I'm on record as being a big fan of the work of Brian Michael Bendis in general, and his run on Superman in particular (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- Forward Into The Past”). But like most everyone in comics, I was pretty indifferent to the news that in Superman #18, out in December, the Man of Steel would once again be revealing his secret identity to the general public. Something he’s repeatedly done as recently as 2015. But I became interested after I read the New York Times story, "Superman Speaks His Truth". In an interview, Bendis backed up his statement “I don’t do fake-out stories.” by reminding me he “did a story where Daredevil was outed, a different kind of outing, but that was his reality for 15 years.”
Bendis also said that they “...wanted to do this because behind it is 1,000 brand-new Superman stories that have never been told”. I’m someone who keeps on saying I’m always looking for something I haven’t read before, and if anything can generate some genuinely new Superman stories, it’s this. There is, of course, nothing “permanent” in mainstream superhero comics; things will inevitably return to the status quo. I have no expectation this development will last fifteen years, but I’ll call it a complete success if it lasts any longer than two.
I've always been pretty upfront about my life long love of Astro Boy and his creator Osamu Tezuka (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy-- The Impending Boy Robot Renaissance"). So, you might imagine my surprise when I read the headline "Astro Boy's Late Creator to Release New Manga with Help from AI". It seems the Japanese tech firm Kioxia is hoping "to hone in on the main elements of Tezuka's style, Kioxia's technology wants to craft an entire new work inspired by the prolific creator." Kioxia is hoping “to debut the new manga in February 2020” but it’s still unclear as to where they mean computer-generated "images based on Tezuka's work” or an actual new manga story done in Tezuka’s style using some of Tezuka’s characters.
Naturally, this raises all kinds of questions and concerns, primarily as Jeff Goldblum's character Dr. Ian Malcolm put it in 1993's Jurassic Park, that we’ve become so “so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.” As someone who fancies himself a writer, I can definitely see the downsides and the negatives; AI is already being used to create both music and literature, but I can also see how it could be used as a tool by creators to help them create. it’s only a matter of time before bestselling big brand name authors start writing series fiction which is at least partially co-written by Artificial Intelligence, "Ghost in The Machine" writers, if you will.
And AI will undoubtedly, eventually be used to create comics; it’s not something I’m particularly worried about because it certainly won’t happen today or tomorrow, but it does seem inevitable. And while I do have some real concerns about machines creating facsimiles of the works of dead writers and artists, especially without the permission of their estates, mostly, I’m intrigued by the possibilities of seeing “new works” by Herge, Alex Raymond, Siegel and Shuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and, of course, Osamu Tezuka.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.