Stargazer Episode Zero comic is illustrated entirely with AI-generated images. Its creator, Adam Rodriguez, said he felt like he had access to "the most talented graphics department in history" - with no limits on budget.
Stargazer Episode Zero retells the story of American soldiers in Vietnam: they encounter a cosmic anomaly that will change their lives and the future of our world forever.
Sounds like a typical sci-fi story? Maybe - but what makes it special is how the comic came to be.
How Rodriguez solved the consistency issue
All the panels in the 17 total pages were illustrated with Midjourney. Unlike the recent graphic novel "Star Maker," artist Adam Rodriguez intensively reworked many of the images, especially to ensure consistency among the characters.
After all, consistency is precisely a weakness of current image AI systems, which can output wholly different images even to the same prompt. But for a coherent story that relies heavily on characters, consistency is essential.
In addition to post-production, Rodriguez used a trick for more consistency in Midjourney outputs: In his prompts, he mentioned famous people he wanted his comic book characters to resemble.
"When I did not reference a famous person, and I got a result I liked, I would render a bunch of variations and re-rolls to build a little library. Also, I framed more than a few shots for the story with the character's back to the camera," Rodriguez reveals of another creative move.
In the future, he would like to be able to save a face as a variable, for example, and call it up again and again in compositions. That would make storytelling much easier. This would already work in rudimentary form, for example via a SEED number or image weights. The artist expects rapid progress in this area.
Midjourney needs human guidance
Originally, Rodriguez wanted to generate the entire comic only with Midjourney if possible. He was excited by his initial attempts and the positive feedback he received on social media. But he quickly reached the limits of the system.
"I wasn't going to get anywhere near the quality and consistency I wanted in one take renders. MidJourney produces some fantastic images, but there is such a large degree of variation, I had to blend images and mix the elements I liked," Rodriguez says.
Sporadically, he says, a happy accident is possible. But more often than not, you have to see the possibilities in a long series of renderings that are far from your vision, Rodriguez says. From time to time, he's been frustrated, but the excitement and potential far outweighed any angst.
The often described interplay between artist and AI as a tool already begins in the creation process: "Each image goes through many many revisions, re-renders, and variations. I rarely get the right image on the first prompt, and I think if you do you're being impatient and you're not exploring all the creative options," Rodriguez says.
Artists on the path to new workflows
Rodriguez says he can't draw himself, although he would like to. That's why AI imaging systems like Midjourney would appeal to him. Still, he doesn't think AI can replace artists - but the workflow would change.
"I think the best creative output will come from using AI to inspire and direct an artist to push beyond the boundaries of what was possible before," Rodriguez says.
Plus, he says, Midjourney and Co. have the potential to save time and money in the process. For an earlier issue of the Stargazer comic, Rodriguez originally worked with an illustrator. But that took too much time to conceptualize and revise the alien worlds and characters, he says.
"For an independent writer and creator, being able to shoot those ideas back and forth with MidJourney first is a truly incredible thing. It saves time and budget, of course, but when the artist takes the idea and adds to it, I think we will really be able to tell some incredible stories," Rodriguez says.
He sees human artists in particular as having an advantage when it comes to depicting actions and emotions. Capturing these with AI is difficult and often random, he says. That's why he changed and improvised the plot of Stargazer in small steps so that it goes hand in hand with the illustrations.
"I want to use AI to express my ideas as a writer and tell stories alongside the art. I do feel like I have access to the most talented art department in history and an unlimited budget. So sure, we are spoiled with the sheer power of all of this technology, but you still need some human touch. For now, at least," Rodriguez says.
Stargazer Episode Zero is available on Amazon and will soon be released in an anthology with other AI-designed comics. Since its release, Stargazer Episode Zero, which took about four weeks to create, has occupied top 10 spots in Amazon bestsellers. It is currently #1 in the Sci-Fi category.