Substack Is Ready to Change the Comic Book Industry with Big-Name Creatives?

Substack comic book launch
Art by Michael Avon Oeming from “Blue Book” on The Empire of the Tiny Onion

The comic book community was caught by surprise when Substack decided to share its plans to venture into the comic book space. The subscription-based platform has already signed on famous creatives including Jonathan Hickman, James Tynion IV, and more!

Saying I was surprised that writer James Tynion IV will stop writing the flagship Batman solo book with Batman issue 117 this November would be an understatement. Even though I haven’t been reading his Batman solo series, the fact remains his narrative choices have boosted overall sales. I think everyone thought DC Comics would be extending his contract as an exclusive writer. Turns out DC Comics did offer him a contract renewal, but he declined to continue writing Batman due to an even better contract presenting itself.

Enter Substack!

Substack is a digital newsletter platform. It launched back in 2017. According to The New York Times, it has accumulated more than 50,000 subscribers as of now. With comic book creators joining the company, I think it is safe to assume the total subscriber count will increase down the line.

When talking about the company’s foray into comics, the mission is to deliver exciting comic book titles and related material directly to the reader’s inbox. It is all about enhancing convenience. The company is also looking out for creators by offering them a number of benefits certain traditional publishing companies (especially DC and Marvel Comics) currently don’t. Substack allows comic book writers to keep the intellectual rights to their work. They also have more freedom to explore narrative avenues they couldn’t while working with DC or Marvel Comics.

While creators can also earn more from their work, I don’t have all the details about the payment breakdown.

Substack did share:

Creators are supported by Substack Pro packages designed to kickstart going independent and remove the risks of starting a publishing enterprise. We do that by providing a financial guarantee combined with access to services, support, and community. These packages include upfront grants, design and editing services of the creators’ choosing that Substack subsidizes, and monthly stipends to help out with the costs of health insurance.

For those wondering if the Substack digital comics will get physical versions, according to Tynion’s newsletter, his deal has no restrictions on print publishing. He can publish his work in print with any publisher he likes.

Here are the creators you can go ahead and support!

  • James Tynion IV has The Empire of the Tiny Onion. His first title, Blue Book, will release next month. It features stories based on alien encounters.
  • Saladin Ahmed has launched Copper Bottle, his own creator-owned comic imprint!
  • Molly Knox Ostertag has launched In The Telling, where she’ll be serializing a brand new graphic novel!
  • Jonathan Hickman is building an entire comic book universe called 3W/3M (Three Worlds Three Moons), with the help of Mike Del Mundo, Mike Huddleston, Tini Howard, Ram V, and Gerry Duggan!
  • Scott Snyder will teach you how to write comic books in Comic Book 101.

You can opt for a monthly or an annual subscription. The creators are responsible for what they offer their subscribers and at what price point. For example, Tynion’s monthly subscription will cost you $7. The annual one is $75. Both of these subscriptions give you access to subscriber-only posts and the entire archive. You can also post comments and join the community. You will also have early access to exclusive merchandise and comics. Tynion’s Founding Member tier is $250/year and it will also get you six variant covers (exclusive to the Founding Member tier) being shipped directly to your doorstep.

Hickman’s monthly charge is $8 with the annual charge being $80. His Founding Member tier is also $250/year. Ahmed’s monthly charge is $6 with the annual being $60. Ostertag’s monthly is $5 with yearly being $50.

So, yeah, you get to decide which creators you want to support and how. The entire thing does feel like supporting someone on their Patreon account (which The Geekiary also has!). 

You should consider watching this video on the subject by the YouTube channel ‘Thinking Critical’. 

As far as my opinion goes, I’m ready for Substack to create more competition in the comic book industry. Let’s see how successful it is in the long run and what changes DC, Marvel, and others end up making due to Substack attracting well-known talent and offering them more freedom and support.

If the US comic book market wants to compete with the juggernaut that is the Manga industry, it needs a constant stream of new ideas, characters, narratives, etc., catering to a wide range of readers. Substack could play a role in achieving that.

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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