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The first comic created by artificial intelligence - and it's excellent

Less than a month ago, the first comic book produced without illustrators was published. In fact, only two names appear on the main page of the book. The writer of the story is Steve Coulson, and the illustrator is MidJourney: an artificial intelligence that knows how to produce drawings on demand">צילום מסך מסוף הקומיקס, בו מראה קולסון את אחד הטקסטים בהם השתמש כדי להנחות את הבינה המלאכותית – ואת התוצאה. את הקומיקס אפשר להוריד <a href=
A screenshot from the end of the comic, where Coulson shows one of the texts he used to guide the artificial intelligence - and the result. The comic can be downloaded HERE

Less than a month ago, the first comic book produced without illustrators was published. In fact, only two names appear on the main page of the book. The writer of the story is Steve Coulson, and the illustrator is MidJourney: an artificial intelligence that knows how to produce drawings on demand.

We are used to flipping through comic books quickly, forgetting the amount of work that went into them. Beyond the craft of writing, the part that takes the most time is - of course - the drawing itself. Each panel requires the human painter to translate the writer's instructions into an image in his mind, then transfer it to the page in outline. Then go over the illustration and highlight its final configuration, then add the colors and small details. In the end, you also have to match the text boxes, stand and design everything - and send it to print.

It is not surprising to find that such an ant work, which is divided between several human workers, can easily take more than six months for a comic book of less than fifty pages.

Steve Coulson created a comic of the same length, in just four weeks. himself. in his spare time. It turns out that it is much easier to do this, when artificial intelligence takes the place of the illustrator.

But are the comics even good?

There are millions of painters in the world today, and somehow there seems to be one hobby that most of them have in common: they tend to underestimate artificial intelligence. Or at least they used to until the last year. What hasn't been said about her already? has no "soul"[1], that this is not a true artist because she is devoid of "collective psychology that has developed over a millennium"[2], which may be "professional" but it cannot evoke real emotion in the viewer.

Researchers at the academy have shown in the past year that when they expose human subjects to art made by artificial intelligence, the responses change depending on the context. If humans know that it is artificial intelligence, then they tend to be less excited, and rate it as lower quality. In comparison, if the researchers lie and tell the subjects that it is human art, the emotion scores jump upwards. We have an automatic bias, it turns out, against artificial intelligence[3].

Coulson's comics show that artificial intelligence can certainly evoke emotion, especially when used as a tool in the hands of a talented creator. I read the comic, and it is a work that manages to stir the veins of the heart, and the illustrations usually hit the mark. They are not perfect, and in some places they tend towards surrealism, but even then they manage to convey an emotion: horror, tension, longing for spaces and freedom.

Screenshot from the comic. The comic can be downloaded
Screenshot from the comic. The comic can be downloaded HERE

You can still argue that only the combination of man and machine can evoke real emotion among viewers. You're wrong, but that's okay: you're only human. I do agree that people tend to be more excited when they are They know that there is human intent and human effort behind a certain creation. In this respect, we can now expect a huge abundance of exciting, exciting, horrifying and thought-provoking works, because every child is suddenly armed with creative powers that were previously reserved only for painters who have practiced their craft for decades.

For those who feared that the world would be emptied of emotion with the arrival of artificial intelligence that paints, I am happy to announce that the exact opposite is true: the world is about to be filled with color and emotional richness.

The creation process of the new comic gives us a glimpse of the way this will happen.

Today, creating a new comic is a complex craft that requires close collaboration between several different artists. It wasn't always like that. At the beginning of Marvel's career, the "run ahead" method was accepted, which mainly involved two artists: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Stan Lee would write the basic plot and hand it over to Kirby, the illustrator. Kirby would create the panels and the art as he saw fit, then return it to the writer. Stan Lee would go through the illustrations, add the appropriate texts to them - and sometimes even change the narrative and the plot as needed.

Screenshot from the comic. The comic can be downloaded
Screenshot from the comic. The comic can be downloaded HERE

As I wrote, this is an ancient method that is no longer used in the industry. Today, creating comics is not 'equal': the writer and editor-in-chief are God, and the artists mostly follow their instructions to the best of their ability.

