Comics and NFTs – Speculation on Non Fungible Tokens

by Patrick Bain

NFTs-1-300x157 Comics and NFTs - Speculation on Non Fungible TokensTwo weeks ago, I had to look up the word “fungible” to (a) find out what it means, and (b) find out how to pronounce it.  I suspect I’m not alone with the big news related to the success of NBA Top Shots.  Further, who ever thought that tweets, the epitome of meaningless chatter intended to fade into the ether, would somehow become a desired commodity among millionaires and billionaires?  In case, you hadn’t heard, Jack Dorsey is selling the first-ever tweet.  Some knuckleheads have bid it up to 2.5 million dollars, maybe more by now.  As a side note, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter went to my alma mater, then called University of Missouri-Rolla.  He’s now worth 11 figures, and I’m worth…well never mind.  All this chaos makes me wonder, how will comics and NFTs co-exist and thrive in the years ahead?

Edict from DC Comics on NFTs

DC-Letter-to-Artists-on-NFTs-and-Comics-198x300 Comics and NFTs - Speculation on Non Fungible TokensWith news that DC Comics is warning creators AWAY from engaging the NFT market places (see the letter on PBS), interesting times are ahead of us.  Rather than repeat everyone else defining NFT, see the description of a non-fungible token here.  I’m more interested in the ramifications of this new destructive technology as voiced in the concerns of DC Comics Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs Jay Kogan.  The implications are clear.  The long-term impact for better or worse of comics as NFTs in the marketplace is murky.

  1. Since the DC legal department is warning creators, clearly the company is serious about protecting their intellectual property.
  2. If DC is aware of NFTs, it’s a pretty good bet that Disney, Dark Horse, etc., etc., etc. also plan to leverage NFTs in some profitable fashion.
  3. Digital downloads make no sense right now.  That is, why pay $3.99 for a digital comic book that cannot be sold by the purchaser.  The truth of that statement applies to music and movies as well.  It seems to me that all companies will be required by the market to sell their digital products as NFTs so people can actually OWN THEM AGAIN.
  4. Physical sketches such as convention commissions are not included in the directive.  Could that change?

How will NFTs Impact Old Comics and Art?

NFTs-and-Comics-what-will-happen-198x300 Comics and NFTs - Speculation on Non Fungible Tokens

This article focuses on comics but there exist interesting ramifications related to art.  I will follow up on that topic in the next article.  But what about old comics, the back issues in libraries of DC Comics, Marvel, and others?  For example, on my Marvel Unlimited account, I can go read the early Spider-Man issues digitally.  Though I don’t own, I can enjoy.  Now, suppose as a hobbyist and completist I make a decision.  Since I can’t afford to own all the old comics in high or low grade, perhaps I’ll slowly collect them digitally into my “library”.  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Perhaps people who use iPads rather than 3-pound textbooks at school may prefer the convenience of digital.  Again, that’s great.  But for all the money spent to build their collection, in the end, it’s not theirs!

On the other hand, with NFTs, a person could diligently collect the old stories that formed the foundation of characters like Spider-Man or Supergirl.  And in time, the NFTs might gain in value similar to the “floppies” most of us grew up with.  Then, if those collectors chose, they could potentially sell their NFT comics collection at a profit.  Of course, the means of initial distribution for these comics could affect the market.  Would every issue be in infinite supply direct from the publisher for a set price, or could particular keys be limited by a lottery sales format?

Destructive Technology Means Winners and Losers

MarvelUnlimited-198x300 Comics and NFTs - Speculation on Non Fungible TokensThe engine, the internet, e-coupons… all destructive technologies.  I attempt to be humorous, but the blockchain technology driving NFTs qualifies as a destructive technology.  Some ways of doing business will go away.  Smart companies will implement new strategies that will thrive.  The letter from Jay Kogan implies that DC will take an approach mutually beneficial to all parties.  Naturally, changes in royalties structures over the years could benefit many of the people that have produced comics both past and present.  Then again, perhaps loopholes in the contracts will leave those creators on the outside of the blockchain fence looking in.

I do believe it is reasonable for these huge corporations to exercise some constraints on the use of their licensed characters.  And if publishers recognize the win-win opportunities, all sides can enjoy a piece of the action.  So while I admire the work and talents of the creative people who produce comics, I agree it’s best to limit the proliferation of unauthorized art as NFTs.  In fact, I believe blockchain technology can usher in a grand new age of comics, where NFTs actually help to keep the collection of physical comics from dying.  That is, if digital without ownership became the norm, the next generation of comic fans would have no interest in purchasing your old comic book collection!

