbled in writing AI for professional purposes, but the first AI art program he encountered was Wombo.ai. He says the rate at which they are improving these art programs is absolutely remarkable.
“It was a really interesting, albeit rudimentary, tool. It was interesting enough to stick in my mind. So when I saw better quality examples coming out of projects like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, I jumped on them and started messing around with them.
Hess says everyone has lots of ideas for things they’d like to do, but they’re missing one essential piece. “They would like to be in a band, but they can’t play an instrument. Or they would like to write a novel, but don’t have much free time to write. There are many people who want to tell the stories that have been in their minds for years. But they never had the ability to create art to match. So either they are stuck in the crowded news market or they have to find an artist or develop their skills themselves.
The art of AI and the real world
Many people would say that in this case, the AI takes the work of skilled artists. However, this project would cost so much that it would never have been commissioned.
According to Hess, “Using traditional art methods, it would take so long that you would have a hard time justifying it for anything other than Harry Potter or the Bible. Production costs would be exorbitant. star maker is kind of a unique book that just happens to be exactly the kind of thing AI art can do really well right now. It has lush alien landscapes and simple scenes.
Hess says Midjourney is great at some things and still absolutely terrible at others. “It’s very difficult to generate action scenes – or human figures at all. You can’t create the same character over and over, and so on. However, star maker is an atypical book in several respects. It has almost no main character – the narrator quickly becomes a disembodied presence watching civilizations rise and fall. There are no fight scenes, but lots of philosophical reflections and observations. The exact visual details of anything described in the book aren’t particularly important except to marvel. Additionally, Midjourney has its own unique art style. It’s perfect for the dreamy/unearthly vibe of star maker.”
Hess managed to complete most of the image generation in the first six days. The rest of the work for the following week was layout, lettering, error correction, double checking, etc. In all, Hess says, it was about 100 hours of work from start to finish.
“AI art at the moment is not good at producing bespoke images of humans doing specific things. So a 40,000-page epic of the Complete the Adventures of the Hardy Boys isn’t really going to be as easy as it looks. If all you need is skyscrapers, cherry blossoms, or a teddy bear, and you don’t need to see them again, that’s great. If you need seventy panels of the same character performing thirty complex actions, you’ll never get there with AI art, yet.
Hess says if star maker proves popular enough, he’ll make Stapledon’s next book, and maybe even Dante’s Inferno, or the Book of Revelation.
“It’s cool to be (potentially) the first in human history to do something specific, and a full, fully illustrated novel is far more important than a Guinness World Record for piling Solo cups on your chin. .”
Kevin Hess’ version of star maker will be available on Google Play and Amazon on September 17.
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