Of Auction Records and Non-Fungi­ble Tokens: On the New Valences of Super­hero Comics (2023)

Peer reviewed / Buchveröffentlichung


This article examines a recent form of marketing superhero comics that has garnered extensive media attention and has been promoted as the next big step in comics production: the decision by companies like Marvel Comics and DC Comics to offer selections of their intellectual properties as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Focusing specifically on Marvel Comics' collaboration with the VeVe app, which serves as a digital auction house through which customers can buy comics and related merchandise, this article suggests that we are witnessing the popularization of an already popular product (superhero comics) in a process that is indicative of larger transformations of the popular. As an agent of such transformations, superhero comics were introduced in the 1930s and 40s as a “low medium” with mass appeal that was critically devalued by proponents of high culture, but they are now widely celebrated as a “popular medium.” We argue that this transformation from a popular but devalued (“low”) product to a popular and culturally valued (but not necessarily “high” cultural) artifact marks a shift from qualitative to quantitative valuation that was driven at least in part by popular practices of collecting, archiving, and auctioning that have enabled the ongoing adaptation of these comics to new social, technological, and media demands. The article uses the newsworthiness of big auction sales and the sky-rocketing prices that well-preserved comic books can garner as a framework for assessing the appearance of superhero NFTs and for gauging the implications of this new media form for the cultural validation of comics.


PDF available here: View


Stein, Daniel, Laura Désirée Haas and Anne Deckbar (2023): “Of Auction Records and Non-Fungible Tokens: On the New Valences of Superhero Comics”, in: Daniel Stein and Niels Werber (Ed.): New Perspectives on Pop Culture (Special Issue Arts). DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/arts12040131.

Weitere Beiträge

New Perspec­ti­ves on Pop Culture (2023)

Peer reviewed / Buch­ver­öf­fent­li­chung

weiter lesen