Let me start by saying, we here at Comic Book Curious are aware of both sides of the argument in regard to cryptocurrency and NFTs. We will be addressing all angles of the technology, its impact on culture and the people who create and purchase content within this ecosphere. This article is meant to be an introduction to the very basics of what an NFT is right now before we further break down their impacts.
NFTs have been around since 2015 but for the most part folks just started hearing about them in 2021 when the Bored Ape Yacht Club blew into the scene causing celebrities like Eminem and Jimmy Fallon to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a JPEG. Celebrity purchases are where we are at today, though this article aims to clear up exactly what an NFT is, where they came from, what their future is and how you can become involved in them.
There were some smaller projects that can claim to be “the first NFT” but for all intent and purposes the first project to break through in any meaningful way was something called Crypto Kitties. It is one of the earliest attempts to deploy blockchain technology for recreation and leisure as opposed to just dark web drug purchases and cypher punk gambling. Dapper Labs created Crypto Kitties as a game where players breed and trade virtual cats that have different visual features of varying levels of rarity.
OK alright I get it, let’s take a step back.
So you all have heard of Bitcoin right? What Bitcoin is, is a digital ledger that keeps track of monetary transactions stored in small incremental “blocks” between multitudes of computers. It is “The Cloud” perfected. “The Cloud” as we know it is just a bunch of servers sitting in a huge building owned by Amazon (and others). Sure, for the end user it seems like everything is stored ephemerally in the void, but at the end of the day someone, somewhere is storing that data on giant hard drives.
What Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) does is break that data up amongst many hard drives and makes it so that no single computer can be responsible for maintaining the whole network. If a major Amazon server building is hit by a tornado, half the internet would go down and that is no exaggeration. The technical advancements behind Bitcoin make it so that no single location going down will take the whole network with it. But that’s not what makes an NFT an NFT; let me move on.
Bitcoin is the very first example of creating digital scarcity. It is the very first example of creating digital ownership. For the past 20 years or more we’ve lived in a world where Napster and BitTorrent and Netflix and YouTube have made us feel like digital assets are owned by everyone. Music is basically free, no one knows who created any given meme, photographers have to upload their photos and just know that everyone in the world can copy it without any ability to trace it back to the original creator.
Bitcoin and NFTs change this. Bitcoin made it so that a digital item can be created and stored within a ledger that tracks its ownership indefinitely. So no matter how many times that Bitcoin changed hands it can always be tracked back to its original owner (even if that owner happened to be anonymous through the Internet). Imagine how that can help artists and digital creators. You upload your art or photography or music to the blockchain as opposed to “the internet” and you have an indefinite connection back to the source.
So an artist can sell their art on the blockchain to someone. That person who bought it can then resell it for a profit. Because the original artist is still tied to the digital asset through the blockchain, they can get a continual commission for the sale of their art. Every time someone sells it for a higher price the original artist will automatically get a commission in their wallet without any 3rd party intermediary. It is all just built into the original creation of that NFT within the smart contract and ledger it lives on.
So let me break this down even further. NFT stands for “Non Fungible Token”. Fungible means “able to replace or be replaced by another identical item”. For instance a dollar bill is fungible. I can trade you any of my dollars for any of your dollars and we will both walk away feeling fine about the transaction. Bitcoin is fungible. I can send you .005 Bitcoin and if you send me back .005 Bitcoin we’re good. A Non-Fungible item is something that is unique and cannot be exchanged easily for something of identical value. So something like a comic book or a baseball card is a good example of a physically non fungible item. You can’t trade ANY comic book for ANY other comic book.
Bitcoin made it so we could create an entire network of scarce digital assets that resemble money. A decade later we’ve taken that technology and used it to create ONE of ONE individual digital assets that resemble art. So as an artist you can create an NFT that is unique and literally one of a kind or you can create a set of NFTs that are all similar but with slightly different attributes. It’s like creating a set of trading cards compared to creating a painting. Both of them have artistic value and certainly have their place in the community.
And community is the word that really wraps this all up. An artist created something and uploads it as an NFT, but at the end of the day the only way they are going to sell it is to build a community of folks who are just as excited about their art as they are. So these projects create Twitter, Discord, Telegram and Reddit communities around their characters in order to build hype. It is insane how many people join some of these communities. There are hundreds of thousands of people joining Discord groups to discuss Mongoose NFTs or to talk about doodles throwing up rainbows.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE!
I have been completely dumbfounded by how large some of these communities are. Who the heck are these people?! Sure Bored Apes go for half a million dollars but I am seeing people spend $200 or $2000 dollars on individual drawings that are part of all sorts of projects you’ve never heard of. The market for owning your own digital character is absolutely blowing up and is still only in its infancy. The goal is that some of these NFT projects will become the Mickey Mouse and Mario Brothers of our generation.
Imagine if you could buy Pluto from Disney or purchase Link from Nintendo before they became the cultural phenomenons they are today. Then as Nintendo used Link in games you earn profits because of your ownership of the character. That is what NFT ownership offers people today. The ability to find an amazing artist who has a grand vision for their characters and then invest in that artist by purchasing one of their characters. Most projects that exist today will disappear over the next few years. But, a few will be blue chip all time IP on par with Ninja Turtles and Muppet Babies.
So there are legions of teens and 20 something’s around the world scouring the internet and meeting up in Discord video chats and Twitter Spaces convos and building an underground economy where the currency is art. Sure there are unscrupulous types using it for money laundering, but that is a very SMALL percentage of what is going on here. This is a movement like baseball card collecting or comic book collecting was for kids of earlier generations.
Kids today are collecting digital assets; they have entire wallets full of characters that some artist made and sold online. They are amassing huge collections of art in hopes that one day some of it may go up in value, but also just as a way of community building and as a way to show off their personalities online. It’s no different than kids buying comic books in the 90’s thinking they would blow up in value like the original Spider-Man.
This is a bubble and it will explode, but when everything comes raining down there will be some huge intellectual property that lives on for generations. Now is your time to start doing some research and supporting an artist who you believe could be the next Stan Lee or Walt Disney. Chances are you won’t find them, but the search is half the fun. Ok, I think that’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with a deep dive in to an individual project in order to start trying to find which NFT collection might be that next huge cultural smash.
Hit me up on Twitter @comic_fam and show me your NFTs!