A comic strip via AI about archaeology

This article by Robert Gonsalves details his experiment trying to develop and generate the artwork for a comic strip. It’s very cool, so I thought what the hell… I’d give it a shot. I have an account with OpenAI, so let’s generate some magic!

Concept, Scene, & Dialogue

First step: let’s get a title. In the block below, the line starting with # is what I gave the machine, the rest is what it generated on its default settings.

#Create short wacky titles for a humorous comic strip about archaeologists.

1. A Day in the Life of an Archaeologist
2. The Trials and Tribulations of Archaeology
3. The Funny Side of Archaeology
4. Archaeology: It's Not Just for Geeks Anymore!
5. How to Be an Archaeologist in 10 Easy Steps
6. The Archaeologist's Handbook to Life
7. The Archaeologist's Guide to the Galaxy
8. The Archaeologist's Code of Ethics
9. The Archaeologist's Field Guide to the Universe
10. The Archaeologist's Survival Guide

Alright, the Archaeologist’s Handbook to Life sounds fun, let’s go with that. Next step, some dramatis personae.

#Create lead characters for a new comic strip about archaeologists called 'The Archaeologist's Handbook to Life'.

1. Dr. Jane Smith: A world-renowned archaeologist who has dedicated her life to unearthing ancient civilizations. 
2. Dr. John Jones: Jane's partner and fellow archaeologist. He is a brilliant mind and together they make an unstoppable team. 
3. Bobby: The couple's teenage son who often accompanies them on their adventures. He is a gifted student and is always eager to help out with the excavations.

Ok, husband-and-wife pairs are not uncommon in archaeology. Ok, we’ll go with this. Let’s generate a scene…

#Create a scene with dialog for a comic strip about archaeologists called 'The Archaeologist's Handbook to Life'.
#CHARACTERS:
#Dr. Jane Smith: A world-renowned archaeologist who has dedicated her life to unearthing ancient civilizations. 
#Dr. John Jones: Jane's partner and fellow archaeologist. He is a brilliant mind and together they make an unstoppable team. 
#Bobby: The couple's teenage son who often accompanies them on their adventures. He is a gifted student and is always eager to #help out with the excavations.

Scene:

Dr. Jane Smith: This is it, John! After years of searching, we've finally found the lost city of Atlantis!
Dr. John Jones: Incredible! The sheer size of this place is breathtaking. It's going to take us years to explore all of it!
Bobby: Wow! This is amazing! I can't wait to start digging!
Dr. Jane Smith: Hang on, Bobby. We have to be careful. We don't want to damage any of the artifacts.
Dr. John Jones: Jane's right. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We need to take our time and do it right.
Bobby: I understand. I'll be careful. I promise.

Well that’s pretty… underwhelming. Certainly not funny. A bit earnest. And of course – Atlantis. Let’s see if we can improve that a bit. Other scenes are… well:


Dr. Jane Smith: We've been working on this dig site for weeks now and we still haven't found anything. I'm starting to think that this is a wild goose chase.

Dr. John Jones: Jane, you know as well as I do that these things take time. We can't just give up now. Who knows what we might find if we keep going?

Bobby: Mom, Dad, I found something! Come take a look!

Dr. Jane Smith: What have you found, Bobby?

Bobby: I think it's an ancient coin!

Dr. John Jones: Wow, great job, Bobby! It looks like we might have finally struck gold!

…in fact, the more I generate, the more depressed I get. These characters just aren’t… interesting. Time to back up a step.

#Create lead characters for a new comic strip about archaeologists called 'The Archaeologist's Handbook to Life', which provides an irreverent look at day-to-day life in the field.

1. Dr. Amy Jones: A highly respected archaeologist who is always looking for new and innovative ways to do her job. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she's always looking for new challenges.
2. Dr. John Smith: Amy's colleague and friend. He's a bit of a goofball, but he's always there to lend a helping hand.
3. Dr. Sarah James: Sarah is the newest member of the team. She's fresh out of grad school and ready to take on the world.
4. Dr. David Miller: David is the team's resident expert on ancient cultures. He's always ready to share his knowledge, and he's always eager to help out with any project.

But again, as I generate, everything that comes out is just… just so… worthy. I suppose that’s a good thing, in that this monstrous AI thinks archaeologists are fine upstanding citizens of the world, even if there is a bit of Atlantis going on. In the interests of keeping this experiment going, we’ll go with this scene:

#Create a scene with humorous dialog for a comic strip about archaeologists called 'The Archaeologist's Handbook to Life'.
#Characters:
#Amy: A highly respected archaeologist who is always looking for new and innovative ways to do her job. She's not afraid to #speak her mind, and she's always looking for new challenges.
#John: Amy's colleague and friend. He's a bit of a goofball, but he's always there to lend a helping hand.
#Sarah: Sarah is the newest member of the team. She's fresh out of grad school and ready to take on the world.
#David: David is the team's resident expert on ancient cultures. He's always ready to share his knowledge, and he's always eager to #help out with any project.

Amy: Alright, everyone, listen up! I've just been told that we're going to be working with a new team of archaeologists.
John: Ooh, I love meeting new people!
Sarah: Me too! I'm excited to learn from them.
David: I'm sure they'll be a great help.
Amy: I'm sure they will be, but we're going to need to be careful. We don't want to give away too much about our methods.

Archaeologists being tetchy about how they do things? That tracks.

Art Work with DALL-E

I fed DALL-E the prompt, a comic set in a laboratory for an archaeological excavation. Two men and two women lounge around the work tables, chatting. The style is similar to the Far Side, by Gary Larson.

That resulted in pretty much garbage. This one worked better: `A comic set at an archaeological excavation, with two men and two women as characters wearing work clothes, Amy and John who are serious, and Sarah and David who are not.

The first three pictures could work; the last one looks like DALL-E has ingested a children’s bible. I’ll take the second one, create some variations (which is just a click inside the editor) and using pixlr, see if I can remove DALL-E’s wonky lettering, and add the text that GPT3 created.

…so there we have it. A comic designed and implemented via prompt engineering and a bit of the ol’ cut-n-paste. Now, to use this power for good instead of evil…

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  1. […] ‘graphic novel’ was generated as I did yesterday, through a dialogue with the machine. Dialogue was not so much the focus this time, as look and […]

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