Chip Zdarsky is the latest comic book star creator to join the subscription newsletter and now creator-owned digital publishing platform Substack. The service has lept onto the radar of the comic book industry this week with the announcement Batman and The Nice House By the Lake writer James Tynion IV had signed a contract with the service (and leaving Batman to accommodate the original new work he's creating for it), joining the previously announced Nick Spencer.(opens in new tab)
Tynion and Spencer were quickly joined by the likes of Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder, Ram V, Molly Ostertag, and Saladin Ahmed, and then by Skottie Young in what appears to be a list that is going to keep on expanding.
Zdarsky, the fan-favorite, and multiple Eisner and Harvey (along with a Shuster and GLAAD Media) award-winner writes and draws comics ranging from Image Comics' acclaimed Sex Criminals (opens in new tab) (which he illustrated and co-created with writer Matt Fraction) to Spider-Man and Daredevil titles for Marvel and Jughead comics for Archie.
Zdarsky's work for Substack will include the return of an Image title he created, along with brand new property he'll write and draw.
Zdarsky recently answered a few questions detailing his planned work for the platform and what his fans can expect, and along the way announces his retirement from comic convention appearances as well as his intention to give Twitter less of his attention in favor of his Substack community.
Newsarama: So Chip, what are you planning to do with your Substack Pro platform?
Chip Zdarsky: Oh man, a lot. Not like 'James Tynion a lot,' but still!(opens in new tab)
We're launching by bringing back my Image title with Kagan McLeod, Kaptara (opens in new tab). We've been promising we’d get back to it for a while and the Substack deal gave us the kick in the pants needed to go for it. The nice thing is that Kagan's art somehow got even better in the meantime!
We'll also be commissioning Kaptara shorts from other creators! Fun, bite-sized gags for the busy reader on the go!
And, after gently burying my computer pen in the backyard with the end of Sex Criminals, I'm happy to say that I've dug it up and am writing and drawing a new series called Public Doman. It's a book about a family of comic creators as they deal with the ups and downs of the industry and their original creation that's taken over the world, for better or worse. The bad guy in the book is a piece of shit comic book artist named Brian Stegman.
And if anyone's ever read my free newsletter, you'll know that I like to jam-pack these things with chuckles and hot goss. It's going to be the same here. This is my chance to do whatever I want, and I want to make you happy. Yes, you.
Also! The annual-tier subscribers on Day One will get a personalized video from me thanking them! Whether they want it or not!
Nrama: They've been so warned.
An on that note, you're not just a comic creator, you're a showman. What else are you planning?(opens in new tab)
Zdarsky: Videos! Everything Scott Snyder will be teaching over on his Substack I'll be teaching the opposite of. A twenty-part series on how to break out of comics. I've hired an amazing animator and videographer to help me put together some fun shorts that I hope people will like.
And variants! I have several big physical releases coming up and I'm excited to create covers for them that will be exclusively sold to subscribers who’ve signed up for a full year!
Plus signings! Look, I'm done with comic conventions. I loved them, they were a ton of fun, but I genuinely don't think the world's going back to how things were before the pandemic. I've got bad lungs and a desire to keep living for some reason, so instead of in-person signings, I'm doing mail-in signings with the fine folks at Comic Sketch Art. All for the full-year subscribers.
Then sketches! Again, with the lack of comic shows, I'll be doing sketches for subscribers and giving them out randomly!
And so much more!
Nrama: Getting into the weeds here, but James Tynion IV has described his Substack work replacing what he would've been doing at DC with Batman and Joker, time-wise in his work schedule. Where does this fit into your work schedule? Are you going all creator-owned, or is this simply a new way to do the creator-owned books you've done for a while now?
Zdarsky: Oh, I've still got plenty of work spread around. Ongoings and minis at Marvel and DC. A new ongoing at Image. The previously announced book with Comixology. Some TV stuff. It's … a lot.
But as time goes on those will probably drop off a bit and new projects will get their start on my Substack. I really like the idea of showing people the process on these as I go, like back when I was starting out and would show my pals things I was working on. I no longer have friends, so this will replace that feeling.
I want to create a sense of community, as corny as that sounds. I’m stepping back from Twitter as it just messes with my head on a daily basis, and this is going to be my replacement for it. So, if you want my stupid Twitter jokes and the ability to tell me I'm not funny, you gotta sign up. Sorry!
Nrama: Apology accepted!
Will the comics that debut on Substack make their way eventually into print for those who like print comic books and collections?
Zdarsky: That’d be nice! Image has first dibs on Kaptara for obvious reasons. And I’m hoping to find a home for Public Doman as well. The Substack isn't going to replace physical comics. It's going to hopefully get people excited about them!
Nrama: This might be a bit meta, but what do you think of this Substack Pro trend for comic creators - but also the other types of writers that Substack chooses to platform?
Zdarsky: I love it. Though it feels like a big responsibility coming out of the gate to help make it succeed so others can do the same. I've seen bits and pieces of the plans for other so-far-unannounced creators and I'm telling you: this is just starting. There are some amazing writers, artists, and comics coming down the pipeline.
There is a broad array of ways to read comics online. Here are our recommended best digital comics readers.