Mopping up the coverage from Bleeding Cool Rumourmonger-in-Chief Rich Johnston about James Tynion, Scott Snyder, and Jonathan Hickman joining Nick Spencer to make comics at Substack, we're pleased to report that two additional creators have joined the revolution. Saladin Ahmed's comics Substack is called Copper Bottle, while Molly Ostertag's new Substack is titled In the Telling.
In an opening post, Ahmed writes that he will continue to produce work-for-hire comics, but will now publish all creator-owned comics on Substack.
There's a lot of that work on the way! I've earned wonderful fans all over the world telling stories in universes readers know and love, and I don't plan to give that up. But with COPPER BOTTLE I — along with an array of amazing artists — have a unique opportunity to create new worlds for readers to visit. Alternate dimensions of possibility and perspective that aren't always present in traditional comics. Worlds you'll want to come back to every week.
And while buying comics can sometimes be confusing, the model here is simple: Each week, paid subscribers will get digital drops of my creator-owned comics — delivered right to your inbox or readable on this site. All of my new creator-owned work will debut here, available exclusively to COPPER BOTTLE subscribers.
Ahmed teased a project called TERRORWAR, debuting tomorrow, and hopefully it has nothing to do with yours truly!
Ostertag also explained plans for In the Telling:
This newsletter will update twice a week, on average. I'll be talking about my previous comics work, dissecting pages/narrative choices/character designs, and sharing storytelling advice. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section and I'll answer them in posts!
I'll be serializing a graphic novel via this newsletter, as well as talking about the process of making it. Expect more details on this soon!
There will also be a good deal of rambling on topics I find interesting, which include but are not limited to: cooking, reality TV, queerness, cats, hobbits, books, camping, and hot takes on movies from the early 2000s.
My goal is to form a safe, good-faith community in the comments section to chat about comics, queerness, and whatever else is interesting that week!
And addressing without directly mentioning the controversy that embroiled Substack earlier this year, Ostertag said:
I've received a grant from Substack to make this newsletter. The majority of posts will be free, but for various legal reasons a selection will be subscribers-only. All the funds I make from subscribers (minus Substack's cut) will be donated to a charity of my choice. To begin, I'll be donating to The Trans Lifeline's Microgrant program, which provides funds for gender affirming surgery and legal work, with a focus on BIPOC and incarcerated trans folk.
In the coming months, it seems likely that more comic creators will look to Substack for their creator-owned books due to a deal structure of which James Tynion said: "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…."
We found Nick Spencer nosing around in our trash cans and tried to ask him some questions about the new model, which he pioneered as both the first creator to join Substack and as a veritable pied piper of comics, leading creators away from the superhero-industrial complex and into something new.
"Rats!" Spencer hissed. "They fought the dogs and killed the cats and bit the babies in the cradles and ate the cheeses out of the vats and licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles, split open the kegs of salted sprats, made nests inside men's Sunday hats, and even spoiled the women's chats by drowning their speaking with shrieking and squeaking in fifty different sharps and flats!"
Uh, okay then. Look, Spencer has never been quite the same since Hillary Clinton failed to back up the approximately 9 billion tweets he made attacking Bernie Bros in her defense during the 2016 Democratic primaries by actually winning the general election. But the point is, Spencer has somehow managed to kick off a real-life super-mega-crossover event shaking the comics industry to its very foundations, leaving nothing ever the same again, and all of that, with promises of less-than-horrible deals and basic creative freedom, and of course it's all going to start with a bunch of number one issues. The basic gist of the deal, as we understand it, is this: creators receive an advance to create the comics, then receive a portion of subscription revenue after the advance is paid back. The advance is made against revenue only, meaning creators don't owe money back to Substack if the subs don't come in. And creators retain the right to do whatever they want with their intellectual property afterward, including print the books on their own or with a publishing partner to sell in traditional comic book shops and bookstores.
Sure, you might be saying, "this whole thing sounds like a basic publishing deal, like getting an advance to write a novel," but you have to remember that comic book creators have been subject to some of the worst exploitive practices around for pretty much the entire existence of the industry. Hell, the same day this Substack story broke, another big article in The Guardian talks about all the creators paid a pittance while giant corporations reap billions off their creations. So offering those creators a contract that subscribes to basic principles of decency and fairness must seem like an unbelievable dream come true, the kind of thing that makes James Tynion ask his lawyer to pinch him in case he's dreaming, even if Substack itself isn't without its ethical quandaries, and even though there's no guarantee the whole crazy thing will even work.
But will it work? For more on that, we spoke with world-renowned comixologist Professor Thaddeus T. Puffinbottoms.
"Substack could prove to be a complete failure," Professor Puffinbotoms explained. "But comic creators should without a doubt take advantage of it in the same way pro wrestlers would bilk a money mark for all their cash until it ran dry. Who knows when the opportunity to make that kind of bank will arise again?"
"That's the cynical view, anyway," said the professor. "If the whole thing miraculously succeeds… well, that would be an actual game-changer, wouldn't it?"
"I mean, it probably won't be," he hedged. "But it would be nice. And in the meantime, some people are getting paid."
And good for them.