We’re betting on comics creators

We started Substack four years ago with the belief that by changing the rules of the media economy – specifically, by putting writers and readers in charge – we could perhaps trigger an explosion of new creative work. 

We have been pleased to see the Substack model succeed for many thousands of journalists, bloggers, academics, and analysts, but we think there is potential for much, much more.

That’s why today we are thrilled to be announcing a major investment in comics creators. There are few industries where we feel the Substack model could be more game-changing than in comics, where the gap in power and earning potential between publishers and for-hire creators is enormous, and where the creator of a story can spawn a nine-figure franchise and yet take home little more than a standard paycheck. On Substack, comics creators are their own publishers, and they are guaranteed full ownership of their intellectual property, content, and mailing lists, like any other publisher on the platform.

This week will see the launch of a slew of Substacks published by some of the world’s best comics creators, including Eisner Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed (author of Throne of the Crescent Moon), Ignatz- and Prism Award-winning graphic novelist Molly Knox Ostertag (author of The Witch Boy and The Girl from the Sea, and artist for the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist), and multiple Eisner Award winner Scott Snyder (author of Voodoo Heart, and writer of Batman, Wytches, and American Vampire). 

These creators are supported by Substack Pro packages designed to kickstart going independent and remove the risks of starting a publishing enterprise. We do that by providing a financial guarantee combined with access to services, support, and community. These packages include upfront grants, design and editing services of the creators’ choosing that Substack subsidizes, and monthly stipends to help out with the costs of health insurance.

The freedom and independence that the deals offer are lasting. The grants give these creators the best possible runway to build their own audiences. At the end of the Pro program, creators are free to leave and take those audiences with them if they want to (it’s up to us to build an ecosystem good enough that they won’t). 

Here’s how James Tynion IV, until now the lead writer on Batman, describes in his launch post what this looks like from the creator’s perspective: 

There is nobody you need to get permission from to do what you want to do. Make the books you most want to make, the books you think should exist, the ones that it has driven you crazy that nobody is making. Make them yourself. Produce works by people whose work you absolutely love. Will them into the world.

No one benefits more from creators’ freedom than their audiences. Substack’s direct-to-audience model means creators will be empowered to experiment freely in form and genre. Work that might never find a home at a traditional publisher can thrive here. We’re eliminating all the constraints and giving these creators a limitless canvas. 

This approach is in keeping with our efforts to build a future in which writers and creators can flourish. To succeed with the Substack model, you don’t need millions of pageviews, you don’t need to play by the rules determined by an opaque social media algorithm, and you don’t have to submit to a corporate publisher’s conditions. Instead, you get rewarded for doing great work that you believe in.

We can’t wait to see comics creators unleash their full potential and use this platform to bring to life new stories, concepts, and worlds that were never before possible.