Storytelling and Community Building with Gareb Shamus

14 min readMay 26, 2022

In this episode of Freedom with NFT’s Gareb Shamus shares with us about:

  1. What he created in Web 2
  2. Favorite moments during his Comic Con journey
  3. What he is developing and working on in the web three space
  • HomeMaker Studio

4. How has the crossover been for his Web 2 community to Web 3

5. Why storytelling is so important

6. Why community building is so important

About Gareb Shamus:

Gareb Shamus is an American contemporary painter and part of New York’s emerging Connectivism movement. He is the founder of the country’s largest producer of Comic Cons. Gareb started and published, for over twenty years, Wizard and ToyFare the award winning magazines that transformed the superhero and character based genre worldwide.

Mr. Shamus sees no boundaries between art, business, and cultural connecting. His success in the world of comic books with Wizard and the Comic Con phenomenon taught him to trust his instincts and to forge ahead where others may be intimidated.

His paintings are noted for breaking the ‘3rd wall’ with their three-dimensional textures and use of a proprietary painting technique designed and developed to provoke conversation by reaching out to the casual viewer.

His artwork is currently on display in galleries in Los Angeles and New York City; and he has exhibitions lined up over the coming twelve months in England, Italy, Germany and Asia. Gareb recently showed at Scope Miami during Art Basel and is the Artist in Residence at The Pivot Gallery in Chelsea, New York City.

[00:00:00] Lauren Turton: Welcome back freedom seekers on today’s episode of freedom with NFTs, we have Gareb Shamus, who is the co-founder and CEO of HeroMaker studios. Hello, Gareb how are you today?

[00:00:09] Gareb Shamus: Doing amazing. Thanks really excited to be here today.

[00:00:11] Lauren Turton: I’m so excited to have you on freedom with NFTs and dig into your incredible story and what you’re doing in the web three space. Tell us about what you did before web 3.

[00:00:19] Gareb Shamus: Well, I’ve been in the superhero business, my entire life, growing up as a kid, collecting sports cards and comic books. And I had three brothers. So it became such a fun family business that my mom opened up the comic book store. So it’s been in my life the whole time. And then I started a magazine right out of college called wizard magazine. And it just took off worldwide. We became like literally the Bible for geeks and nerds out there that loved superheroes. And then shortly after that, I decided to throw a party, this was in the mid 1990s for all of our fans and called Comic Con. And we had over 20,000 people show up and we had this incredible moment where all the geeks, all the nerds, anybody that was into superheroes came by to say hi, and people dressed up in costume and it really galvanized that whole movement.

And built that into a company where my brother and I produced over 180 Comic Con around the world and reach billions of people. So I’ve had a lot of experience building a massive global communities of people.

[00:00:57] Lauren Turton: So tell us a little bit about some of your favorite memories or moments during your Comic Con journey..

[00:01:02] Gareb Shamus: For me, it was always two parts to it. One was just being able to bring everybody together and everyone feeling like they were part of something bigger and it didn’t matter what you look like or what you were into or who you were. When you were there, you just felt like you were included in part of something really bigger.

The other part was also the interaction with the celebrities. There’s no question, when you’re talking about some of the most famous people in the world, when we have Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans, or Tom Holland or Gal Gadot or Brie Larson, when you’re talking about like literally the who’s who of that world and their fans get to meet them for the first time and to see that look on their face when they have this access that they never thought they would be able to have in their lifetime. And it’s just the most wonderful thing to see is for people to actually get, to meet their superheroes in real life.

[00:01:42] Lauren Turton: As someone who has lived in San Diego the last 10 years, the San Diego Comic Con week is my favorite week of the year. And the first time that I went into Comic Con I cried because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was surrounding me and taking place that all I could do is just stand there and shock and just cry because exactly what you just said, what you created was so special and it was something that I was just so overcome with. So thank you for what you’ve created with Comic Con. I want to switch gears now and I’m curious to know, when did you first find out about NFT?

[00:02:10] Gareb Shamus: Almost around when they first started. I have a lot of friends in the crypto world. So I was very, very aware of what was happening certainly on the token side of things. And then I have a friend that, lives in Brazil and he kept talking to me about NFTs and how I got to pay attention to them.

And you know, why don’t we just create some art and do some drops and I had no idea for me it was like, oh, you know, who’s going to want to buy JPEGs of characters or just art, just random. So even though I heard about it very, very early on when they first emerged to me, I didn’t really understand it.

And you know, I really wanted to take my time to learn about it before I jump into anything. So for me, there was definitely a learning curve there, but once I found out about it, then the whole world changed.

[00:02:40] Lauren Turton: Tell me about what made you decide to take action on NFTs.

[00:02:44] Gareb Shamus: Once I understood, what the full power of the ability of the NFT, you know, so much of my life has been dealing with artists and writers and creators and people who make toys and design video games and make films and TV shows. And when you think about that whole economy and then you think about all the people that own these characters, there’s absolutely this kind of big disconnect between the way those worlds work and the idea that my entire life has been engaging fans into massive communities. All of a sudden, NFTs to me opened up this whole world of ability where the fans could become owners and the people who create these IPS and the character franchises, they can make the fans, their partners in ways that they could never do.

