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Substack is getting into comics

Patreon, take notice

A drawing of a person in a suit pointing toward a UFO in the sky
Image: A teaser for one of James Tynion IV’s Substack projects
Michael Avon Oeming

Substack is trying to put a new spin on webcomics. The newsletter platform announced today that it’s signed a number of comics creators up to use its platform. They’ll email comics out to readers and use Substack’s subscription tools to charge directly for access to their work.

It’s a new type of content for Substack, which has predominantly been focused on (written) newsletters covering topics like politics, tech, and culture. But the expansion to comics makes plenty of sense. Comics have long been successful online, but they’ve largely been supported by ads and merch sales. Substack offers comics creators a chance at something a little closer to selling readers a new issue at the store each month.

Among the creators signed up is James Tynion IV, who until now was the head writer of DC’s flagship Batman title. Tynion wrote in a blog post that he will be using Substack to “create a new slate of original comic book properties” and build “a bunch of really cool stuff on my own terms.” Substack has also signed up Saladin Ahmed, Molly Knox Ostertag, and Scott Snyder, among others.

Substack is available for anyone to use for free, but it’s been signing writers to a program called Substack Pro that offers them upfront payments and support, so they can try going independent without being entirely reliant on subscribers (who may not materialize) during their first year or so on the platform.

The people Substack signs up can also speak to where the platform wants to attract more writers, so today’s announcement can be seen as a sign to other comics artists that they may want to consider the newsletter format. If it continues to focus on comics — and who knows just how good of a reading experience Substack will be for visuals — the platform could pull some users away from Patreon, which has been big with artists.

Substack has also been trying to expand into podcasts. The service has its own podcast player and publishing tool, and it just backed the launch of a new podcast network last month.