On March 25, 2021, creative team Pop Mhan and Sam Ellis will be dropping the first two pieces in a series of ten, exclusively on Portion. The series, titled ‘The Exchange,’ depicts personified forms of the team’s favorite top market cap crypto projects in the form of nifty-NFTs. We chatted with Pop & Sam to learn more about their artistic careers, how they feel about the meteoric rise of NFTs, and why they’re excited for their first NFT drop on portion.io.
Sam Ellis is a visual storyteller and purveyor of fine things. Most folks know him for his work as Lead Designer on FX’s hit show Archer or his contributions to the Adventure Time comic series. He has worked on a myriad of projects in the past few decades and currently works for KONAMI.
Pop Mhan got his start working under comics grandmaster Jim Lee at Wildstorm Productions back in the late ’90s. After Wildstorm, he went to Marvel Comics to work on titles such as Ghost Rider, Spider-man, and X-Factor and then to DC Comics where he is most known for his run of The Flash, Batgirl, Gears of War, and He-man and the Masters of the Universe. Pop has since branched out to many facets of the art world, creating a card game called RumboBots and also producing an Assassin’s Creed animated short with F. Gary Gray and Ubisoft.
What is your take on the meteoric rise of interest in NFTs?
SAM: I am really excited about the rise of NFTs and cryptocurrency in general. Having worked in entertainment for the past few decades, I know the Arts are an excellent gateway for new ideas to become more accepted.
POP: Not too long ago, my art partner, Sam Ellis asked me if I knew what NFTs were — I had no clue but a took a deep dive into articles and before I knew it, I was hooked and wanted — needed, to be a part of the groundswell of the NFT movement.
Overall, we are super excited to be a part of the NFT space, to encourage others to learn more about it, and to see where it evolves in the next 10 years.
What does the concept of digital scarcity mean to you, if anything?
SAM: It means a lot. One could argue, who really wrote “Romeo and Juliet”? Some people still question if it was actually written by William Shakespeare or if it was his rival, Christopher Marlowe. The beauty of NFTs and blockchain technology, generally, is that all of these questions are non-issues because of the way decentralized ledger technology works.
POP: Digital scarcity means being able to give value and uniqueness to things in the digital world so they can’t just be easily and limitlessly duplicated. It’s a whole new world now that you can create digital art and give it scarcity.
Why do you think NFTs resonate with collectors?
SAM: The same way most ETH-based systems work, by cutting out the middleman, should be very intriguing to collectors. Now an art collector doesn’t have to mail something or travel somewhere to find an expert to verify if the thing they bought is authentic or not. It is already verified. Also on another note, ten years ago, my family and I lost all of our possessions in a flood. There were literally thousands of comics that I had collected over the years and many pieces of original art, none of it could be saved. After that a lot of my collectibles became digital. It’s also how my kids collect stuff, and to be honest, it’s a lot lighter when you have to move and it takes up very little space.
POP: There is something very satisfying about owning a great piece of art from a creator whose work you enjoy or a piece of art that means something to you in some way. Through the process of minting and adding that scarcity gives collectors the extra appeal of owning something with real value as well and that makes the experience of owning NFTs very fun and remarkable.
Where do you find inspiration?
SAM: I find inspiration everywhere I look. Whether it is the work of one of the old masters or advertising art in the 50’s I tend to find value in all sorts of things. However, I am really drawn to the 90’s comic-book movement — when I saw my favorite comic creators, the artists in particular, like the Image founders, go off and do their thing, “creator-owned comics” I thought to myself, “there may never be a moment like this again in my lifetime.” But here we are, and it is happening in this space right now. I am super pumped to be part of this NFT movement, an artist can now be a constant part of their work’s life, in both a financial sense and also tied to the current owner of the NFT as well.
POP: Inspiration usually sneaks up on me. It’s a creeper, inspiration is. I’ll see a piece of art that floors me and makes me want to figure it out and try the technique or style. Inspiration also comes from seeing something in everyday life that is truly profound or just plain ol’ looks cool. Or inspiration could come from experiencing an event that makes me want to capture that feeling or emotion so I can share it with others. Sneaks up on ya and smacks you in the head.
Tell us a bit about your work that’s listed on Portion
The Exchange, Big B
#01 BTC, strength and dominance.
Bonus Crypto Fortune Cookie: HODL.
The Exchange, The ETH
This is the second in a 10 piece series from the creative team of Pop Mhan and Sam Ellis.
#02 Cut out the middleman with ETH.
Bonus Crypto Fortune Cookie: DYOR.
These are the first two pieces in a series of ten called “The Exchange.” This series features our favorite crypto projects personified as superheroes rendered in the style of the era of comics that have been most influential to our lives and careers, but we also wanted to tip our hats to the collector cards market, what kid didn’t love Marvel cards. These first two pieces feature “Big B” and “The ETH”. We wanted to go with these ones first as they are just as transformative to our lives as comics have been. We had been wanting to collaborate with each other for quite some time. This was the time we finally were able to get together and do something. We have quite a few projects on the horizon that we can’t wait to talk about.
What was the inspiration behind it?
Definitely the comics of the ’90s and collector cards, both in visuals and “format” though these are fully digital. We remember seeing comics colored digitally for the first time — it is amazing to see where it has all gone. We also set the character back into the window space of the card — MTV and their music videos also had an effect on us, Sam loves Ah-Ha’s “Take On Me”.
There is an uncanny correlation between the 2021 NFT market and the comic and collectibles market of the 1990s. Comics, collector cards, speculation, fomo — it was all there. We were there before and it feels so much the same — it was exciting, it inspired us to pursue our careers in the art field in comics and animation — it, fueled our dreams and brought us to where we are today — we hope it helps fuel someone else’s dream tomorrow. We hope that our imagery is reminiscent of that era that helped fuel the hype and our love of the medium.
What themes did you pursue?
Solutions are heroes. We hope that people will begin to see these projects and how they solve problems. Whether it is quantitative easing or raising funds for a loan on a DEX, etc. We hope the rest of the world will see these projects for what they can be, heroes — the best versions of the internet, which is just an extension of the people that use it.
Did these pieces exist before being an NFT?
No, we really wanted to express this as a fully digital thing — we know you can tokenize real-world property, and that’s great, but we wanted to go all-in on this. So many of us artists create in the analog world, and part of our incomes have always been relying on selling the tangible, reproducible art, we wanted to make this a real one of one.
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