Substack is making those writing comics for them a lot of money. Substack hired some of the biggest names from the biggest comic publishers. Currently, the two biggest publishers in the comics direct market, Marvel and DC, have lost momentum, with Nick Spencer being dropped from Amazing Spider-Man and James Tynion IV leaving Batman. Both have signed on with Substack, along with other comic creators.
Why go with Substack over the big two publishers? The money, of course. The writers own their IPs (Intellectual Property). This means for any big future TV or movie deals, the writers would not lose a cut to Substack or another party.
What are Marvel and DC doing to fill the talent void left by some of their biggest names? So far, not much, it seems. DC is mass-producing Batman comics. DC needs to be careful not to over-expose their most popular character and lose their Batman money-making ability. Years ago, Marvel over-exposed Wolverine. Wolverine was in Uncanny X-Force and New Avengers before moving over to Uncanny Avengers and all his other appearances. Wolverine's popularity dropped. For many readers, the death of Wolverine was met with a shrug.
In the future, will Substack recruit more comic writers as they become more well-known? Possibly. Marvel and DC would need to figure out how to protect their talent.
Talking with my customers about Substack, some feel this is CrossGen all over again. CrossGen made a big splash in the comic industry when they started up in 1998. CrossGen was one of the first comic companies to post their material online for subscribers. CrossGen filed for bankruptcy in 2004. Substack currently has not actually printed any comic books while CrossGen did. Disney bought CrossGen's assets, and the properties have been rarely used.
What is Substack? This is the question many customers have asked. A quick Google search brings up Substack's Wikipedia page, which states: "Substack is an American online platform that provides publishing, payment, analytics and design infrastructure to support subscription newsletters. It allows writers to send digital newsletters directly to subscribers" This seems amazingly simple, and yet they are able to throw a lot of money around.
Here in the store, there currently seems to be a lull in the excitement in Marvel and DC's upcoming projects. Substack appears to have caught them off guard with acquiring comic book talent. After Nick Spencer's run, Marvel's new direction for Amazing Spider-Man is baffling. Ben Reilly coming back as Spider-Man and having yet another big push in the Marvel Universe seems odd. Ben is a clone of Spider-Man and was the villain Jackal who was cloning new clones a few years ago, 'Nuff said. Marvel used to be so focused on making their comics line up with their upcoming movies. How does Ben Reilly returning as Spider-Man in the comics match up with this year's Spider-Man movie?
James Tynion IV helped Batman's popularity. With Tynion leaving the main Batman title, will DC be able to keep it as their number one seller? Right now, it looks like the excitement Tynion brought the Batman title is leaving with him. Hopefully, DC keeps or brings on some new excitement.
A previous article on Bleeding Cool details more about the pros and cons of Substack: Substack Comics Creators Criticised Over Site's Offensive Content
How big of a talent hit will the big two take with Substack offering such good deals? If they take a big hit, will they be able to bounce back? Only time will tell.