Fan Art Friday–Sept. 23, 2022

Time to start a new tradition.

My career as a writer is only getting started. And one thing I’ve always envied about established authors is how fans will create artworks to celebrate and cherish the author’s books. Many authors will even showcase these works, as a way of forging links with the fan community.

And I figure, “Why don’t I just get started now?”

Well, There Is One Reason

In past ages, having fan art was predicated on having—you know—fans. No first-time author could hope to have a Fan Art Friday.

But we live in an age of miracles. One where we can send letters anywhere on Earth within seconds and have anything delivered to our doors. Perhaps we can somehow bend information technology to the task of solving the problem of a first-book author having fan art to showcase.

What would that look like?

Enter the AI Artist

Earlier this year, OpenAI revealed the latest iteration of its AI art-creating software, called Dall E2. This software could create unthinkably realistic images based on word prompts by any halfwit human.

They immediately restricted its use to select invitees, fearing the disruptive power of this technology. Thus they kept us all safe from widespread generation of AI art…for a few months.

Competitors sprang up overnight. Midjourney is an even more sophisticated AI that is open to all. And a certain author had no compunctions about dabbling with it, to see exactly what it was capable of.

My Verdict

I’m glad I went with human artists for the cover and illustrations of my book, Advent 9. The art created by Midjourney is fascinating to behold, and can in many ways compete with human-created art, but it is held back by its inability to process language as precisely as a human.

That’s right: AI artists are inferior not because they can’t paint well, but because they can’t take directions—unless those directions are simple.

The language barrier is, for now, protecting the careers of human artists. And it may do so for generations (or only for months; who knows?).

But, though AI is woefully unprepared to create cover art, it is already primed to make some fine fan art. And this allows me to show you some amazing results.

This Week’s Subject: Advent 9 Himself

Our theme this week revolves around the world’s last superhero who is tasked with putting together the secrets of his history.

Let’s start with the first-ever AI-generated image of the guy, created by the prompt: “blond male superhero 16 years old with white costume wearing a blue mantle”.

Not a bad looking example, I must say.

Of course, this Advent 9 doesn’t quite match the description. He isn’t wearing a blue mantle. And some blue has managed to get on his face. Still, this would work as concept art for, say, a motion picture adaptation of the book.

Using the same prompt, the artist managed to create quite a few variations.

A bunch of good-looking guys, to be sure, but there are some noticeable problems. Midjourney keeps trying to apply a Superman “S” diamond to these images, even though Advent 9 has nothing to do with Superman.

Though the artist is getting better at putting a blue mantle on him.

If we try again while selecting a more action-ready pose, we get many of the same benefits…and issues.

Why does it keep making him Superman? HE’S NOT SUPERMAN!


But AI can work in a number of different styles. Perhaps we are simply wording our prompts too broadly. Let’s try some new approaches.

Let’s imagine how Akira Toriyama would draw Advent 9.

And now all I can think about is Advent 9 versus Goku.

Okay, let’s go even more old-school: Advent 9 as drawn by Jack Kirby.

Very classic. Very retro. Wish more modern comics would embrace this kind of line work.

Or, to really challenge the artist, how about we ask it imagine Advent 9 as drawn by Frank Miller?

What grade would you give the artist?

Wrap Up

I realize that many of these images suggest that an AI artist can do absolutely anything.

But that’s wrong. Every one of these images required frequent rerolling. Half the time, Midjourney simply drew a blond Superman. It really likes Superman. And convincing it that not all superheroes wear the letter “S” on their chests is an exercise in futility.

Still, I have to admit that Midjourney is particularly good at imitating the style of other artists. If you don’t care what it draws in that style, then you’re golden. Only when you try to give it specific instructions concerning what objects should be drawn does it give headaches.

Therefore, it’s not good for generating art that needs to be part of a larger project. You could not draw an entire comic book this way.

But when it comes to standalone fan art, it suffices.

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