In NFTs and comics, I detailed some of my conclusions about the direction of the comic industry based on DC Comics’ Legal statement about the use of their licensed characters as non-fungible tokens. I do believe that the destructive technology of blockchains will radically transform at least the digital side of the comic book industry. In fact, I even support the view that digital ownership is paramount to the health of physical comic book collecting. Now, I would like to share some thoughts and suggestions related to original art. Beyond unlicensed illustrations, pinups, sketches, and recreation art, I think a tremendous opportunity exists to leverage NFT marketplaces for original comic art created completely digitally.
What is Comic Art?
Art is a vague term. So, I want to be more concise. By “original comic art”, I am referring to published art used in the creation of a comic book. I exclude other forms of art not used as part of a published comic book. Further, preliminary sketches even if part of the artist’s workflow won’t be considered.
In the old days, this art involved pencil and ink work on a single Bristol board. Frequently, modern comic art comes as two separate pieces: pencils only and inks only on printed blue lines. Alternatively, the “inking” may have been done completely on the computer. You can see the definition of published original art grows increasingly nebulous.
Digital Original Comic Book Art and NFT
The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie E Williams II provides a fascinating look at the powerful tools that expedite comic book creation. His step-by-step guide could help artists that want to explore the time-saving benefits of computer-aided illustration.
Williams II describes three distinct workflows in his guide. I think they are important to understanding how original comic art and NFT go hand in hand. First, the “all-digital” workflow involves doing roughs, pencils, and inks all completely digital. That is, using software like Adobe Photoshop. Williams II calls the second approach “pencil hybrid”. In the “pencil hybrid”, the artist creates prelims/roughs on the computer, followed by traditional pencil art. Then inks are digital or traditional. We’ll assume digital inks. Finally, in the “hybrid ink” approach, the artist applies traditional inks to printed pencils.
Considering these three workflows, the first and the second involve a digital finished product. When the original comic art final product is digital, creating an NFT makes perfect sense.
An Example of How to Monetize Art
The art to the left is for sale on the Freddie E Williams II Comic Art Fans site. It is a fabulous ORIGINAL ink wash of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4. BUT, was it used in the actual creation and publication of the comic? I can observe enough minor differences to suspect it was created after publication. Therefore, Williams II may have created this cover utilizing one of his strategies to monetize his digital art. In his book, he described printing “wireframes” from the digital art, then hand inking that art to create originals suitable for sale. Personally, I’m ok with that. However, it is borderline re-creation art.
Update on Williams II Art
I’m happy to say my article was “read in high places”! Freddie messaged GoCollect to say the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4 cover is NOT recreation art. I quote him, “Just giving you a heads up that this is not a recreation- I’d be interested to see your thinking behind why you think it is, but your suspicion is incorrect. Other than that, the article is interesting, and I appreciate your POV!”
And I’m never offended by a correction. Check out Freddie’s CAF page. By the way, thanks for taking the time to read my article, Freddie!
If you are a fan of TMNT, on April 27 my new article comes out where I ask, “What if Eastman and Laird Created TMNT today?“.
The Point: NFT and Original Comic Art
Just to be clear, I’m in FAVOR of artists bolstering their income through new techniques. If that technique involves handmade art from digital prints, that’s awesome. Further, if the new technique means DIRECTLY creating and selling NFTs from the digital art that went into published comics, that’s fantastic, too. But instead of buyer beware, NFT sellers could agree on what digital original comic book art is.
Again, I am excluding works that may be unique, but were not part of published comic books. So here are some suggested guidelines.
- Art should be identified as published or not published.
- If published art, then sellers must cite publisher, title, issue, page, and artists.
- Since art is digital, it may be pencils only, pencils and inks, or even pencils, inks, and colors. That should be stated and is meaningful because of rule 4.
- Like original art, there must be ONLY one! With comics or other art forms, it seems reasonable to have multiple printings or copies. However, with physical original comic art, people pay a premium for uniqueness. And as mentioned above, the unique pages could be pencils only or inks only (or even hand-colored color guides).
- Digital artists should be granted the right to sell their published art similar to physical art that is returned to artists!
So, I assert again, if the NFT are to truly capture the significance of original comic book art, they MUST be one of a kind. And for a vibrant marketplace, the supply of a ‘good’ is critical to demand.
I feel like I just scratched the surface for where comic book publishers could go in creating original comic art NFT. However, there’s one point worth reiterating. Digital art now has the means to be viably sold, but it should not be described as original comic book art unless part of the publication process AND ONLY ONE! And there’s one other point that needs further discussion. In (5), I point out that physical art is returned to the artists these days. It represents a significant source of current and future income. Digital artists should be granted the same opportunity. With non-fungible token marketplaces, it is truly possible for them to capitalize on those files living in the binary ether.
Note: Robin #147 displayed all digital interior art by Freddie E Williams II.
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