Garry Trudeau dives into NFTs, selling ‘Doonesbury’ tapes at auction


NFTs still represented a strange new world for many last year, when Jason Chatfield decided to convene an online forum to answer the question: with crypto art selling for millions, did blockchain hold promise for comic book creators?

“At the time, environmental concerns were such that I wanted everyone to be aware of the ‘state of play’, so to speak, of the NFT market before I dipped a toe,” says Chatfield., comic book creator and president of the National Cartoonists Society. NFTs – non-fungible tokens that are unique digital assets – have sparked controversy over the carbon emissions generated by cryptocurrencies, which critics say increase the greenhouse effect.

The creator of “Doonesbury” Garry Trudeau, as a participant in the March 2021 Forum Zoom, remembers the response of the artists. “The enthusiasm quickly waned as people became aware of the huge carbon footprint created by NFT minting,” he says. “Even early adopters had already started to take off.”

Trudeau’s curiosity, however, did not diminish. It has remained trendy as blockchain technology has evolved, until it was recently introduced to an NFT company, Polygon, which announced last month that it had achieved eco-friendly “carbon neutrality”.

Now, Trudeau will offer his first NFT character comics and illustrations for sale through Heritage Auctions, with all proceeds going to charity. Live bidding will begin on Thursday.

For Trudeau, who has often adapted to digital developments throughout his five-decade career, the auction is an experiment in what the NFT market can offer syndicated comic book creators like himself. “I’m a skeptic by profession, he says, but that doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by new technologies. »

Rick Akers, comic book buyer and consignment manager at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, says that “with the advent and acceptance of NFT digital art, we are seeing established artists in comics and art. ready to reach a new market with their creations. Trudeau is Heritage’s first NFT comic book auction, with more scheduled for later this year.

Notable recent auctions of NFT comics include Frank Miller’s “I Love You, Nancy Callahan,” which sold last fall for over $800,000, and the artwork Wonder Woman NFT by Frank Miller. former DC comics artist José Delbo, which last year sold for more than $1.8 million.

After Trudeau was approached by an NFT company last year, he began arranging which “Doonesbury” art would be turned into tokens. He still had a small collection of files on his computer desktop, from when the Washington Post asked him in 2020 to pick his top 10 “definitive” strips – to mark the 50th anniversary of his award-winning comic Pulitzer.

Garry Trudeau Picks His 10 Defining ‘Doonesbury’ Tapes

While a deal didn’t work out with that first company, Trudeau is offering those same 10 strips as minted tokens, along with NFTs of several other collectibles. Each NFT will come with a signed and numbered physical print — “so even if you forget you even own a digital token,” says the cartoonist, “you can have proof of that ownership hanging on your wall.”

These strips range from the early 1970s, when “Doonesbury” was commenting on Watergate and the women’s movement, to the start of the 21st century, when the founding character of comics poignantly lost a leg fighting in Fallujah – a time when the cartoonist began to weave more military narratives. in his band.

The charity Trudeau chose to receive all the proceeds was the International Medical Corps, which helps Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people. Heritage Auctions and Andrews McMeel Syndication are also donating their shares of the proceeds to IMC.

From a professional perspective, Trudeau notes that “the main draw of NFTs for me was not so much the potential earnings as the artistic challenge of working in a new medium.” Among his many digital projects are the launch of the “Doonesbury” website in the 90s and the attribution to the fictional correspondent of his band Roland B. Hedley Jr. a Twitter account in 2008. “It was all fun – almost nothing profitable,” he says. “I loved the new tools, the new forms of expression.”

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That said, the potential for artist royalties caught his eye. Unlike the typical resale of physical art, the secondary market for NFTs often offers royalties to creators on all subsequent sales. Although not the model for his first Heritage auction, he says he urged Heritage Auctions to “adopt a house-wide policy of only minting NFTs with perpetual royalties out of concern equity”.

Trudeau himself doesn’t plan to buy NFT art as an investment – ​​he would only buy tokens for novelty and nostalgia. But would he advise his fellow union members to start knocking and selling their work?

“I don’t know if NFTs will work for most older comic book artists,” he says. “It could be that corporate brands smooth out the competition.”

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Meanwhile, he thinks the platform’s native cartoon icons – “monkeys, kittens and punks” – have thrived as speculative entities, instead of “as characters whose whole world really cares”.

“It’s still the Wild West,” Trudeau says, “and even if social responsibility ceases to be an issue, it could all be a house of cards.”

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