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Comic Book Creators Turn to NFTs

Indie artists and major players alike see vast potential in the new digital assets

DC Comics recently entered the cryptocurrency world of NFT art with a digital collectible giveaway via their DC FanDome online event.

Frank Miller released a limited number of Sin City NFTs to historic success. Veteran artist Doug TenNapel found a fanbase in the NFT world, and I found gold at the end of the digital rainbow with avatars of Monkey Frat Boys.

What is going on in the world today where comics creators are finding more financial rewards “selling JPGs” than they ever did publishing comic books?

What is an NFT?

An NFT, or Non-Fungible-Token, is a unique digital asset that has been registered onto an immutable, permanent ledger called the Blockchain. You’re probably most familiar with this term in relation to Bitcoin or Ethereum.

‘Isn’t it just a JPEG?” many people ask. Well, yes and no.

NFTs Are Fueling a Boom in Digital Art. Here’s How They Work | WSJ

It’s important to understand the uniqueness that storing a digital file on the blockchain brings to its value. Perceived value? Yes. But that is how all value is judged, by the perception of the people who want it, and the people who don’t.

The phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is a truism in every aspect of the material world, and even in some cases, the immaterial world.

To make it easier to understand, consider music. Prince’s “Purple Rain” is a song that has been reproduced thousands of times, if not more. Each copy is functionally identical to the other (sound quality notwithstanding).

Left and right movements on a record. Magnetic code on a tape. Digital code on a CD or an MP3.

It’s all digitally encoded information that produces the same music. Each has the same audible value. The song.

Some of these have collectible value, based on the rarity of the medium upon which they were produced, but, one has unique value above them all, because it was the original audio recording.

The genesis digital asset.

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This one particular recording, although it is functionally identical to every other recording on earth, can have a perceived value far beyond that of any other recording.

Such is the uniqueness of the NFT once recorded permanently on the blockchain. It becomes a provenance, a certificate of authenticity and a trail of ownership from its genesis to the current day that can never be corrupted, hacked, forged or deleted.

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Its usefulness in business and finance, this blockchain thing, could revolutionize the world. Right now, it’s revolutionizing how some artists make a living.

Frank Miller has been a comic book creator since the ’70s, creating groundbreaking storylines and artwork in series such as Daredevil, storylines used in the popular Netflix adaptation, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the essence of which was used in the Justice League movie, The first Wolverine miniseries, parts of which were used in ‘The Wolverine’ starring Hugh Jackman.

He’s also known for his “Sin City” and “300” movie franchises.

You could say he laid the very groundwork for much of the comic book movie universes we’ve been watching the past decade or so. But you know what has probably made him more money than all the royalties from all those movies?

His Sin City NFT collection.

The current trading volume on his collection of Sin City NFTs is over 300 Ethereum. Market value as of this writing? $1.14 million dollars. For, you know, JPEGs.

Actual auction proceeds aren’t counted in the trading volume, but some auctions went for extraordinary prices, one alone breaking all records for NFT comic book art at $840,000.

I Love You, Nancy Callahan is a one-of-one piece animated with sound using original comic book panels that depict the death of Det. Hartigan, the character played by Bruce Willis in the 2005 film adaptation. The auction took place over 24 hours and culminated in a three-way bidding war that saw the price leap from $435,000 to $591,000, and then from $800,000 to the final price of $840,986.16. The auction, held in partnership with OpenSea, was completed with Gala Coin.

Likewise, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, I found a way into the NFT avatar world with my Funky Monkey Frat House art collection.

I’m a veteran illustrator known for the DC video game tie-in comic “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” plus work with George R. R. Martin on the Game of Thrones comic books. I first embraced NFTs five years ago.

I heard about NFTs with crypto kitties, and I really wanted to do the same thing but with dragons. I love dragons, and I’ve got that connection with George RR Martin…

So it was a perfect fit. But I knew nothing, like Jon Snow. So I waited. I watched friends make millions off NFTs because they had cultivated the right audiences on Instagram. I made a couple of NFTs that did nothing and had no understanding of how to cultivate an audience of people who care about crypto as much as I do.

Then… after four-plus years of Suppoman, Chico Crypto, Crypto Lark, Ivan on Tech… I discovered BITBOY. ‘This dude is a comic nerd!’ I thought. He’s just like me! So I reached out and told him if he ever wanted to do any NFTs together, I’m game.

I knew he had the audience that I coveted. 

One month after I launched my community of Animal House-influenced monkeys, complete with a Toga Party-themed collection of Monkeys, my first official collection sold 1000 NFTs for .1 Ethereum, or roughly $380,000.

Another overnight success story in the NFT world who seems to have left comic books in the rearview mirror is “Earthworm Jim” creator Doug TenNapel [“Doug TenNapel’s Eternal Klay”].

His NFTs, “from the creator of Earthworm Jim and the Neverhood,” curated small batches of hand-edited avatars each day, keeping pace with the floor price of his collection. He’s found a new way to skin the NFT cat that seems to be resonating with not only his fans of old but with new NFT collectors as well.

And then there’s DC comics, which not long after berating comic book artist José Delbo, long time professional and Wonder Woman artist of the ’70s, for daring to make NFTs of Warner Brothers premier super-heroine, and making $1.85 million in the process.

Then threatening to go after any other of their work-for-hire artists who built their empire with their talent and time if they dared use their intellectual property to make more than minimum wage by selling NFTs… They then got into the NFT business themselves.

DC recently offered anyone who would sign up for their online event DC FanDome a free NFT (or two if they tweeted it out) of old comic book covers in the hopes that it would bolster their digital marketing event.

These NFT success stories snagged their comic book peers’ attention. So expect to see more comic book artists following these pioneers into the NFT space.

Will they find success? Is it a bubble? Have they missed the boat? Or is this the ark that has come to save them all from the flood that is engulfing the comic book industry?

God only knows, but it will be interesting to watch and find out.

________________

Mike S. Miller is a New York Times best-selling illustrator whose career has spanned 30 years primarily in comics and video games. After a decade working for Marvel and DC on top titles such as X-Men, Wolverine, Adventures of Superman and JLA among others, Mike took a turn toward the independent, assuming the role of art director at start-up publisher, DBPro, and helmed titles such as George R.R. Martin’s prequel to A GAME OF THRONES: ‘The Hedge Knight’ and ‘The Sworn Sword.’ His most famous work in mainstream comics was for DC comics on the #1 digital comic in the world, Injustice: Gods Among Us”). Mike created his comic book company, Blacklist Universe, and had several successful crowdfunded projects including Lonestar and MAGANIFICENT 7, among others.

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