In 1988, when fans turned against the second character to wear the costume of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, a character named Jason Todd, D.C. Comics set up a telephone poll system to decide whether Todd should live.
Fans voted for that Robin to die, and so the Joker killed him off in Batman #428.
In those halcyon days, there were other analog ways for fans to interact with the comic books they loved, most notably the letter columns printed in the backs of the books. Today, comic publishers have dropped such forums into the oubliette.
Now a new crypto-powered entertainment company aims to bring interactivity back to comics.
Called InterPop, members of its creative team promised there will be similarly crucial decisions for fans to make in its storylines as its lines of comics roll out this year.
InterPop will start off by introducing a bunch of characters in its Emergents universe, starting with a book called The Nine, issue #0 of which will come out July 17.
“Characters are going to die over the course of this run of comics. And it will be fan decisions that will dictate who those characters are and what shoes they will be wearing,” Brian David-Marshall, InterPop’s president, said in an interview.
Rachel Gluckstern, the editor of the comics, is a veteran of the big comics publishing houses. She sees fan voting as a slightly more humane way to get feedback “that doesn’t go by sales information,” she said. It’s an internet-era approach that evokes those old days of comic book letter columns. “This is a way for us to really understand what fans are thinking,” she said.
The characters arose from a digital trading card game (TCG) that’s been in the works to run on the Tezos blockchain for some time. Emergents, once housed in Coase, a company founded by Tezos co-founder Kathleen Breitman, transferred the Emergents game’s intellectual property assets to InterPop, a subsidiary of Tezos TQ.
Tezos is a top-50 blockchain, with a $2 billion market cap. It ran one of the most successful initial coin offerings in 2017, promising a model of governance that would keep it up to date forever. It went live in late 2018.
InterPop will create digital comics, collectibles and eventually in-game assets when Emergents goes live. All the comics will be available for free, but to take part in decisions about the books, fans will need to own actual issues by buying non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that represent particular issues.
The Nine #0 will release with multiple alternative digital covers, including those by well-known artists such as Madman’s Mike Allred and The New Mutants’ Bill Sienkiewicz.
All of the Interpop comics will be released on its dedicated e-reader web app for free. Those who’d like to get early access should visit the Interpop website and sign up for an online event on July 17. All attendees will get a free comic NFT and a free in-game NFT that will be playable once Emergents launches.
As for Tezos…
The comics, the cards and other collectibles will also be available on a secondary market called Minterpop. While direct purchases in the game and the comics can all be done with fiat currency using traditional payments, transactions on Minterpop will all be done using Tezos’ native token, XTZ.
All crypto will lean on the Kukai wallet technology, which the Interpop team said has made great strides in stripping away cryptocurrency’s complexity for new users.
The team expects the various Emergents properties will generate a large number of transactions on Tezos, especially if trading for in-game items on the secondary market on Emergents, where it will be encouraged, looks anything like it does in traditional video games, where it’s generally discouraged.
The secondary market for in-game assets is an extremely gray one now (if not even a little black), so one can only guess at the estimate, but it’s almost certainly in the billions of dollars.
CoinDesk previously reported on Emergents as a game that will use blockchain technology to give users much more control over their card decks and collections and focus less on manipulating players into buying cards they don’t want or need. The core ideas are unchanged, but the team behind Emergents says it is now better resourced to deliver the sort of experience that will be competitive with the most popular TCGs.
Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone is the leader in the digital space, but the company that invented the underlying concept, Wizards of the Coast, released a mobile version of the classic analog game in March of this year (this reporter may or may not have burnt a considerable amount of time on it since then).
Emergents should be released in the fourth quarter, according to the InterPop team.
Until then, curious players can start getting familiar with the universe by checking out the early comics.
“We’re not really going into this superhero universe on an origin-by-origin issue. We’re kind of plopping people down in the middle of it,” David-Marshall said.