Two of the biggest names in comics have made high profile deals with Substack, joining journalists and critics betting on the nascent newsletter industry.
Writers involved in this new push into the comics industry include critically acclaimed talent like Molly Knox Ostertag, Saladin Ahmed, Scott Snyder, and James Tynion IV. Tynion wrote in his first newsletter post that he declined an exclusive contract with DC to work on Batman in favor of signing with Substack.
"I am going to be leaving Batman with Issue #117 in November, and The Joker with Issue #14 next April, with no immediate plans to write any other superhero comics in the near future," he wrote. "Instead, I’m going to dedicate my whole brain to building a bunch of really cool stuff on my own terms, without having to get permission from any publisher to make it."
In a blog post, Substack described this move as an investment in talent.
"We are thrilled to be announcing a major investment in comics creators," tit wrote. "There are few industries where we feel the Substack model could be more game-changing than in comics, where the gap in power and earning potential between publishers and for-hire creators is enormous, and where the creator of a story can spawn a nine-figure franchise and yet take home little more than a standard paycheck."
It is certainly true that the economics of comic book writing are dire, and one of the central reasons why superstar creators are decamping to Substack is the opportunity not just to own but to exploit their own work Yesterday, theGuardian reported that many of the creators handling the most popular characters in comics—whose stories and characters underwrite billion-dollar Hollywood franchises—are not seeing the economic returns on that work from Marvel or DC, the two biggest comic book companies in America. Sources told the Guardian that often the most that these writers will see from Marvel if their work is used as the basis for further derivative works like movies and television shows is a check for $5,000 and an invite to the premiere.
Ed Brubraker, creator of the Winter Soldier—a character featured in movies that have grossed billions and an eponymous Disney+ show—said in a newsletter that he has mixed feelings about the legacy of his creation.
"I'm really happy for Sebastian Stan, who I think is both a great guy and the perfect Bucky/Winter Soldier, and I'm glad to see him getting more screen time finally. Also, Anthony Mackie is amazing as the Falcon, and everyone at Marvel Studios that I've ever met (all the way up to Kevin Feige) have been nothing but kind to me," Brubraker wrote. "But at the same time, for the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a 'thanks' here or there, and over the years that's become harder and harder to live with."