At San Diego Comic-Con, Bleeding Cool heard some gossip at the Westgate Hotel CBLDF/ComiXology event regarding the future of Substack Comics, set up by Nick Spencer last year with comic book publishing deals set up for major comic book creators. The word was that a) Nick Spencer had been fired from Substack comics and b) Substack Comics was being shuttered. From what we can gather, that's not true – but there is a nugget of truth that may have been blown up a bit.
Announced in June 2021, it was August 2021 last year that comics shifted as James Tynion IV. Scott Snyder, Jonathan Hickman, Mike Del Mundo and Mike Huddleston announced that Substack financial grants would see upcoming comic book and comic book-related projects release via Substack's email newsletter platform., followed by Molly Knox Ostertag, Saladin Ahmed, Chip Zdarsky, Sophie Campbell, ND Stevenson, Kelly Thompson, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman. The following January that saw Tom King & Elsa Charretier, Brian K Vaughan & Niko Henrichon, Khary Randolph & Joanne Starer, Rodney Barnes, Jen Bartel, and Grant Morrison join. Since then many projects have been launched and published with a dedicated Substack comics reading app.
So I looked into the latest gossip, and this is what I have been able to ascertain. Bleeding Cool understands that Nick Spencer no longer is a staff member at Substack, but is now fulfilling his previous role in a freelance capacity, transitioning to returning to writing, including an upcoming Substack Co mics project.
The Year One Substack Comics Pro deals are coming to an end, as was originally planned and the Substack Pro deals will switch from those large six-figure advance payments against subscription royalties, to no advances but with Substack taking 10% of subscription figures. This is how the deal was always promoted.
However, while Year Two creators (aside from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction) are soon to be named, I have been led to expect fewer numbers than before, and both the amount of deals – and size of the deals – has been significantly reduced. Substack, just like Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services, is going through a numbers crunch, in an increasingly divided competitive market that hasn't had a shakeout yet. Substack as a whole has suffered such, with layoffs and more, but I am told that the Comics side of Substack has weathered the storm better than most of the rest of the service.
There are some who saw Substack Comics as another example of the comics publisher that launched big with huge outlays but was heading for an inevitable bankruptcy – Tundra, Tekno/Big, Radical Publishing and Virgin Comics come to mind. Substack Comics, as it stands, does not appear to be following the same pattern. But even it was, it enabled a number if creators to a) make bank and b) gain some level of independence and ownership away from the Marvel and DC teat, as well as establish a greater connection with their fanbase.
There is also been reported discussion underway for a deal that gives subscribers a significant discount on multiple subscriptions from Substack Comics, so that readers can get a large discount for signing up to a "cable package" of such Substacks.