Arts & Design

Stepping Into the Unknown: Making an AI comic book

OMEN by HP partnered with a video game writer and other creatives to produce an AI-generated comic book that debuted at the 2023 BILIBILI World Event in China.

By Lauren Grayson — September 21, 2023

In the vibrant world of comic book creation, where fandom, lore, and originality are the driving forces behind captivating stories, is there room for artificial intelligence? 

Phil Gelatt, an Emmy award-winning screenwriter, director, video game writer and comic book creator, thinks so. He embraced the opportunity when invited to collaborate with OMEN by HP and Anonymous Content’s The Lab to produce a new comic book, with help from generative AI. The Way Forward: Into the Unknown is a project that blurs the lines between human creativity and advanced technology. 

Gelatt has been recognized for his writing on the Love, Death + Robots series and blockbuster game The Rise of Tomb Raider. Now his latest venture into the world of AI storytelling is inspiring him to think about the future of creative collaboration.

“As a writer, I’m always interested in finding new tools that can be used in the service of building worlds and telling stories,” he says. 

Comic book creator Phil Gelatt.

Comic book creator Phil Gelatt.

The creative process was a multistep project that involved the input of both man and machine. Gelatt crafted an action-packed script and then the Lore Machine AI tool’s powerful natural language processing model identified crucial story elements including characters, settings, and action sequences. 

Next, the OMEN team established a unified art style to feed into the system, providing a specific layout, color palette, and character design. This generated an extensive inspiration board brimming with thousands of relevant images. To add the human touch needed for an immersive graphic novel, synthographer Jumoke Fernandez and designer Dersu Rhodes then curated the image library into the cohesive final product available today.

Launched at the 2023 BILIBILI World Event, China’s largest anime, comics, and gaming event, Into the Unknown tells the story of three characters trapped in a video game, compelled to overcome a series of obstacles through teamwork, unwavering determination, and a little help from an OMEN by HP gaming PC.

The Garage sat down with Gelatt to learn more about his work and the role that sees AI playing today to push the boundaries of imagination and technology alike. 


RELATED: Finding the art in artificial intelligence


What inspired you to become a comic book author and what drives your passion for storytelling? 

I grew up with comics so I’ve loved them my whole life. I grew up reading Alan Moore and Frank Miller so that's really what inspired me to get started in comics.

The appeal of them was always that it didn't take an army to tell a story. If you want to make a video game or you want to make a movie or TV show, you need millions of dollars and you need hundreds of people. But for a comic, it can be a much more personal, much smaller creative brain trust that brings that story to fruition.

“Part of the reason I wanted to take this on was as an experiment to understand what it can do and what it can’t do.”

— Phil Gelatt, director, video game writer, and comic book creator

How do you typically approach crafting characters and plotlines? How did this process change when working with AI?

It was actually fairly similar to a normal writing process. You write a script, send it off to an artist, they send you back artwork, then you give notes on that artwork and it changes based on those notes.

The types of notes I gave were different because I was interacting with an AI generation tool, but also via human intermediaries. So there were the prompt people who took what was writing and inserted it into the AI to give the artwork back. That was interesting. But the baseline process is actually remarkably similar to how you would normally write a comic book, at least from my perspective.

Into the Unknown blurs the lines between human creativity and advanced technology.


Into the Unknown blurs the lines between human creativity and advanced technology.

What challenges did you face when integrating AI into your creative workflow?

I think for this AI generative tool, there were strange iterations that were getting inserted into the process because it wasn’t understanding the artistic consistency that was necessary.

The AI system that we were using needed a little bit of handholding. For example, the panel to panel flow was an area that we had to massage a lot because it’s one thing to generate static images for the AI, but it’s another thing to give those images a natural narrative flow on the page like you would normally find in a comic book.   

What role did the partnership with OMEN play with bringing Into the Unknown to life? 

I came up with a high level idea and the OMEN team weighed in on the narrative and role of the OMEN device itself before feeding that back into the process. It was an experiment for everybody because we were racing against the clock to get the comic out for the event, but also because AI moves fast. They would give notes and would turn around feedback almost in real time in order to not have a bunch of people sitting around with nothing to do.

The other part of it was using the open device as a point of inspiration in the story. We tried to make sure that the device felt a little bit like a character in and of itself so that was a matter of familiarizing ourselves with the brand’s DNA. Once we had that down, it was easy to write something that felt like the tone of OMEN.

How do you see the relationship between human creativity and AI evolving in the years to come? 

I am slightly ambivalent about it myself, to be totally honest. Part of the reason I wanted to take this on was as an experiment to understand what it can do and what it can’t do. And exactly to your question, what's the advantage? What are we gaining here and what uses can it be put to?

It was well worth it in that you see the speed of artwork iteration and the way AI then forces you to react faster, create faster and be more imaginative. My instinct throughout the process was always to push it: What if we said it looked like this? What would that image look like? And if it could do that, what then could we do with the story and what chances would it afford us?

I think it’s best to think of it as a tool to be used by humans, a conduit for your own creativity or your own process, and a way to get you to better ideas faster.

A page pulled from the comic book Into the Unknown.


The comic tells the story of three characters trapped in a video game, compelled to overcome a series of obstacles through teamwork, determination, and a little help from an OMEN by HP gaming PC.

What would you have done differently?

I would have probably been more specific in terms of panel breakdowns on a page and in certain aspects of character design, just so there’s one specific visual detail to hold onto. For example, this character’s always in red — a sort of simple visual shorthand to help the reader.

But in terms of the actual writing of the story, part of the fun and challenge of this was that it was like an experiment. Write a cool story, let’s feed it into the system and see what happens. 

What audience are you hoping to connect with and how do you see them engaging with the story?

It’s for gamer nerds — that’s absolutely the audience that it’s for! The intention was to write a story that was sort of fun, zing-y, and pop-y. There’s also an element of drama to it, but it’s supposed to be a fun adventurous ride. It’s not MacBeth, right? We’re telling a fun, imaginative story. So I hope readers get that from it and it’s exciting enough that they want to learn what happens next or follow these characters on their journey forward, wherever that might be.


What is… artificial intelligence?