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NFT! WTF?

PORTLAND, Ore., March 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The VC comic strip, a parody of the venture capital industry that was a huge hit with Silicon Valley insiders during the 1990’s dot-com era, has offered its very first comic for auction as an NFT (non-fungible token.) The sale of the property, titled The VC 1.0 combines a true piece of Silicon Valley history with the latest intellectual property technology, is taking place on the popular NFT marketplace OpenSea.


© Starter Fluid, Inc. (unless someone has bought it by now?)

NFTs have emerged as an innovative new way to monetize digital assets by attaching “ownership” that is tracked via the blockchain. The technology is allowing creators to unlock the value in digital art, which to-date has been hindered by a lack of security and accountability. Non-fungible tokens allow digital assets to be sold and re-sold in a secure and trackable method. This is especially relevant to artwork, like The VC comic strip, which was originally created in digital form.

I can’t even pretend to know anything about this Non-Fungible Token (NFT) thing. I’m a Luddite that needs a hard copy in front of me. But, as seen in the press release above,  NFTs are now a part of the comic strip world.

The NFT/comic art news broke big when Jose Delbo earned nearly $2 million selling NFTs of DC characters. Now it is a controversy involving environmental concerns, corporate rights to characters, intellectual property, artists boosting their income by selling their digital art (like traditional artists selling their pen and ink pages) possible scams, and more.

Comic artist Artyom Trakhanov, for The Comics Journal, voices his disapproval of NFTs:

[W]hat a bizarre cult it is! Cultivating all the worst thoughts and feeling, pushing you to adopt the whole subculture, to act immediately, to partake in the grift for 24 hours a day, to dedicate your whole being to being An NFT Adept. Any hustle you must endure when promoting your work on other digital platforms pales in comparison to seeing the deceived amateurs and desperates trying to snatch a piece of a NFT pie. To support the facade of overwhelming positivity, something known as “love bombing” quickly became a thing – once you get your first NFT marketplace invite, pay your first fees (or even have a good hearted Samaritan pay them for you!), crude Potemkin villages are hastily built all around you: an echo-chamber of NFT neophytes, nameless Collectors of Digital Arts and straight up bots who will soothe you in oceans of crypto-love. You are your own Elon Musk now, so why should you listen to those losers who are missing out on such great prospects?

Commenters chime in with pros and cons.

 


characters © DC Comics; art © Mike Deodato

At Bleeding Cool artist Mike Deodato makes the case for legitimacy:

First let me explain how, basically, an artist makes money in comics as a worker for hire: You draw the pages, the publisher pays you for the pages. That’s it. If you want, you can also sell the original art for collectors. The comic book original art market is a great way for the artist to increase their outcome. It is legal, universally accepted for all publishers and have been driving millions of dollars at prestigious auction houses around the world. The problem is that a lot of comic book artists work, nowadays, digitally. There is no physical art in the end, just a digital file. You cannot sell it because it has had no value. Now it has. It is called NFT. Non-fungible token.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund agreed with Mike’s position and offered aid to those wishing to take advantage of the new opportunity. Bleeding Cool excerpted a “representative example of some of the reactions on [the] social media” thread.

 

Over at The Verge

But here’s why there’s probably a hell of a lot of greenhouse gas emissions tied to NFTs: they’re largely bought and sold in marketplaces like Nifty Gateway and SuperRare that use the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Ethereum, like most major cryptocurrencies, is built on a system called “proof of work” that is incredibly energy hungry.

Proof of work acts as a sort of security system for cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and bitcoin since there’s no third party, like a bank, that oversees transactions. To keep financial records secure, the system forces people to solve complex puzzles using energy-guzzling machines. Solving the puzzles lets users, or “miners,” add a new “block” of verified transactions to a decentralized ledger called the blockchain. The miner then gets new tokens or transaction fees as a reward. The process is incredibly energy inefficient on purpose. The idea is that using up inordinate amounts of electricity — and probably paying a lot for it — makes it less profitable for someone to muck up the ledger. As a result, Ethereum uses about as much electricity as the entire country of Libya.

ArtStation, an online marketplace for digital artists, canceled its plans to launch a platform for NFTs within hours after getting a lot of backlash from people who think dealing in crypto art is environmentally unethical. Artists called NFTs an “ecological nightmare pyramid scheme” and ArtStation’s plans to offset emissions a “scam” on Twitter.


© Cryptokitties.co

There’s nothing like an explosion of blockchain news to leave you thinking, “Um… what’s going on here?” That’s the feeling I’ve experienced while reading about Grimes getting millions of dollars for NFTs or about Nyan Cat being sold as one. And by the time we all thought we sort of knew what the deal was, the founder of Twitter put an autographed tweet up for sale as an NFT.

You might be wondering: what is an NFT, anyhow?

Well if, like me, you still need to buy a vowel, here’s an NFT FAQ from The Verge.

“Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different. You gave up a Squirtle, and got a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner, which StadiumTalk calls “the Mona Lisa of baseball cards.” (I’ll take their word for it.)

Community Comments

#1 Jason Chatfield
April/17/2021
@ 9:16 am

If anyone is interested in watching the replay, the NCS Hosted an NFT talk with Julie Sigwart in March: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8d11d4lkoshhrf7/AABswk4f-X7JD4emdRCqBmMNa?dl=0

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