Even a comic book for that matter you know, when somebody sells a secondary comic book in the secondary market, the talent doesn’t get royalties off of that, they might get it on the initial sale. So it was just so much involved in these, in the spar contracts that were being created that enabled this ability for NFTs to do things that you could never do before in the real world.

[00:03:30] Lauren Turton: So tell me about what you’re working on, what you’re developing, what you’re launching in the web three space?

[00:03:36] Gareb Shamus: Cool, so my business partner and I, Scott Donnell, we started a company called hero maker studios, and the whole purpose was to create an incredible new world of connected superheroes. And it was all about taking our fans on this hero’s journey where ultimately they can become the hero of their own journey and the idea that we can work with NFT.

So we said, okay, we want to create all these new worlds. And then what we want to do is be able to create NFT comic books and generative characters that then fans can now not just get an NFT, but actually own these characters and we can engage fans to build their own worlds on top of our worlds.

Right. So many people think that NFT are just about, the imagery and everything about what we’re doing was how to bring storytelling to the forefront. And so much of what goes on in the NFT space is how the mechanics drive the value. And what we wanted to do was say, Hey, my entire life how the story has driven the value, you know, the first appearance of a character, the first appearance of an artist or a writer on a book, oh, now the characters are in a film, or TV show that made toy lines. Right? There’s so many things that drove the value, not just how many were made. And we wanted to kind of impute that into the NFT and add game mechanics to it and add all kinds of elements to it that could drive the interest in the whole NFT and then build out that whole ecosystem, so that once we build out this world then all of a sudden people can now build on top of it and not just extend our thoughts of how it works, but build on top of it for us and for them.

[00:04:42] Lauren Turton: Amazing. So when is the launch?

[00:04:44] Gareb Shamus: So we started this incredible character franchise called kumite and it’s this epic battle between heroes and villains. And we’re so excited about it. Cause we created 240 unique characters. From 24 different families of heroes and villains. So it’s the angels and the demons and the fairies and the goblins and the warlocks and the steam punks and the superheroes and supervillains.

And what we did was we created all these incredible characters and we’re going to do a generative drop. We’re going to be launching the drop at the beginning of June. So it’s coming up and we’re really excited cause we’re building so much momentum for it. And then this way people can get to pick which hero, which villain.

But we also have like a really big surprise that we’re doing, which is we’re going to actually create a massive tournament, you know, amongst the NFTs for people to be part of this massive tournament as to who’s the best out there. Who’s the best hero? Who’s the best villian? So we have this epic battle, that’s going to take place with the NFTs. And then shortly after that, we’re going to launch right into our NFT comic books. So everything is about the whole story and it’s called kumite and we wanted to create like our version of game of Thrones, where there’s these epic battles that are taking place and all these sides are against each other and really play on the story.

But not from the past, the story takes place in the future.

[00:05:38] Lauren Turton: Wonderful. I’m so excited about this drop and to see what you bring forth. I’m curious to know from a marketing perspective, someone who has had so much success with comic con and now in the web three space, how has the crossover been from the community that you had prior to web three, to bringing them into web three?

[00:05:54] Gareb Shamus: It’s been incredible because throughout my life I’ve been able to transport the communities. And a lot of the thinking behind how to build community from one medium to the next. So when I first started out in the magazine world, there was a lot of things that you couldn’t do and print.

But we had all this access that we could write about people and show people pictures of things before they ever got to see it. Then when the Comic con came around, we were able to actually bring these people to life where you can actually meet them. And then once we had social media, then there was this interaction that we were able to have.

So not just with the celebrities, but now, you know, get those interactions going. Do livestreaming, all the social media back and forth. Now with the NFT and the web three world, it’s this whole new way in engaging the community. So for me, it’s always been about, you know, making sure that we’re true and authentic to our fans.

And one of the most incredible things that I have found is how open and interested and inclusive people, are. Especially for me and the things that I’ve done in the past. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that grew up reading my magazines. And it’s just so wonderful to be a part of a community that’s really been so embracing.

[00:06:44] Lauren Turton: Thank you for sharing all of that. What’s your favorite memory so far during your web three journey?

[00:06:48] Gareb Shamus: So for me, it’s actually being able to get out on stage. And talk about it publicly. I’ve been able to speak at NFT Miami. NFT LA. I’ve going to be speaking at Veecon coming up. I’m going to be speaking at consensus. I’m going to be speaking at so many conferences coming up and especially the ones that I’ve been to when I’m on stage.

And I’m able to share this vision with people and really talk to everyone about how important story telling is for this journey that it’s not just about the images it’s about going on this journey and being able to tell your own story and use NFTs in that process. So for me I’m a live events person.

So to me, like literally getting out and getting to meet people in person and see everyone and share our vision for what we want to do, that been the most gratifying for me.

[00:07:20] Lauren Turton: Why do you think IRL in real life events are so important for people to attend?

