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?
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?
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!
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!