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Marvel & DC art from Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, more is revealed to have been fed into Midjourney AI without the companies or artists' permission

Equal parts embarrassing and sad.

Image credit: John Romita Jr. (Marvel Comics)

A list of over 4,000 artists whose work has been used to train the Midjourney AI and other similar projects has been leaked, and it's not looking great for those behind the theft of pre-existing work.

As war on generative AI continues (now with lawsuits) and high-profile companies such as Wizards of the Coast keep damaging their relationships with customers and users, more has been uncovered about Midjourney and other AI tools' dubious methods to create the datasets used to train AIs.

Via ICv2, Riot Games storyboard artist Jon Lam has denounced (with screenshots straight from Midjourney's Discord server) what CEO David Holz and developers have discussed as straight-up 'laundering' and stealing from artists. Among the artists in the list they linked to, we can find big names such as John Romita Jr. (but not Sr.), Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Frank Miller. The list of manga artists includes Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto), Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball).

Unsurprisingly, Black artists "appear to be under-represented" even when their work is being stolen. Names such as Kyle Baker, Brumsic Brandon, and Barbara Brandon-Croft are on the list, but Brian Stelfreeze, Ronald Wimberly, or Afua Richardson aren't.

Also unsurprising, given the cards' famous art styles, is the fact that many Magic the Gathering artists are included: Reid Southen, Melissa Benson, Richard Kane Ferguson, Ron Spencer, Susan Van Camp, Rob Alexander, and Donato Giancola, just to name a few. Holz even admitted "huge swaths of MTG cards" were rendered as "test sequences."

According to ICv2, the list is currently available on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and is also publicly available "as an exhibit to a class-action lawsuit filed by several artists against Midjourney, Stability AI, and DeviantArt." 2024 has only just begun, but it seems like it'll be a crucial year regarding the regulation or (hopefully) outright rejection of generative AI, especially when it comes to what tech bros are passing off as art.

If you're interested in actual art and the very real people behind it, be sure to learn about who and what's coming to Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) 2024 here.


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