Batman writer James Tynion IV quits DC for creator-owned comics

October 2021 Batman covers
(Image credit: DC)

DC's Batman writer James Tynion IV has announced that he has turned down an offer to continue on the flagship DC title, and will be leaving it - and all of superhero comics - to work full time on his own comic book projects.

James Tynion IV

James Tynion IV (Image credit: Image Comics)

In the August 9 edition of his e-newsletter The Empire of the Tiny Onion, Tynion announced his final issue of Batman will be November's Batman #117, and that he'll wrap up his run on The Joker with April 2022's The Joker #14.

Thie decision comes as Tynion already has four successful creator-owned titles competing for his attention; The Nice House on the Lake (DC/Black Label), Wynd (Boom! Studios), Something Is Killing the Children (Boom! Studios), The Department of Truth (Image Comics), the latter two in development as TV series. 

According to Tynion, his 'exclusive' contract with DC ends this year - and while he was offered a three-year renewal with plans for him to be "working on Batman for the bulk of that time" - he had to choose between that and another contract from the subscription newsletter platform Substack, which recently announced plans to publish original comics through its platform.

Why did James Tynion IV choose creator-owned with Substack over DC?

The Joker #8 cover (Image credit: DC)

"[Substack's contract is] the best I've ever been given in a decade as a professional comic book writer," writes Tynion, who has worked for DC, Marvel Comics, Image, Boom!, and others. "A grant from Substack to create a new slate of original comic book properties directly on their platform, that my co-creators and I would own completely, with Substack taking none of the intellectual property rights, or even the publishing rights."

While DC's 'exclusive' contracts generally allow creators to work on outside projects if it doesn't interfere with DC's assigned work (and isn't with a direct competitor), Tynion says he couldn't realistically handle the workload of both.

"Instead, I'm going to dedicate my whole brain to building a bunch of really cool stuff on my own terms, without having to get permission from any publisher to make it," Tynion continues. 

So now Tynion is in effect becoming a publisher himself with his company Tiny Onion Studios. Launched last year to release his horror magazine Razorblades, Tiny Onion Studios will now be publishing that and this new line of creator-owned comics that will debut on Substack but would assumedly, eventually be available in other digital platforms and in print.

Amazing Spider-Man writer Nick Spencer was the first comic creator announced to be working with Substack, however terms of what it means for creators weren't disclosed. Tynion's announcement is more forthcoming.

James Tynion IV's Substack comics line

Blue Book cover (Image credit: James Tynion Iv)

The first Substack comics project Tynion is launching is a UFO-themed series called Blue Book with artist Michael Avon Oeming and letterer Aditya Bidikar. Blue Book is scheduled to launch in September.

There are four additional Tynion/Substack comics underway, although details on those are limited. While their official names aren't being announced, he has codenames for them - and also when he anticipates them debuting. They are:

  • Operation Zoobook (October 2021) 
  • Operation Toplock (Fourth quarter 2021) 
  • Operation Nightmare (First quarter 2022) 
  • Operation Dial-Up (Summer 2022)

"One of these is a non-fiction comic. One of these projects will be a prose/illustration series that will tie into one of my existing books. One of them is a novella. One of them is a long-form horror project. One of them is a project that I started dreaming up back when I was a student of Scott Snyder in college," Tynion continues. "Two of them I'll be bringing on some very talented writers to work on with me. All of them have incredible art… And it would be honest and true to tell you all of those things."

So how do I read Tynion's upcoming comics on Substack?

Tynion's current newsletter will be the throughline for these Subtack comics. While the newsletter itself will remain free, the upcoming comics (and other features) will require a subscription fee.

The base tier is $7/month or $75/year, which will give you access to all of the Substack comics and additional written posts beyond what the free tier provides.

If you're a Tynion super-fan, for $250/year you can get all of that plus six print comic books with variant covers exclusive to people at this tier.

What does this mean for James Tynion IV's other creator-owned comics?

The Nice House By the Lake #5

The Nice House By the Lake #5 cover (Image credit: DC)

As of right now, there are no plans for Tynion to discontinue his current non-Substack creator-owned comics - even The House on the Lake with DC. As he frames it, the time he spent writing two issues of Batman a month and an issue of Joker for DC, he'll instead be using that time for these Substack comics.

With Tynion's time with Batman coming to an end, how does his run rank up? Here's our list of the creators who defined Batman.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)