Social media pressures are driving comic book authors to quit Twitter, with many moving to Substack’s subscription newsletter platform.
The social media giant that is Twitter has captured the lives of many, and the creators of comics are no exception. But lately comic book writers expressed their frustrations with the platform – and a new service, Substack, could offer an attractive alternative.
In some ways, the internet has only amplified what came before it: Editors have long been in regular contact with readers, with some creative decisions – like, notoriously, Jason Todd’s death – being decided by fans. . However, the pressure of handling large numbers of followers has taken its toll on some creators, in part due to the expectation that writers will maintain close contact with readers in addition to their daily work. As many leave Twitter in search of other means of communication, Substack, a San Francisco-based newsletter subscription service, is starting to shake up the comic book industry.
In August, Batman Writer James Tynion IV has announced that he will end his contract with DC Entertainment after making a deal with Substack, and that he will also close his old Twitter profile. In a newsletter, Tynion explained that he quit Twitter to build a better “internet diet”, arguing that social media algorithms work by providing distractions with useful information: “The goal here, which I have already talked about, is to have a little more control over my entrances. I want to be able to have a little more agency over my curiosity.” A similar sentiment is shared by X Men scribe Gerry Duggan, who recently published a newsletter detailing his own concerns about the impact of social media on public perception of real-world events.
Quitting Twitter will not only give creators a break from an often addictive and emotionally taxing platform, but the new digital services promise a variety of benefits as well. In an era when superheroes dominate both the big and small screen, comic book writers like Winter Soldier co-creator Ed Brubaker have criticized Hollywood studios for failing to properly recognize or compensate those who shaped the icons of modern popular culture.
Unlike salaried work at Marvel or DC, Substack gives writers complete creative freedom over their work, and the service does not retain rights to the content. Moreover, it also offers creators a way to communicate directly with their fans. The platform’s comic lineup includes Saladin Ahmed (Black bolt), Jonathan Hickman (Secret wars), Molly Ostertag (The wizard boy), Jeff Lemire (Sweet tooth), Adrien Tomine (Kill and dieg) and Scott Snyder (American vampire). However, some creators still use Twitter to announce newsletter updates to their subscribers.
Ditching Twitter to pursue newsletters might work well for established writers, but relatively few creators will have a large enough audience to justify this transition. Moreover, while Mark Millar (Kingsman, Kick ass) is also going Twitter in favor of newsletters, Millarworld recently announced that it will not distribute digital comics through Sub stack. Still, if the platform’s investment in comic book creators turns out to be a successful endeavor, Marvel and DC may need to find new ways to attract the next generation of talent.
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