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Comic book writers and artists follow other creators to Substack

Writers of Substack newsletters choose whether subscriptions are free or paid. Subscriptions typically start at $5 a month. Prominent Substack writers include Hollywood writer Richard Rushfield, historian Heather Cox Richardson, economist Emily Oster and former Slate advice columnist Danny Lavery.

By: New York Times |
August 10, 2021 12:30:44 pm
A group of creators will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform as a way to connect directly with fans. (Michael Avon Oeming via The New York Times)

Written by George Gene Gustines

In recent years, dozens of top journalists, historians and essayists have tried their luck as solo practitioners on Substack, the digital newsletter platform that has built an audience of more than 500,000 subscribers since it started in 2017. Now, a number of comic book creators have decided to do the same.

Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of comic book shops and creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin Ahmed, Jonathan Hickman, Molly Ostertag, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 per cent cut.

In an undated image provided by Dave Acosta, an illustration from the science-fiction comic Terrorwar by the writer Saladin Ahmed and the artist Dave Acosta that will be published on Substack, the digital newsletter platform. (Dave Acosta via The New York Times)

Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honour, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” he said. “In order to invest my time in new material, I needed to choose. I could not do both.”

For his newsletter, one of his projects will be working with the artist Michael Avon Oeming on “Blue Book,” stories based on testimonies about alien encounters.

Hickman, who recently helped revitalise Marvel’s X-Men franchise, said he had thought a lot about digital comics during the early days of the pandemic, when distribution was temporarily halted.

“I found the things you can potentially do with it to be very fascinating,” he said. “I love the idea of surprising the reader again.”

For his newsletter, Hickman is working with artists Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston on a new series, “Three Worlds, Three Moons,” in which they will let fans in on the process of building a fictional universe.

“We’re treating it like a bunch of guys jamming together on a concept album, but we’re calling it a concept universe,” he said.

In an undated image provided by Michael Avon Oeming, an illustration from Blue Book, a collection of stories based on testimonies about alien encounters by the writer James Tynion IV and the artist Michael Avon Oeming that will be published on Substack, the digital newsletter platform. (Michael Avon Oeming via The New York Times)

The group approach, which will also include contributions from writers Ram V. and Tini Howard and others, will allow them to share the responsibility for the newsletter. “If someone is having a heavy week or a heavy month, someone else can pick up the slack,” Hickman said.

Snyder, a veteran comic book writer who has taught creative writing at Columbia University, New York University and Sarah Lawrence College, will offer advice to budding comic book writers in his newsletter.

“I’ve always wanted to find a way to do it that would allow me to reach more students, as many as wanted to learn from me, while keeping the cost as low as possible,” he said.

Writers of Substack newsletters choose whether subscriptions are free or paid. Subscriptions typically start at $5 a month. Prominent Substack writers include Hollywood writer Richard Rushfield, historian Heather Cox Richardson, economist Emily Oster and former Slate advice columnist Danny Lavery.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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