In March 2021, an NFT-linked JPG file called ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, created by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist more commonly known as Beeple, sold for a whopping $69.3 million. There were more than 180 bids in the final hour.
Almost immediately afterwards, comic-book giants Marvel and DC informed their artists that they shouldn’t try the same with the likes of Black Widow or Batman.
Then, in August 2021, Marvel sold more than $1 million worth of comic book NFTs in less than 5 minutes. A few months down the line, across December 2021 and January 2022, the limited-edition Chakraverse NFT collection drop, based on legendary comic book writer Stan Lee-created Indian superhero, ‘Chakra The Invincible,’ sold out in under a minute, with people from 14 countries participating in the auction.
The first drop, which took place on December 27, released 6,865 unique generative art pieces based on characters, and sold out at a speed of 51 seconds, followed by a second release on the morning of December 28 with 5,400 NFT comics, which sold out even faster, at 49 seconds - making them two of the fastest NFT drop sellouts in the world.
Through airdrops, comic books are creating waves like never before.
Fans now have a new opportunity to engage with, support and invest in comic artists. This promises huge revenue potential for creators / artists.
But can artists get what they deserve if big players like DC and Marvel control IP and sales?
Comic book creators have always sold limited editions of original prints of their works. Fans have always bought and collected hand-drawn originals, with artists creating the drawings digitally and then colouring them by hand just so they qualify as collectibles.
Why should NFTs not be a natural continuation of this practice?
For instance, ex-Marvel and DC artists have sold digital originals featuring Wonder Woman for more than $1 million. So it’s clear that creators / artists can organise the sales of their NFTs directly without mediation by big production companies.
How can an artist mint a digital comic collectible?
To forge their digital works, every artist needs to create, or ‘mint’ an NFT - essentially a certificate of authenticity. These are registered on open blockchain ledgers, making it possible to track ownership, prior sales prices, and the number of copies in existence.
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What is in it for fans?
Comic books often have several editions, much more than regular books. A Marvel comic book, for example, can have as many as 1000 editions. Every edition has something different. Every edition is unique in its own right. They are mostly still available in the market but maybe not all of them. And even if they are, it is hard to possess them as your own.
You, as a comic book fan, may pay for an online subscription model where you can access digital comic books, maybe even all the editions, but they still won’t be yours. You will only have access to them as long as you have the subscription.
But with NFTs, every edition of the comic book, yes, right from the very first one, can have an absolute owner. If you own the NFT for the first edition of Spiderman, then that’s it – you own the book. And you will continue owning it unless you decide to sell the NFT.
Now, the real question is – why would anyone buy NFTs of comic books by paying a high price? I mean, okay, subscriptions aren’t forever, but if you’ve had the subscription for a while and you’ve read all that there was to read from your favourite comic book, isn’t that good enough?
The concept of ownership of a rare and valuable item has its roots deep in the human psyche – the long and short of which is, we love to place a stamp of ownership on something that no one else has, something that’s scarcely available or something that’s valuable because of its originality.
It is a matter of pride more than a matter of the money spent on the item.
This is similar to an auction. During an auction, the person bidding on an item continues to bid even when the value continues to rise, for the sheer pleasure of owning the item in the end.
For a comic book fan, having absolute ownership over, let’s say, the first-ever comic book where Batman appeared, is a matter of pride and ingenuity. It’s about being part of a select few, a club if you will, of collectors of precious items.
In other words, fans buy comic book NFTs based on their perceived value, which in most cases, rises as the item for which they are buying the NFT becomes rarer and harder to obtain.
A bit of history
Comic book creators, both writers and illustrators, have been previously engaged in this art by presenting their works on paper. While that added a rarity tag to the first illustrations or the first scenes written, the process had to change with the whole world getting digitised.
Digitization was welcome to many comic book creators, mainly because it saved time and increased productivity. But there was a drawback.
Digitised art, whether illustrated or written, lacked its original value. Anyone could take a digital file and copy it to produce a replica. There was no way to find out which one was real.
While earlier, hand-written scripts or hand-sketched illustrations could be sold in the market to attract great value, the whole concept diminished with digitalization.
Enter comic book NFTs.
Now, writers and illustrators can get their dues – the value of their original works. All they have to do is create NFTs for each version of their work.
And then, no matter how many times the work is replicated, there would still be a way to tell which work is original, thanks to the uniqueness coded into NFTs using blockchain technology.
What’s DC and Marvel up to?
DC and Marvel are both minting NFTs for their early edition comic books. In fact, DC got this idea from one of their former comic artists after he bagged about a million dollars selling NFTs of Wonder Woman – one of DC’s most loved characters.
Soon, DC launched NFTs for comic book covers that were hard to get. The books included stories of popular DC characters such as Superman, Batman, Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, and of course, Wonder Woman, who started it all.
These comic book covers have different levels of rarity, attracting fangirls and fanboys of the DC universe worldwide. These NFTs are attractively designed, too – truly prized possessions that you can show off in your circle.
Marvel is right up there too, boarding the NFT train just in time. They launched their first NFT comic books on Veve, which is an app-based marketplace for digital collectibles.
Marvel’s idea is to sell NFTs of their comic books based on rarity, too. And how are they doing so far? Well, their first comic book NFT involved Spiderman and they sold more than 60K of them in just 24 hours.
Will they sell all of their NFT comic books this swiftly? Well, that depends. The comic book NFTs are graded with different levels of rarity, including ‘common’ and ‘secret rare.’ The sales would depend on the rarity quotient as well as the popularity of the characters.
For instance, Marvel’s first comic book had 60K editions, while another one where Loki and Asgard featured for the first time had 50K. This makes Loki’s edition harder to get and might attract a higher value. Plus, it’s Loki and Asgard. The value rises there, too.
Who else has jumped on to the bandwagon?
Aside from the comic book powerhouses Marvel and DC, lesser-known brands are also creating their very own NFTs. Examples from the Indian comic book fraternity include Chakra-the invincible and many books by Amar Chitra Katha.
Amar Chitra Katha, however, declared that they would price their NFTs as close as possible to a physical book. The idea is to get a headstart and build exclusive reader bases first. And then, as the NFT marketplace becomes more regulated, hopefully, the highest benefits from selling them will follow.
What does the future of the comic book industry look like?
Will we still have physical copies of comic books in the future? Maybe, because there’s still a huge section of readers who covet the physical editions, especially the rare ones.
But the sale of physical books has largely declined in recent years. You can blame it on the rise of gadgets, people being confined to their homes, the fast-paced life of millennials and youngsters and so on.
The truth is, the world of comic books is changing. And now is a good time to load up on those rare comic book NFTs.
The physical copies may stop printing in some distant future. That’s what increases the scarcity quotient of the early editions of these comic books.
If you jump on the bandwagon now and purchase those rare comic book NFTs, soon you may be able to resell them at lofty prices to collectors who are interested in those rare books but cannot find them anywhere, including physical comic book stores.
On the other hand, if you are a comic book writer or an illustrator, this is a great time to create NFTs of your own comic books and characters. Whether it’s a book cover, a character prop, a miniature version of a character, anecdotes, origin stories – anything at all.
You can create NFTs about all-things-comics and sell them on platforms like Supercraft. Once the readers buy those NFTs, you take the lion’s share from the sales.
And what’s more, you keep making that significant cut every time your NFT reaches a level of rarity that enables your early buyers to resell them at an NFT marketplace. This way, everyone’s happy – both artists and comic book lovers all over the world.