The addition of comic book creator subscription based platforms has made it easier to connect and follow your favorite artist or writer. However, it can be difficult to navigate which comic creator you should or can afford to support.
Majority of big name comic creators are using Substack, Patreon, or their own personal alternative. There are a few other platforms to emerge, but the three mentioned are the most commonly used.
Comic Creators Using Substack
In August 2021, Substack brought big name comic creators to their platform with offers of thousands of up-front dollars in exchange for releasing newsletters and comics via their platform. Creators like as James Tynion IV (Something Is Killing The Children, The Closet), Chip Zdarsky (Daredevil, Public Domain), Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland, Twig), the 3 Worlds 3 Moons team (Mike Del Mundo, Mike Huddleston, Jonathan Hickman), and more joined the platform.
The Substack avenue for supporting your favorite comic creators has options for monthly, annual, and premium levels of subscriptions. These tiers typically run $7/month, $75/year, and $250/year respectively. The first two levels are for the newsletter and digital comics subscriptions only with the yearly just allowing you to save money and pay up-front.
When it comes to the premium level subscriptions, although they can be pricey, this is where the bonus stuff comes into play. The level is called different things comic creators such as Boss Level (Young), The Onion Club (Tynion IV), and Founder (3W3M). These typically come with exclusive variant covers and other printed material only available to these subscribers sent out at various times. Some comic creators additionally allow for one-on-one video chats, fast pass options signing and photo ops at conventions to skip the lines, subscriber-only brunches at comic conventions, and much more.
While the premium level can allow you to receive six club-only exclusive variant covers as with The Onion Club, they can be little much on the average consumers wallet. Current Substack comic creators have hundreds, if not thousands of premium members. So the exclusive covers can be limited to 250, 500 or 1,000 print-runs, depending on the number of subscribers.
One big downside to the Substack platform is the lack of a easy and user-friendly way to read digital Substack exclusive comic books released by the comic creators. Most times you are forced to download said books and use another program to read on your laptop, iPad or phone. The digital reading ability would be the one change we would like to see, in addition to more level options.
Update August 1, 2022: Skottie Young sent out a newsletter to all level subscribers with the news of no longer charging for his content on Substack. He will continue to allow subscribers to pay if they choose as a “tip jar,” but the newsletter will be available to all for free. The Boss Level has been discontinued with all current subscribers in that level getting their exclusive covers in November.
Comic Creators on Patreon
Patreon has been a go-to for many creators, not just those who create comics, to help connect with their followers and fund their projects. Patreon allows the comic creators to set a monthly subscription fee, giving access to the their Patreon page, where the creator posts updates, images, comic pages and more for the subscribers.
Most creators also give better benefits to those who subscribe to the larger tiers. Maine artist and writer Joseph Schmalke (The Electric Black, We Don’t Kill Spiders) started a Patreon to give his readers of his latest book Seven Years In Darkness an up-and-close view on the steps behind making the book. His tiers run as low as “Apprentice” at $5/month to as high as “Warlock” at $150/month. The reader has the option to choose from six tiers to find what fits their budget best and what they want out of the subscription. All tiers give you patron-only posts and messages, early access to his books, and a discount on his web store.
The most common tier subscribed is “Mage” at $10/month which also gives you Patreon exclusive comic book or exclusive Patreon item sent to you each quarter. Last quarter Schmalke sent out shirts, comics and more to those subscribe to Mage or higher. Schmalke and other Patreon comic creators regularly post updates, chat with their readers and invite you to say hi at comic conventions.
In addition to comic creators, comic-centric podcasts also have been known to use this platform like the Off Panel Podcast and the Friends From Work Podcast. These podcast subscriptions usually include early access to episodes and the ability to connect with the hosts.
Comic Creator’s Alternative (Similar to Patreon)
The first comic book creator I subscribed and supported was Ben Bishop (The Aggregate, TMNT: The Last Ronin) and his Bishart Kids Club. Bishop’s subscription is charged monthly with many different tier options and with most levels you get a box of goodies every quarter. While the Bishart box is usually the main draw, Bishop hosts a subscriber community and discussion on Discord for those who at least pay for the minimum level of the club. For most levels the benefits far out-weight the costs.
The fees vary from “Basic Bish” at $10/month (available to anyone) up-to “Son of a Bish” at $200/month (limited to four people). The most common level is the “Mega Bish” at $25/month, this equates to $75/quarter for those boxes received in the mail.
Subscribers Mega Bish or higher receive a box of prints, clothing, comics, stickers, and more each quarter. The contents of the box are not shared prior to the box showing up on your doorsteps, making it a surprise each time opening. The subscriber also receives access to the community Discord, where Bishop is actively communicating fun news, opinions and even some stuff about his personal life. Additionally, the subscriber gets early access to any comic book or other release on Bishop’s website. This was extra special to those subscribers during the release of The Last Ronin.
Now, not everyone can afford $25/month, but if you want to support comic creators and enjoy the community they create, $10/month could easily allow you access.
How to Choose What to Support
There is no easy way to pick which comic creators to support via any of these platforms.
First and foremost, keep in mind the support of comic creators whom makes you appreciate the world of comics. These creators work tirelessly on their respective medium to give you the best quality content and they all deserve your support. Some creators just need the help to create their projects, support them and when possible they will return the favor.
The other main thought to keep in mind is what you can afford. No comic creator wants you to support their work if you can’t pay rent or put gas in your car because of your patronage. Take care of your household before subscribing.
Patreon and other comic creator alternatives seem to be the most flexible way of getting content to their followers and allow people to fit their support into their budgets.
No platform is a perfect solution as comic creators typically only choose one to use and that is the one you have to use if you want the content from that creator. If you want Tynion IV stuff, Substack is the answer. If you want Bishop artwork and comics, Bishart Kids Club is the answer. It’s finding what makes you happy in return for your financial support and what fits in your budget.
Not Paying Us, But We Recommend
Bishart Kids Club // For fans of Maine comic creator Ben Bishop, known for his work on The Aggregate, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin, Drawing Blood, and the recently announced The Last Ronin: The Lost Years.
Joseph Schmalke Patreon // For fans of comic creator Joseph Schmalke, known for We Don’t Kill Spiders, The Electric Black, Cherry Blackbird, Seven Years In Darkness, and more.
Off Panel Podcast Patreon // A weekly comics interview show hosted by David Harper of SKTCHD.com that gets the story behind the stories and creators we love, as well as the broader comic book industry.
3 Worlds / 3 Moons Substack // Created by Jonathan Hickman (X-Men, Secret Wars), Mike del Mundo (Thor, Kang The Conquerer), and Mike Huddleston (Decorum). They call it a concept universe.