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In March, former DC artist Jose Delbo turned heads when he sold $1.85 million worth of non-fungible token art featuring Wonder Woman, the hero he was known for drawing in the 1970s. DC and Marvel swiftly warned creators against partaking in the new trend using characters they owned, while indie creators began dreaming up ways to capitalize on the lucrative, digital medium. Now, as the industry grapples with this new territory, one publisher is dipping its toe into the NFT market.
The cover in question is late artist Michael Turner’s Fathom No. 1, which became the top-selling comic of 1998 and introduced the world to Aspen Matthews, a marine biologist who discovers she is a member of an advanced underwater species. This will be the first of multiple items in The Michael Turner Collection from Aspen.
What makes the Fathom No. 1 NFT particularly noteworthy is it will be one-of-one. Future items in the Michael Turner Collection will likely have more than one NFT for each piece of art.
“When you collect comics, you might have a copy of Iron Man No. 1 or Superman No. 1, but you aren’t the only person,” notes David Maisel, CEO of Mythos Studios, which owns a 50 percent stake in Aspen. “They are graded by quality, but you might be lucky if you have one-of-100 of something. This is the first time someone can own the only one-of-one of a famous comic book.”
Part of the NFT sale will go to benefit Turner’s two favorite charities — the American Cancer Society and Make-A-Wish. The beloved artist died of cancer in 2008. The explosion in the NFT market has collectors and sellers reckoning with the carbon footprint NFTs leave, and a portion of the proceeds for Fathom No. 1 will also go to Oceana, a nod to the environmental themes of the property.
“It’s really about the ocean and about climate change and dangers to the ocean,” says Maisel of Fathom.
The NFT features a re-mastered Fathom color scheme by Turner’s best friend, Aspen Comics co-owner and Peter Steigerwald, known for coloring Civil War.
“Fathom has been such a meaningful part of our careers from the very beginning,” Steigerwald said in a joint statement with Aspen co-owner Frank Mastromauro. “We work each and every day to ensure Michael’s vision for the property lives and thrives, and it has been an honor to continue Fathom since his passing. We are so thrilled that Michael’s art will now be available as digital NFT’s, presenting his incredible underwater creation in a dynamic and engaging new format. We cannot wait for the fans and collectors to see what we have in store for them with this first ever Michael Turner Collection NFT offering!”
The NFT also comes as Mythos Studios is developing an animated universe based on Turner’s works, including Fathom. Maisel spent years at Marvel Studios, where he was founding chairman, and is well aware of how an entertainment event can boost the collectibility of comic art.
“It’s like being able to buy Iron Man art before the Iron Man movie,” he says.
The exec is a noted collector of comic art himself, but will not be bidding on the NFT. Instead, he has a suggestion for his dream buyer — an Oscar winning filmmaker who once had the film rights to Fathom.
Says Maisel with a laugh: “If I could choose one person to buy this art, I would hope James Cameron steps up to buy it.”
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Sterling K. Brown