Report: Substack is getting into comics with Nick Spencer at the helm

Comic News

If you’re in the media biz, you’ve surely formed an opinion on Substack, the newsletter company that has drawn both controversy and sign-ups for its newsletter-to-profit model. 

As the chatter about Substack rolled out this spring, I thought to myself, “I wonder when they will get into comics.”

It seems the time is now, as Business Insider reports, they are starting a comics initiative, and have hired writer Nick Spencer to lead it.

The report is behind a paywall, but your faithful reporter paid $1 to read it for you.

According to the piece, plans seem vague at present, but they hope to apply the”get people to sign up for your newsletter, then convert them to paying for it” model that countless pundits and writers have been flocking to, in an attempt to get people to pay them for writing things.

Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie told Insider that they are already experimenting with working with fiction authors.  Their current model involves paying prominent writers with substantial followings (mostly non fiction thus far) upfront and taking the majority of their subscription fees; after a year, the platform takes a 10% cut.

The platform has drawn criticism for elitism, and for harboring anti-trans bigotry. Spencer himself is no stranger to controversy, having written the infamous Secret Empire/Hail Hydra storyline for Marvel.

According to Business Insider:

The foray into comics will pit Substack against the two major houses, Marvel and DC, independent publishers, and also the likes of Patreon, GoComics, and Webtoon, where some webcomics derive revenue. 

Spencer, who declined to be interviewed through a Substack spokesperson, will cut deals with comics writers that allow them to hire artists and a small production team, McKenzie said.

“With the Substack model, they get to own the IP, and because of Substack Pro they get the resources they need upfront,” McKenzie added. 

No details of the comics program were mentioned, but several examples of attempts to monetize fiction on the platform are examined in the piece. Fantasy author Maggie Stiefvater, for instance, gets paid $5 a month or $30 a year for her efforts, and makes enough to pay her health insurance.

Substack got a $65 million VC boost earlier this year, meaning they are ramping up and have some cash to spend until they have to justify that $650 million valuation.

Obviously, comics are still red hot as the pandemic wanes, and throwing some money at them could show growth – especially if they can tap into the large Webtoon/Tapas audience that seems comfortable with some level of micropayments.

There’s a lot to ponder in this news bit, but I’ll say this: it’s better than NFTs. I think?

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