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Image Comics Under Fire for Embracing NFTs in 4/20 Special Issue

No effing thanks.

Sorry for cursing the image library with this image. Crying NFT surrounded by weed plants. Image: Image Comics and BAYC.

Leading up to 4/20 (a.k.a. Weed Day), Image Comics built up good faith by promoting a one-off comic by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, and Scott Koblish entitled The Secret History of the War on Weed. This story is a surreal illustration highlighting the history of America’s failed “war on drugs.” Image touted that a portion of the profits would be donated to organizations that helped people affected by this war. That’s where the good part ends, because the publisher also used this as a way to promote NFTs.

This NFT cover wasn’t the original cover, but instead a special edition with a limited print run of 500 copies. If you’ve somehow had the blessing of not hearing about them until now, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique digital assets like images, gifs, etc., with ownership linked to a digital ledger using blockchain technology (yes, like crypto). They are highly controversial due to their environmental impact, limited oversight, scam-like setup, and rampant theft. One of the most comprehensive explainers of NFTs comes from a two-hour video from Dan Olson of Folding Ideas. Those in geekier spaces, like artists and gamers online, have rejected NFTs in their current state, for the most part.

They saw green, readers saw red

Before getting into the reaction, I want to clarify that there’s no info on how much say the creators of The Secret History of the War on Weed had in this NFT idea. Duggan hasn’t said much about NFTs beyond a few concerned glances. However, writers Scott Koblish and Brian Posehn signed a major NFT deal with back in September 2021, so whether or not they signed off on this particular move means more money for them regardless.

While you can’t publish scientific research on likes versus quote tweets alone, it does say something that (as of writing this), Image’s single scheduled tweet promoting the NFT cover has 168 likes, 1,441 comments, and 1,057 quote tweets.

MARCH Trilogy co-cover artist (the comic detailing John Lewis’ time as a SNEC member) Chris Ross found that the Director of Sales and Publishing Planning for Image Comics, Jeff Boison, is heavily invested in NFTs. This signals that this is not the last time Image will likely dabble in the crypto realm.

Club of controversy

Making matters worse for Image Comics is that they decided to partner up with Bored Apes Yacht Club (BAYC)—yes, the same group influencing (if not paying) celebrities like Paris Hilton to awkwardly go on Jimmy Kimmel to promote their NFTs to whoever still watches that show. While BAYC is one of the most (if not the most) public NFT groups, the group faces accusations of using white supremacist and (German, Japanese, and Hindu) fascist imagery. These accusations were made viral by artist Ryder Ripps, who went as far as to compile the evidence under (the online of one of the co-founders, Wylie Aronow).

Although comic book-based movies rake in box office numbers, the actual comics business is not the most lucrative, but that doesn’t mean NFTs are the solution. Also, this is at a time in which NFTs are plummeting in the “value” we were told they have. Image sold out their limited 500-print run of the NFT edition. I’d wager it was mostly people who also invest in NFTs trying to buy a physical asset. Who knows? I hope at least the non-NFT version sold, since the fundraiser combatting the war on drugs was supposed to be the focus.

Despite those in comics pushing against this idea, Image Comics held onto the illusion that they were an indie darling and nothing like the behemoths of DC and Marvel. However, this move and the likely future push towards NFTs is another fracture point against this public image.

(via Twitter, featured image: Image Comics and BAYC)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time watching movies, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Balder's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO.