Every week, we get more and more announcements that a “known” comics creator is starting a blog or related content on Substack. Is this what comic books want to be when they grow up?

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Substack, comiXology, LCS, local comics shop, CrossGen, James Tynion IV, Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder, Molly Osterag, Ram V, Satadin Ahmed, Skottie Young, DC, Marvel, newsletter, FTP, platform, If you’ve been reading the news items here on MajorSpoilers.com, you might have noticed a trend of comics pros moving to something called Substack. This group includes James Tynion IV, Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder, Molly Osterag, Ram V, Satadin Ahmed, and Skottie Young, just to name a few. Some are going to continue to working for comics companies while others, some who feel they cannot do both (like Mr. Tynion) are moving away from Marvel and DC. It’s going to be interesting to see how these things shake out over time.

So, just what is Substack, anyway?

As I understand it, Substack is a content-delivery platform specializing in email newsletters. Individuals can sign up to write and publish newsletters and charge a monthly or yearly subscription to those who read it. In 2020, the company launched Substack Pro — an invite-only service where they give out “grants” (as Tynion calls it) to certain creative individuals with a quantifiable large following to produce content — blogs, journalism, music, art, instructional service, or in this case, comics — that will debut exclusively via one of these subscription-only Substack newsletters.

Now, not all content will always be exclusive to this platform. Some of it will eventually be published and appear in local comics shops. It depends on which creator or content we’re talking about when it comes to which will appear.

We’ve been through similar shake-ups in the past. The one that immediately jumps to my mind was the CrossGen company in Florida. They attracted many “name” creators, asking them to move to the Sunshine State and to work in their offices during “regular” office hours.

I enjoyed the comics they made. But eventually, the company didn’t make enough of a profit for the owners to continue on—at least, that’s how I hear the end came. And the creators went back to the “big” companies to find work.

I worry when someone comes along and says, “Hey! We’ve got tons of money, and we’ll move comics into the future!”

Is this another one of those events? Only time will tell!

IS THIS THE FUTURE?

Substack, comiXology, LCS, local comics shop, CrossGen, James Tynion IV, Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder, Molly Osterag, Ram V, Satadin Ahmed, Skottie Young, DC, Marvel, newsletter, FTP, platform, For over a decade or so, the debate has raged on—Will computers replace the print versions of comics? On Wednesday, will we log onto an FTP site and download our favorite comics (or at least, the ones we want that week)?

The truth is that comiXology.com and other related computer platforms have pretty much stayed the same when it comes to clients logging on from week to week to buy product. There hasn’t been this big rush to computers to replace the print versions and the regular “trek” to the local comics shop, be it weekly, monthly, or something else.

As I’ve often pointed out, I use computer versions of comics to catch up on comics I’ve missed the print versions of, but I want to stay current. I still keep an eye out for the paper versions, though.

I’m still unclear on the concept when it comes to Substack. One method of obtaining new content or several? Will new content come in computer newsletters that we read on the screen? Or will they follow the aforementioned pattern of making computer files available to subscribers? Or could they do both? As we move forward, we’ll see.

What I worry about is that Substack will be a spectacular crash and burn. Personally, I don’t know many people who are all that interested in it…yet. That may changed as more creators go on board.

As when CrossGen suddenly stopped, the creators would need to cast out their lines in search of work post-Substack. That kind of thing always leads to change and eventually making the work of creators I enjoy harder to find, sadly.

Again, we’ll see. By the way, if anyone has more information on all this, please feel free to share it in the space below! We could all benefit from knowing more!

NOW WHAT?

Substack, comiXology, LCS, local comics shop, CrossGen, James Tynion IV, Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder, Molly Osterag, Ram V, Satadin Ahmed, Skottie Young, DC, Marvel, newsletter, FTP, platform, As with any change, moving fan behavior forward will be a challenge for Substack. Do fans need to pay and subscribe to access content? If so, how do we do that? And how much will it be?

I’ve often noted that comic books are a habitual medium—by that I mean that they often pick up their comics by habit. You know, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time to head to my local comics shop to pick up what’s come out this week.

It takes a LOT to change engrained habits, particularly in comics. We all know shops like to keep things as simple as possible—like only using one comics distributor, for example. Fans also like it that simple—I go to my LCS, buy my stuff, then head home to read it. When things are more complicated, well, that doesn’t bode well for the process.

I imagine Substack will be doing a lot of promotion and advertising to bring us fans over to their way of thinking. I’ll be watching to see just how successful they’ll be as far as moving comics aficionados to change their ways. A lot of it will likely depend on who they can motivate to make new content available through their platform.

Will this actually be successful unlike previous computer platforms offering comics stories? Again, stay tuned, and we’ll see!

What do you think? Do you think Substack will be successful? Have they signed up creators that have your interest (and possibly your money)? Do you still want to get your comics from your LCS on a regular basis? Whatever your opinions, be sure to share your thoughts in the space below!

Share.

About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

2 Comments

  1. Jarmo Seppänen on

    Its hard to tell if this kind of distribution platform will succeed, because in every medium, for one Netflix, Steam or Comixology, there are five we don’t remember anymore. Every new successful one got huge corporate muscle behind them, like Disney and those big ones have started to play elimination game already. What they have going for them, its not a highly contested industry, unlike movies or video games, so there is a chance because in early game small ones can succeed, but not anymore after big boys come in and bully everyone out.

    That said, regardless if Substack is successful, creators inside comics industry with considerable power have started to see that change is necessary, so it will happen, one way or the other. Current model of DC publishing 50+ Batman books and trades per month while paying creators less than they would do independently will not be sustainable, that is a fact. Same goes with Marvel, but its not certain how much Disney even cares if comics are profitable or of any quality and if they see Comics just as IP factory for movies and streaming.

    Easiest way to prevent talent leak would be to let creators retain at least some rights to their stories, but that will never happen with big two. They would rather go bankrupt than share any of their profits, that is a way of corporate capitalism. Another way would be to establish smooth and well working publishing platform to publish content digitally with lots of connectivity to social media and streaming platforms where creators could market and discuss about their stuff without everything having to go through marketing and PR departments, like Twitch, Discord and several gaming platforms already work together. Unfortunately I don’t see that either, because big companies want to control everything, which is understandable to a point.

    Its a tough one. Comics sales are very traditional style business model, which doesn’t easily translate to new, digital platforms. I’m not sure if I even want them to, at least completely because I still read everything on paper but something needs to be done to even keep them alive.

    • Interesting points you bring up, Jarmo Seppanen! A lot of the time “that’s the way we’ve always done it” rules, particularly in the comics industry. Change usually comes hard and fast, so we’ll just have to keep our eyes on the books and the people around them to see what happens next! Thanks for your comments!

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.