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Thursday 11 January 2024

A few rare (non-existent, actually) Fortean comics


With a little help from Bing's AI image creator, here's a selection of retro-fortean comics of the "never really existed but should have" variety. To start with, pictured above are two issues of The Fortean Four, in their original 1970s incarnation on the left, and the 1990s reboot on the right.

I thought the AI understood "1990s comic-book style" much better than "1970s", so I stuck with 1990s for subsequent attempts. After all, 1990s is still pretty "retro" to most people, even though it doesn't always seem like it to me!

Next up, a couple of issues of another non-existent super-team, The Ufologists. To me, the word "ufologist" conjures up a particular image that isn't terribly flattering (not quite a synonym of "ineffectual fantasist", but somewhere along those lines). So rather than using my own mental image, I went for something closer to the way I imagine ufologists picture themselves. Here's the result:

The AI tool I use has the great advantage of being free, but it does have a number of limitations compared to its more expensive rivals. For one thing it only produces square images, so they have to be stretched or cropped to fit the space available. Another problem is that it has no memory from one image to another, so you can't ask it to draw the same group of characters a second time. So I was pleasantly surprised that the two Ufologists covers could almost portray the same trio of protagonists (allowing for a change of cover artist).

Perhaps the biggest problem (mental health wise) with having a free tool that can produce any picture you ask for, all in a matter of seconds, is forcing yourself to stop playing with it! With a major effort of self-discipline, though, I limited myself to just one more experiment - The Bigfoot Hunters, pictured below. Again, there's a kind of consistency between the two images, particularly in the way Bigfoot himself is portrayed (and, at a pinch, you could say the solitary human character in the second image is the same as the central figure from the first one).


Colin Jones said...

The 1990s don't seem "retro" to me either but today's 13 year-olds must regard the '90s in the same way that I (born in 1966) regard the late '40s and early '50s.

Andrew May said...

Yes, that kind of thought constantly amazes me too, Colin. I did a book last year called The Science of Music, and although most of the examples are from classical music (which I'm most familiar with) the editors wanted me to include a few references to contemporary pop music too. As far as I was concerned, that meant anything from this century - but to a teenager today, talking about music from the early 2000s must be like ancient history, from before they were born!

Kid said...

I'm constantly amazed at how recent the '70s and '80s often seem to me, though they sometimes feel like centuries ago as well. One of the paradoxes of Time - or at least our perceptions of it.

Those covers look interesting. I'd certainly browse through them with a view to possibly buying if I saw them on the spinner-racks.

Kid said...

Incidentally, your previous post is still showing in my blog list - this newest one hasn't popped up yet.

Andrew May said...

Thanks for letting me know, Kid - I'd noticed that this post was getting even fewer views than usual (only 8 after 24 hours!) so maybe there's a glitch in the system. Not sure what I can do about it, but hopefully it will sort itself out eventually.

And thanks too for the comment on the covers. My own feeling is that the "1970s" one isn't very good, but the others are all really passable facsimiles of the 1990s style. I wonder if this ties in with the fact that only oldsters like ourselves would ever ask it to do 1970s comics, so it doesn't get as much practice? Someone told me ChatGPT is much better at producing rap lyrics than sonnets, because its "tastes" match those of the young people who make up most of its users! This could be the same thing.

Kid said...

Your post is showing now, AM. Maybe you need to check that your time of posting is accurate, as it may delay the post's appearance if it isn't. Could be something else entirely though.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Kid - better late than never! The date and time on the post look correct to me, so I don't think that was the problem. But at least it sorted itself out in the end.