March 13, 2023

“Web3 is the second chance for the comics industry” – An Interview with 247 Comics Founder Carl Choi

Many of us have warm memories of the neighborhood comic book store, arriving to snatch the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men or Doom Patrol from the racks and hanging out in the shop to discuss with fellow fans. But for 247 Comics co-founder Carl Choi, comics are much more than just a leisure activity; they were a personal rebirth.

“Comic books saved my life,” says Carl, his eyes lighting up with passion for the medium. When he immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 8 and didn’t know any English, he faced a difficult adjustment period. Comics not only provided entertainment, but also served as a source of comfort for Carl during lonely times, as well as a great English teacher. His experience working at a comic book store during his teenage years helped him become familiar with every work and author, which became a crucial foundation for his later entry into the industry.

This personal connection is what drove him to found 247 Comics and disrupt the traditional publishing model, giving creators more control over their work while providing readers with a more interactive and engaging experience.

A top artist’s departure highlights a struggling industry 

US-based comic artist Sean Chen may not be a household name, but his works are known to everyone. Chen has at times been the creative force behind titles like Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-man, and The Avengers, and has served at all of the major publishers like Marvel, DC Comics, and Valiant. That’s why it sent shockwaves through the comics world when he decided to leave the big publishers behind and launch his own independent title, Genesis.  

In Carl Choi’s view, Chen’s departure not only reflected a personal decision but signaled the overall challenges the industry is facing.  

“The comic industry is very fragmented,” says Carl, describing a century-old behemoth with a market size of roughly $15 billion and a film and TV industry of over $300 billion. But while fans flock to theaters for the latest big-budget Marvel spectacle, the hard-working and talented comic artists behind the IP often receive little recognition or compensation. In Carl’s view, artists like Frank Miller (Batman), Walt Simonson (Thor), and Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) are the backbone of the industry.

As Sean Chen says, “Making a living in the traditional comics industry is an ongoing struggle for many artists.” This is the problem that Carl and 247 Comics is partnering with creators like Chen to solve. 

A vast industry with very limited options for creators 

According to Carl, the comics book industry, while huge, generally offers only two routes for creators: work for one of the “big two” (Marvel and DC), or join Image Comics. As he explains, working for the big two means long hours with insufficient compensation and zero profit-sharing from any IP licensing based on their own creations, such as movies, TV shows, toys, etc. Conversely, artists at Image Comics can retain their copyrights, but they must shoulder the burden of their own sales.  

Distribution is also a significant issue – physical stores remain the primary sales channel for comic books in the U.S., but according to Carl, out of approximately 25,000 stores, only 800 order comics every month. According to Carl, the industry is at an inflection point where it must transform to bridge the widening gap between physical and online comics.

Empowering comic artists: “Web3 will be the second chance for the comic industry”

It’s these challenges that inspired Carl to put on the superhero suit and save the industry that once saved him. 247 Comics uses Web3 technology to allow creators to retain their IP rights and receive their fair share of any profits from content derived from that IP. The platform also allows for easy and secure distribution, connecting artists directly with fans and providing a new way for the industry to evolve and thrive.

247 Comics focuses on three key areas. First, in terms of business models, 247 Comics created “partnership publishing,” allowing creators to fully participate in the copyright of their works. As for distribution, the startup has developed a reading app that not only allows readers to access content online, but also enables creators to directly interact with fans on the platform. Finally, 247 Comics also integrates blockchain technology to create unique NFTs for each comic, enabling users to collect and trade characters.

Sean Chen’s newly published comic, Genesis, is not just the first work jointly launched by the artist and 247 Comics, it’s also the first comic book that integrates Web3 elements. 247 Comics has divided one of the main characters, “Biplane Bobo,” into 5,000 unique variant NFTs. Readers who own a Bobo NFT have a digital collectible as well as a “pre-sale ticket” that allows them to unlock new Genesis content in advance. As a title’s popularity grows, Bobo NFT owners can sell them.

Carl believes that through the use of blockchain technology, 247 Comics can break through the limitations of physical sales and provide a more interactive experience in real-time. Readers not only get to read the comics, but they also truly own a part of the characters. “Web3 will be the second chance for the comic industry and a paradigm shift for comic creators,” he says with confidence.

Carl’s years of industry experience have already helped the company to gain support from a large number of top creators. As of the end of 2022, 247 Comics had nine titles and multiple NFT projects in progress, with each step of the production process led by gold-medal artists from Marvel, DC, and Image.

“Receiving such support from so many comic creators in the early stages of our business is one of our greatest sources of traction,” says Carl. “We hope this is a story of David beating Goliath, allowing creators to obtain the rights they deserve.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Carl Choi saw a failing industry model and integrated Web3 elements to reinvent how comic books are consumed and creators paid.
  • 247 Comics uses blockchain to allow creators to be partners in their own IP. 
  • Distribution is handled digitally via a reader app that allows creators to directly interact with users.  
  • The startup makes comic characters into NFTs that readers can collect and use to unlock new content. 

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