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<   No. 4838   2022-10-19   >

Comic #4838

1 C-3PO: I think I might take up a new hobby. Painting.
1 Luke: No, you couldn’t paint. You couldn’t even draw.
2 C-3PO: I could always learn.
2 Luke: You could, but you wouldn’t.
3 {beat}
4 Luke: You’re not even an artist.
4 C-3PO: You don’t know the half of it.

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Like everyone else on the Internet, I've been fascinated by the recent proliferation of AI-generated content, in particular graphical artwork. The big guns in art generation (right now) are DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and MidJourney. These all have free beginner accounts, but after a trial few generations you need to buy a subscription. A simpler, free version is Craiyon, which you can just play with casually without having to sign up for an account.

So I was thinking about the idea of C-3PO taking up painting, and wondering what sort of art he would produce. And then I realised I could make a comic where the artwork was all produced by AI generation.

And then to go full circle, what if the script of the comic was also generated by an AI program? So I went to GPT-J Playground, a free public implementation of a text generator similar to the heavyweight GPT-3 (which also requires a paid account to use). I typed in the following text, and asked GPT-J to continue:

Generate a script for a funny Star Wars webcomic.
C-3PO: I think I might take up a new hobby. Painting.
Luke Skywalker:

Here's a screenshot of the result (with some whitespace removed to better fit on this web page):

GPT-J results

As you can see from the above strip, I decided that the first few lines were suitable for a comic. I then used Craiyon to generate art with the prompt "Lego C-3PO and Luke Skywalker talking in Luke's bedroom on Tatooine". I did a couple of generations and chose the most appropriate four images to illustrate the script that GPT-J generated.

Now, this is not the first comic to be made entirely by AI. This guy wrote a blog post detailing his experiments with doing the same thing, and with some more impressive results. I wanted to try Stable Diffusion for the artwork here, but alas my free credits had expired for some reason not clear to me. And when I tried DALL-E, it made some very nice Lego bedroom sets and figures that could be Luke, but refused to produce anything even remotely looking like C-3PO. I suspect they removed any images containing the trademarked C-3PO character likeness from their training set data.

Anyway, I'm actually quite happy with the result. I think the joke is decent, especially given the context around it and how I produced this comic. The artwork could be better, but it gets the idea across adequately, which is the important point for a comic.

Opinions are very split on AI-generated artwork. Some people think it's an abomination, or shouldn't be allowed, or various other negative responses. I prefer to look at with eyes full of wonder and promise.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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