[00:07:25] Gareb Shamus: Because what it does is it makes you realize that you’re part of a community. And when you see other people’s as diverse as you, or you think that you’re out there by yourself doing this, you know, you lose the scale of what you’re doing when you’re online. Right. There could be five people.

There could be 5 million people that could be 50 million people, but you really don’t ever feel the power of the numbers until those people are in front of you. So when you do something live and you see, 5, 10, 15, in our case, well, over a hundred thousand people in one place at one time, it’s just this extraordinarily powerful motivator for you and for your friends and for your family to know that you’re doing something that you’re interested in, something that’s almost bigger than yourself.

And it’s whether you go to a concert or a sporting event or a Comic con it doesn’t really matter. When you’re involved in something like that, it’s something. And it creates also memories. That’s also the other thing that we can never forget, you know, people will remember where they were at that time, when something happened and there’s nothing like being able to share those times with your friends.

[00:08:15] Lauren Turton: For someone who is thinking about starting their own events, what advice would you give them?

[00:08:20] Gareb Shamus: Depending on what they’re doing, my suggestion is always actually start small, like build a prototype, you know, get it together, find out what works, find out what doesn’t and also in today’s world, I would actually keep the focus of it pretty narrow. Because so many people that want to do general events that think they’re going to get everybody wind up getting nobody.

So the biggest thing is to stay very, very narrowly focused, start on something small that, you know, you could do that you can’t lose and work. And then you can build out from there.

[00:08:45] Lauren Turton: Thank you for those golden nuggets for anyone who’s new to NFTs, they’re just testing the waters. They’ve just heard about it. And maybe this podcast is their first platform where they’re getting educated on NFTs. What advice do you give for them?

[00:08:55] Gareb Shamus: Start slow, find something that you like that you enjoy. It’s the same thing with comic books or sports cards, just learn, try to watch everything and if you’re in it just to make money, well, then you have to go into it with a certain mentality. But if you’re in it to have fun and build a long-term portfolio or to just enjoy it because you think it’s going to be really fun. I would tell you just study what you’re looking at. And then also buy what you enjoy, I’ve been a collector my entire life and regardless of the value of anything that I bought, I bought it because I enjoyed it.

And over time it just so happened to be the types of things that other people will want. But to me, it’s like just always buy what you like, that you can never lose when you do that.

[00:09:24] Lauren Turton: I’m curious to know from someone who’s been collecting their entire life, what have you collected in the NFT space?

[00:09:29] Gareb Shamus: So I’ll tell you about my most recent acquisitions. I’ve been buying this NFT series called regulars and it might even be trending now on OpenSea but it’s all these incredibly just regular looking people that have like a Bolero like type look and feel to them.

And there’s just something so interesting about the art and the conviction that you have when you see these people. I was actually kind of joking with a friend that I’ve collected a bunch of them. And I might just turn them into a comic book, you know, almost like Seinfeld where nothing happens, there’s no plot, nothing happens.

It’s just regular people doing regular things and just creating stories out of that. And so we got a good kick out of it.

[00:09:56] Lauren Turton: That is funny, especially you, who you are and what you’ve done in your career. I love that you have that take on that. What’s been your biggest learning lesson during your web three journey?

[00:10:05] Gareb Shamus: For me there’s no halfway about it. You’re all in, or you’re not, I don’t necessarily want to compare it to a religion, but either you believe or you don’t. And I come from a world where I was brought up about a building a centralized company, you know, where you have to own every piece of equity and you have to own control and you have to own your distribution and you have to own own, own, and coming into this space, it’s almost the exact opposite is how to become more decentralized.

And how do we keep coming up with more ideas for our fans and our audience and our NFT holders to have power and for them to have control and for them to have ownership and it’s a completely different mindset. And I had to go into it with the idea that, you can’t do it halfway. You have to figure out and it doesn’t mean that you can do it all the way overnight, but you have to go into it with this mentality that you have to embrace that thought process, or it’s just not going to work.

[00:10:44] Lauren Turton: Thank you, Gareb. So many golden nuggets today in this episode freedom with NFTs. Before we wrap this episode up, how can we stay in contact with you?

[00:10:50] Gareb Shamus: So I’d love for you to follow my project. It’s called Kumitenft. So it’s K U M I T E N F T, kumitenft.Com and that’s @Kumitenft on Twitter. And then as far as me, it’s very easy to reach me on Twitter. It’s literally just my name @Gareb, it’s @ G A R E B..

[00:11:05] Lauren Turton: @ at Gareb we know how to get in touch with you. Thank you so much for your time and your energy today on freedom with NFTs, any final words for our audience?

[00:11:12] Gareb Shamus: Yeah, we’re just really excited. And for us, it’s all about storytelling and our tagline to our company is take the journey. So it’s all about like, there’s only one way to become a hero and that’s to take the journey. And we want people when they get involved with us and be part of our NFT family that our goal is to turn them into the hero.

[00:11:25] Lauren Turton: You heard it from Gareb freedom with NFTs audience, take the journey.

Thank you to for making this episode of Freedom with NFTs happen. To learn more about how the NEAR Foundation is building the future of the creator economy, visit

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