The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence has led to some fascinating creations. However, the advent of image generation software Midjourney AI has resulted in something completely mind blowing: an AI-generated comic book.
Created by photographer and UX designer Kris Kashtanova, 33, AI comic book Zarya of the Dawn shows just how far Midjourney can go. But how much human work goes into an AI graphic novel?
How to make an AI comic book with Midjourney
After seeing a friend use Midjourney AI to enhance their photos, Kashtanova had to use the technology for themselves. Trying the Midjourney AI free period, they created images of New York, their home city, overtaken by nature.
Following further experimentation, Kashtanova explored creating an entire comic book using AI. With knowledge of Midjourney’s limits and tricks in mind, the photographer managed to start creating her story with the help of artificial intelligence.
“On my second day of using Midjourney I realized that I had learned everything about parameters,“ they told us. “It wasn’t challenging anymore. I saw it had limitations, so I thought I’ll do the best I could to tell the story I wrote last year in the form of a graphic novel.”
Zarya of the Dawn (Issue #1) tells the story of an amnesiac waking up in an abandoned New York. Despite being an AI comic book, the storyline is easily followed with each panel perfectly fitting together as if it was drawn by a human, not merely stitched together and written by one.
As we explained in our look at Midjourney AI, there are certain quirks to get what you want out of the software. This involves learning different keyphrases to trick the AI into giving you the exact style you want, something that Kashtanova had to expertly do to create a whole comic issue.
“It was very hard and time consuming,” Kashtanova said. “I had a surgery, so I could afford to spend time doing it. I had free time and I was in pain recovering, so Midjourney was a happy escape. It took around 1,500 rolls to generate 18 pages of the first issue I made.”
To create their recurring characters, Kashtanova have Midjourney image prompts instead of just written words. After creating a character in Metahuman and converting it to pencil sketches, you can make Midjourney use a specific character over and over again.
Zarya of the Dawn has been a very popular piece of AI art. After releasing the AI comic book, Kashtanova was met with an intense positive reaction on social media. They told us:
“I didn’t expect so much support and connection it brought me. I was moving apartments, moving to a different place, and had only an hour every evening to work on it. I didn’t have much time to read comments, but so many people shared my graphic novel, offered help, translated it into several languages. I was sharing each page I was making with Midjourney AI group on Facebook, and people were so supportive and kind.
Zarya of the Dawn: Human Edition
Despite being lauded for its mastery of AI art, Zarya of the Dawn may not stay an AI art piece forever. In fact, there are plans to create a human-made version of the comic book in the future before it can be published as a physical release.
“My plan is to use this comic book as a sketch to my original story,” we were told. “I want to save enough money to hire a real human artist who could improve my work before thinking of publishing it.”
Kashtanova is aware that AI replacing human jobs is an issue. However, they do not believe that an AI comic book, at least in its current state, replaces human creativity.
“I worked as a photographer and an artist for seven years, and it has been hard to be an artist and survive. I understand everyone’s worries. I think it’s one of those things that already exist in the world, and we can choose how we use it for good. I think, instead of being afraid of it, artists can utilize it in their process of coming up with ideas quickly. I think real human artists will still be needed for such works where AI can’t do anything. For example, even though we can generate photographs and those can be used as stock images, it’ll be useless for family photography… I think a lot of people started sharing their stories through AI-generated comic books; those comic books are far from perfect… there’ll be more work for real artists to refine it.”
The Big Switch?
Of course, Midjourney AI won’t always be the best AI for the job. For example, the newly released Stable Diffusion neural net seems more capable than Midjourney, and with fewer restrictions.
While many are unsure how to use Stable Diffusion, it may end up being more widely adopted. For example, Midjourney blocks prompts that call for violence or sex, scenes which occur in some comic stories. On the other hand, Stable Diffusion does not.
While Kashtanova may switch to Stable Diffusion in the future, Midjourney is still the main platform right now. As it stands, Zarya of the Dawn is a fantastic look at what is possible with current-gen AI, and a fantastic inspiration for what comes next.