Substack Adds New Creators as Comics Program Expands

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Creators behind “Sweet Tooth” and “Y: The Last Man” release new projects for fans

Sweet Tooth Season 2
Netflix's "Sweet Tooth" will soon return for a second season. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Newsletter startup Substack is expanding its comics vertical with the addition of six new projects by comic writers joining the platform on Monday.

As the newsletter business has grown, companies including Substack have branched out into offering various forms of content, including podcasts, videos and comics. For creators, it offers a direct way to connect with readers and build a paid subscription model. Oftentimes, subscribers get exclusive or early access to special material and behind-the-scenes updates from writers and artists they are following.

“As far as we’re aware, no one else is doing anything like this. This was a bold experiment in a new direction and we’re encouraged by the early results,” Substack cofounder Hamish McKenzie told TheWrap.

Substack, a 4-year-old San Francisco company, was at some point valued at $650 million in 2021. In recent years, tech giants from Twitter to Facebook have also joined the newsletter game, and emerging companies from Ghost and Buttondown have also rolled out similar newsletter products as content creators increasingly look to manage their work directly. The company also started offering $500 health insurance stipends more widely to independent writers last year as it looked to expand services for creators.

Newcomers to Substack comics program include Grant Morrison, who has worked on the “Batman” series and recent title “Wonder Woman: Earth One,” and Brian K. Vaughan, creator of “Y: The Last Man” and “Ex Machina.” Vaughan will start a joint project with Niko Henrichon, who previously worked with Vaughan on the graphic novel “Pride of Baghdad.”

Comic artist Jen Bartel, who has worked on cover art for clients including Marvel and Disney, will introduce a solo project on her Substack. Writers Tom King and Elsa Charretier will launch a collaborative project on their new newsletter, and artist Khary Randolph will introduce a new publication on the platform.

The superhero comic series “Black Hammer” is coming to Substack. (Jeff Lemire)

Some existing Substack creators, including “Sweet Tooth” creator Jeff Lemire, will also be announcing projects that include new comics and early access to works before they go to publication. Lemire, who joined Substack last August, will be bringing his superhero universe “Black Hammer” to his newsletter, which he said has subscribers “in the thousands.”

“I really love the direct interaction [with readers] that you don’t get when you publish a book,” Lemire said. “Things are pretty immediate on Substack, and people start conversations about the work right away. … It’s almost like opening a studio to your readers in real-time, and as you get it done, [they] see your progress.”

Lemire had never heard of Substack until the company approached him last year with an initial one-year contract. He saw it as an opportunity to build readership in a new way and is starting to think beyond the first year, he told TheWrap.

Substack is already home to big-name writers including Andrew Sullivan, Bari Weiss, Matthew Yglesias, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and Roxane Gay. Last April, Substack boasted 12 million readers a month and recently reached 1 million paying subscribers. Some of the top paid newsletters include Sinocism by Bill Bishop, with thousands of subscribers at $15 per month, and Popular Information by Judd Legum, with thousands paying $6 per month.

While Substack does not release numbers on subscriptions, its ranking for comics newsletters shows the top publications have followers in the thousands and charge anywhere from $5 to $8 per month. Some newsletter writers focusing on tech or politics charge $15 to $30 per month, with some heavy hitters known to be making millions off the platform. The company has said the top 10 publishers on Substack together rake in more than $20 million a year, and some of the top performers each make more than $1 million annually.

“When comics creators are able to own their work and succeed financially, we call that a win,” McKenzie said.