A Guide to Akutars: How Micah Johnson Built Aku World
Aku is the main character of multiple aspirational NFT collections that MLB-player-turned-artist Micah Johnson has released, culminating in the Akutars collection. The iconic Black astronaut character has spawned many different digital works of art, with a very strong community growing alongside it.
Johnson’s Aku World has inspired art lovers and NFT collectors alike, as Aku is brought to life through animated NFTs and IRL experiences. Although the Akutar drop had its challenges, the Aku community remains united behind Johnson’s vision as they move forward.
Who is Micah Johnson? Akutars Artist
Micah Johnson is a former MLB baseball player who has become a popular artist, especially through his NFTs. According to Sports Illustrated, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts asked newcomers to the team what their hobbies were. After Johnson responded he enjoyed painting, he was assigned to paint a picture of Dodger Maury Wills. Everyone in the clubhouse responded overwhelmingly positively to it.
As he was sent down to the Triple-A club and his major league prospects began to wane, Johnson’s art and painting became an obsession. He discovered NFTs in late 2019, and at the same time his style switched from acrylic paint to charcoal.
Johnson’s new goal was to create art that would inspire kids to dream without restraint. He would soon hit that goal out of the park — by building out Aku World.
Who is Aku? The Akutar Character
In 2018, Johnson heard his then 4-year-old nephew ask his mother: “Mom, can astronauts be black?” This was the spark for Johnson’s Aku character. As he and his girlfriend moved up the coast, Johnson drew many portraits of black children as astronauts. These images would become the basis for Aku, a 3D digital character.
Johnson teamed up with 3D artist Durk van der Meer to create Aku, which means “Moon God.” The NFT collection launched on Nifty Gateway and has 10 chapters in total, each showing Aku in different settings.
Chapter 1 of Aku Dreams was launched in February 2021 — just as NBA Top Shot was taking NFTs mainstream — and made about $2 million from the initial sale.
In April 2021, Aku became the first ever NFT to be optioned by a production company to be brought to life in TV and film. Permanent Content is a joint venture production company owned by Shawn Mendes and his manager. It aims to bring Aku to life in TV, films, games, and other media productions.
After Chapter 1, nine more chapters dropped. Each chapter is its own animated NFT which tells the story of the idyllic astronaut boy. The 10-chapter collection culminated with an IRL event, Aku World, in Miami for Art Basel 2021.
This was a three-day event with art installations, fashion and technology showcases, and VIP minting experiences. Johnson aims to scale these events across the globe.
The supplies for Aku Chapters vary from just 10 up to 2,300 NFTs, depending on the chapter. They range in floor price from 0.3 Ethereum up to 900 Ethereum (for the collection of 10; no sales thus far).
The highest sale for an Aku Chapter so far is 28 Ethereum for Chapter III, which is the biggest bottleneck for “Moon God” status. To become a “Moon God,” you need to own all the Aku Chapters. This status unlocks special rewards, airdrops, and more.
Akutars Launch: Aku NFT PFP Project
The next major expansion of the Aku-centered NFTs was Akutars, which launched in April 2022 with 15,000 NFTs.
The complete team behind Akutars and Aku World is extensive. Johnson worked with a variety of fashion-forward and music influencers to design the Akutar traits, including Pusha-T, Upscale Vandal, and Pharrell Williams and his label Billionaire Boys Club.
The launch was extremely hyped as many looked forward to getting an Akutar and joining Aku World. 9,241 Mint Passes were distributed to Aku Chapter holders before the public mint, and 5,500 Akutars were made available for public sale in a dutch auction. Those with several Aku Chapters received OG Akutar mint passes.
However, there was a massive error with the Akutars smart contract which locked the entire mint proceeds — $34 million in ETH at the time — into the contract forever. This was due to an error in how dutch auction refunds were issued by the contract. These funds can never be retrieved, and are essentially burned.
Although it is a technically complex story on how this occurred, it could have all been avoided with a thorough contract audit from experts. This reminded the entire NFT community of the dangers of not triple and quadruple-checking a smart contract.
Those who had Akutar Mint Passes were entitled to a 0.5 Ethereum refund per pass in the public mint, which was done by the Aku team, regardless of the contract error. Johnson tweeted that “brick by brick,” Akutars and the Akuverse will continue to build.
This is the biggest hurdle for the project yet.
Building “brick by brick” from here will center around bringing utility to the NFT collection. Akutars plan to do this with interoperable and scalable assets tied to NFT ownership that bring value back to the community.
This includes lots of utility for Akutars, which are being worked on:
- physical products that are tied to digital wearables and other digital products for metaverses
- a 3D asset of Akutars to be used across the Akuverse and digital spaces
- access to IRL exhibits
- access to exclusive digital experiences and environments
- user-generated content using Akutar materials and assets
Akutars NFT Rarity and Traits
There are four types of Akutars: Akutars (11,888), OG Akutars (2,527), Mega OG Akutars (529), and Handmade Custom Akutars (56). Some mint passes corresponded to specific types of Akutars, depending on how manny Chapters they held.
Akutars are divided equally into five teams: Astra, Aya, Chara, Draco, and Titans. The utility and purpose for these teams is yet to be announced, but many in the community have been speculating what it could be. The light color emitting from underneath the helmet indicates which team it is on.
There are also various Families that Akutars can belong to. These align to the partner brands that Akutars have teamed up with. They include: Aku, Puma, Planes, Billionaire Boys Club, ICECREAM, Who Decides War, Vandal, and two ICECREAMxBillionaire Boys Club Akutars.
The floor of Akutars is currently .85 Ethereum on OpenSea, with 5,300 unique holders. The collection has done 11,500 Ethereum in sales (about $22.5 million) to-date. The highest Akutar sale so far was 40 Ethereum for a handmade custom Akutar.
TL;DR — Aku and Akutars NFT Collection
In a HYPEBEAST article, Micah Johnson was quoted as saying: “The new order of web3 is not based on who has the best product; it’s about who has the best community.” This is clear in how he has approached his NFT project and artwork thus far.
Holders of Aku Chapters have been rewarded with other Chapters and were airdropped Akutars.
Johnson’s Aku project is all about celebrating diversity and inclusivity, and to challenge the notion that dreams are only for certain social identities. Even though the Akutar launch had its challenges, the community has rallied and secondary market sales have picked up, even in a bear market.
Moon Gods are still very proud holders of all of the Chapters of Aku’s story. A feature film starring Aku and his inspiring story has been confirmed to be in the works. As for what’s next in the project? The rest is still unwritten, but a strong foundation has been built by the Aku team.