Substack, the newsletter platform that allows writers to charge a subscription fee for a newsletter, is getting into the comics business. According to a report by Business Insider, Substack is looking to offer comic book creators a "new revenue model" based on the book publishing world, where creators would be offered an advance, plus a percentage of subscription fees (after the first year, where Substack recoups its advance), to hire a team and make a comic which would be published digitally on Substack. Creators would retain the rights to the intellectual property they create, according to the report.
Substack knows that comic book creators, a superstitious and cowardly lot, will be skeptical of this offer, largely because the comic book industry has a long history of sucking the marrow from the bones of its creators, extracting valuable intellectual property to make billion-dollar movie franchises, and leaving the creators to panhandle on social media to pay their medical expenses later in life. And there's rarely an already bad situation that is made better by the intervention of Silicon Valley. So substack has hired Nick Spencer as an ambassador to try to get other comic book creators to sign up.
"We see anything that shows promise as a priority, and fiction is starting to show promise," said Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie in the article. The article implies that Substack is making deals specifically with writers, mentioning that the writers can use the money to hire artists. "With the Substack model, they get to own the IP, and because of Substack Pro they get the resources they need upfront," added McKenzie, who we're beginning to think may believe he's created the concept of creator-owned comics.
Nick Spencer has long been a pioneer of using internet technology in new and innovative ways to promote comics. For example, during the 2016 Democratic primary cycle, Spencer used his Twitter platform to make a never-ending stream of tweets, sometimes hundreds per day, lecturing followers on the virtues of nominating Hillary Clinton, who Spencer was certain was a surefire bet to beat Donald Trump, and denouncing Bernie Sanders and his supporters, the Bernie Bros, while simultaneously defending his decision to write a comic where Captain America is actually a Nazi. It's not clear how this helped promote Spencer's comics, but afterward, he became the writer of Amazing Spider-Man, and then Substack gave him a bunch of money, so it worked out well in the end for his career.