James Tynion IV has just announced that he is leaving Batman with #117 and The Joker with #14. Tynion is the comics creator who took over Batman after Tom King was fired with #87 and managed to turn his fill-in job into the main gig after DC fired publisher Dan Didio and cancelled 5G, took Batman to new sales heights, replicated the success of Jonathan Hickman's X-Men Krakoan books across the rest of the Batman line, and introduced a tonne more characters to the line. And now he is off.
James Tynion IV writes on his newsletter "DC had presented me with a three-year renewal of my exclusive contract, with the intent of me working on Batman for the bulk of that time. I was grateful of the offer, but I couldn't help but look at the success of my original, creator owned titles and wonder if it was the right choice. And then I received another contract. The best I've ever been given in a decade as a professional comic book writer. A grant from Substack to create a new slate of original comic book properties directly on their platform, that my co-creators and I would own completely, with Substack taking none of the intellectual property rights, or even the publishing rights. Given my bandwidth, I knew I could only pick one of two contracts sitting in front of me."
He's not the only comics creator to take the SubStack gig, Nick Spencer was the first prominent creator to do so, and he had to say goodbye to Spider-Man to do it. And Tynion has to quit Batman. "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. 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."
James Tynion IV talks further about the Substack deal, saying "When I got the Substack deal, my jaw pretty much fell out of my skull. I remember sending it to my lawyer asking if it could be real, because it was exactly the kind of offer I was dreaming would fall out of the sky and into my lap. And it was. So, the math in my head started changing rapidly. And I knew what I had to do…. For the last couple of decades, there's been a particular model to sustainable careers in comic book writing. First you do work at some of the smaller independent publishers to get the attention of the Big Two (DC and Marvel), then you transition into writing for the Big Two and work your way up the ladder to the highest profile book you can muster, and then you use your larger platform from your superhero work to draw folks back in to your independent work, often using the money from those big superhero books to subsidize your own books before they turn a profit. But even if you do that, you're still subject to the whims of a small market with VERY specific habits and tastes. There are limits of what you can get away with, if you're worried about funding issue #6 when you're writing issue #1. This deal gives me the security to build the sort of books that I think could thrive in the comics market given the chance, but require growing in a different sort of way than monthly periodicals. Because, let me tell you… I have IDEAS. Anthology projects were just the beginning of the cool stuff I want to make. There is a whole range of non-fiction comics about fascinating subjects that haven't gotten a spotlight in comic book form, and I want the power to do something when I sit back and have the thought "This comic book SHOULD exist." The white whale for me is being able to write a whole giant horror novel in comic book form without needing to worry about breaking it up into equally sized monthly chapters. I want to make weird standalone comic book novellas, too! Beyond what I'm capable of writing, I want to hire young creators I'm excited about to help me develop some NEW projects, outside of a system I've seen break as many creators as I've seen it make. I want those creators to be able to come to me with a cool idea and see how I can help them make it reality. Hell, it's not just comics. I even have the idea for a non-fiction prose book about a period of comics history I'm obsessed with, that I'd love the power to just MAKE exist. I like that the Substack deal calls me a publisher (seriously, it's right there in the contract). I want to take that title seriously, and build out what Tiny Onion Studios can be. Razorblades: The Horror Magazine was just the beginning."
More of that from James Tynion IV to come… very shortly as well!