If this serious discussion has got you down, consider reading my take on comic book politics in right-wing vs. left-wing comic cameos.  Seriously, I don’t take it that seriously!

Have you visited GoCollect’s YouTube page lately? Don’t miss out!footer-youtube Comics and NFTs - Speculation on Non Fungible Tokens

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Nick Begin March 29, 2021 - 12:13 pm

NFT’s are the new gold rush and wild west. It will be interesting to see what happens when the dust settles. I can see NFT’s of original art or scarce keys like Action #1 taking off. If I owned a high grade Action #1, I’d consider selling a limited number of NFT’s for it. I still get to keep the book and other people could feel like they ownership of an actual copy that is a piece of history.

Patrick Bain March 29, 2021 - 3:02 pm

Nick, definitely people are poising or even stampeding for the new gold rush. I think when it comes to an individual selling NFTs of their own collectibles, I believe copyrights are still in place that would prevent that (assuming intellectual property owners go after people reproducing their stuff). The next article coming on April 2 will go into that topic a little.

thanks for chiming in, and also be looking on April 4 for our first Golden Age Hero’s Journey article!

octoberland March 29, 2021 - 12:45 pm

Even before NFTs I have been pondering my physical collection. So many readers are going to digital copies that I wonder if they will even care in 30-40 years about SA books that are tattered when they can have a crisp FF1 on their device that will not get damaged from reading. And that they could read anytime anywhere. This NFT, while I am out on it but I can sort of see where people are going, just tosses another wrinkle into the landscape.

– Craig Coffman

Patrick Bain March 29, 2021 - 2:58 pm

Craig, I think you are right on the money. I did not fully elaborate on that point, but I do wonder if a generation of students using IPADs and Tablets to do their school work will value physical comics as we have. Also, if people get used to streaming or downloading digital without ownership, will that also lessen the interest in owning physical comics? I already have a little concern about the huge gap between high grade comics and reader comics in valuations. (Works great for us old buyers but not so well for old sellers.)

octoberland March 29, 2021 - 3:54 pm

Agreed on that. The gap is massive, but I think that’s only on slabbed. I think the sliding grade on raw comics is much tighter. I think, rather I know since I have, owning a copy that is ‘proven’ a certain grade underscores the scarcity at grade and should drive prices up. But at points it is unwieldy IMHO. But your comment on the new generation having everything digital and on demand, I’m not sure they want to say “Oh! I have that…but it’s at home. I’ll bring it next time.” as opposed to just opening it on almost any device. I admit to liking the allure of having all my books in my back pocket, but growing up with tangible…well that’s where I gravitate. However I feel like we have hit a cut-off or will hit it soon, and the numbers on our side will start dwindling. That gives me pause while looking at all the pulp in my boxes 😉

– Craig Coffman

Patrick Bain March 29, 2021 - 10:16 pm

Speaking of “pulp”, I’ve been thinking about the Shadow and Doc Savage pulps lately. A blog or two is on the way. I think looking for a decline in demand for pulps as Shadow and Doc Savage fans get older and put their stuff on the market could be an interesting indicator of what will/may happen to the modern comic “pulps”. But, my Dad always said that if you collect something you enjoy, then it doesn’t matter what it’s worth. (But my kids may not feel the same way when I’m gone!)

octoberland March 29, 2021 - 10:58 pm

I agree on Doc Savage. I’ve got the magazine first app of him. Or at least what i think is? I opted for that over novels. Shadow I have one of his apparently 2 firsts, where he’s on the cover and it’s blue.

I agree with the buy what you enjoy. I always factor that in if it’s a “risky” decision. The tie breaker is would I want this in my collection regardless? If so, I’ll take the shot.

Looking forward to the pulp article. Be sure to include Matt Baker covers 🙂

– Craig Coffman

Patrick Bain March 30, 2021 - 1:41 pm

For the Shadow, I planned to focus on George Rozen art, but I’ll keep your suggestion in mind!

octoberland March 30, 2021 - 9:24 pm

Oh! I meant just some great covers from the pulp era. I do not think he did anything with either title. Looking forward to it!

Patrick Bain March 31, 2021 - 10:15 am

Feel free to email me with article ideas, Craig. I’ve definitely had other people comment on Matt Baker before. I’m not too familiar with him and even confused him with Kyle Baker a while back.

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