Coulson created his comics in a kind of continuous improvisation. He asked the AI ​​to produce the illustrations for each panel in the comic, and the story changed depending on the merchandise it provided. As he himself wrote at the end of the book -

“… For this story, I had a basic plot in mind when I started, but when the pictures were made, it went in completely different directions. The result was that Mariamo's story [the heroine of the story; R.C.] only sharpened towards the end. The speed at which the technology works, with almost instant creations for written text, allows you to create visual stories in a very different way, almost like a jazz improvisation."

Again, this is great news for crafters: if you just want to create, then AI becomes your best friend. It becomes a co-creator, or an entire artificial jazz band that improvises around your thoughts and ideas and allows you to improve them and get the most and the best out of them in hours - instead of days or months. And all this, at minimal or even zero cost.

It's time to mention a small but important detail: you can download Coulson's four comic books - all of which were illustrated by artificial intelligence - completely for free, at the attached link[4].

why is it important? Because the fact that this work of art is freely available to any reader reflects the fact that much less human labor was put into making it happen. All that was needed was one talented person, and artificial intelligence to improvise alongside him. And while the time he spent was certainly valuable, it's not even close to the costs involved in producing comics in the traditional ways, which reach costs of several hundred dollars per page. Coulson could afford to share his comics with us because his production costs were so low.

So what will Coulson survive on? It's okay: he's an artist, and artists aren't interested in money.

Oh, no?

Still, I want to reassure you: don't worry about Coulson. His comic impressed me enough - in terms of story and graphics - that I bought the full hardcover book on Amazon. I guess others will do as I did, and Coulson will be rewarded for his work[5].

For the foreseeable future, the costs of producing new comic books will decrease dramatically, which is a great thing. New creators will be able to bring great ideas to the market at low costs, and gain widespread exposure almost immediately. Readers, for their part, will pay less for the comics. Most likely, independent creators will publish their works for free in the online world, and make a living from support through sites like Patreon, or through the sale of physical books. Those who can - will pay. Those who cannot - will not pay. And yet everyone will benefit from a higher level of education than we currently receive.

And what about today's major comic book companies - Marvel and DC? These will probably not lower the prices of brochures for the consumer, at least not immediately. They have to preserve the existing creative processes and organizational structures, which cost them a lot of money. Even they will sooner or later be forced to join the revolution, and significantly improve their comics to continue to justify the 'high' costs to the consumer of two dollars per booklet.

Either way, humans will benefit: the artists, the public and everyone.

This was an article of optimistic outpouring about the future (and present) of art, but I want to set my feet on the ground again for a moment. Coulson is indeed the only artist whose name appears on the comic, but reading between the lines you can understand that this work is still the product of a team[6]. When Coulson talks about the creative process, he speaks in the plural -

"After we review the images [produced by the artificial intelligence; R.C.] We begin to assemble the story, almost like a mosaic, filling in spaces as we progress."

I could be wrong, and Coulson really produced the entire comic entirely by himself. Still, let me flow for a moment with my critical mind, which claims that there are hints that comics right now aren't really the work of just one person. If I'm right in my guess, then even Coulson - as talented as he is - still needed more artists to have an opinion about the AI's proposals, and give its ideas one final polish. And of course, the final illustrations will be combined into complete comic pages.

Looking into the future, this little detail doesn't bother me. We are still at the beginning of the new artistic revolution, and the new work processes have not yet been discovered, perfected and established. Coulson may have needed a team to produce the comic (implied, since he doesn't explicitly say so), but it's also understandable that it was a smaller team - and certainly a job that was done much faster than usual.

Artificial intelligence has allowed all of this to happen, and there is no sign that it will stop improving in the coming years. Coulson may still need a graphic artist to decide where to place the text boxes in each panel, but in one of the next versions of the AI, she'll be able to do it herself. He may have needed a professional to place all the panels in exactly the right place on each page, but artificial intelligence will take his place sooner or later.

And what will remain nationalists?

Create, create and create more: faster, better and richer.

Art is not going to die. exactly the opposite. She is about to enter her most beautiful period in the 21st century.