Wait, What?, Ep. 324: Stub Sack

August 15, 2021

0:01-12:04: Greetings!  It’s been a while so we’re a bit rusty—to keep all of us on our toes, Graeme teases us with talk about Substack (which will then go on to infect the rest of the episode like a fungus, as it turns out) but swerves to talk about the superb Defenders #1 by Al Ewing, Javier Rodríguez and Álrvaro López. As the sportscasters would say: “A superb fake-out by McMillan, and the type of professional razzle-dazzle we’ve come to expect from this longtime podcaster!”
12:04-15:06: Ah, but here, mark our descent: Graeme mentions the behind-the-scenes of a comic being more intriguing than the comic itself, and that does lend itself very well to one component of the raft of Substack news from the last few weeks: James Tynion IV leaving Batman to focus on his own comics, particularly those he’ll be publishing through Substack—in particular, Tynion also offering a newsletter where he will talk candidly about his time on Batman.
15:06-33:35: But we’re a bit reluctant to get into talking about the Substack stuff because we’re aware it’s gonna eat up *a lot* of time, and so: Free Comic Book Day! It just happened, which of course Graeme knew and of course Jeff didn’t. It didn’t seem like it was really on people’s radar? And we talk about why. Unsurprisingly, we also talk about COVID, the “new normal”, traveling cross-country and more.
33:35-1:05:41: Back to Substack talk, and finally fully into it. (Jeff is fixated!). Creators moving to the platform are talking about it as a chance to avoid the many pitfalls of the direct market but…just because those pitfalls aren’t there doesn’t mean there aren’t new pitfalls to replace them. [bonus discussion of a rumor about the status of Hickman on X-Men]. From there, we really do talk about the news of creators like Zdarsky, Tynion, HIckman, Ostertag moving to Substack to publish their comics (and in many cases retiring their twitter accounts), the alleged amounts they might being paid to do so, Substack’s earlier semi-hinky history with paying writers, ethical compromise, and much more!
1:05:41-1:13:36: From the cutting edge news of today to the far flung, long ago history of the end of May, Jeff *finally* saw Bo Burnham’s Inside, which he refers to here as “if David Foster Wallace got to write and direct his version of The Muppet Show.” But that’s not the only reason he brings it up! (Maybe.) Jeff thinks Burnham’s comedy special ties in well to the discussion since it is about, among other things, the extreme difficulty of acting ethically as opposed to acting as if one is acting ethically.
1:13:36-1:21:48: And because we cannot escape the sinkhole of Substack, we also talk about this post which was reposted after the news of Tynion and others signing up with them. Fortunately because it took a while for Jeff to hunt up that post and its author, Graeme has a chance to profess his love for Centaurworld and all of us are all the better for it.
1:21:48-1:28:08: Okay, enough with Substack! (or…is it?) But since it’s been weeks & weeks & weeks since we’ve gabbed, we get a chance to finally discuss The Suicide Squad, currently in theaters and on HBO Max.
1:32:57-1:43:30: Us trying to figure out what the other big news story was puts us right back at—yup!—the corner of Tynion and Batman!

1:43:30-1:45:03: Hey, here’s the news story! Big thanks to Douglas Park for pointing it out (and my apologies for being so scattered in trying to retrieve it that I referred to Douglas using the ultra-vague term “someone”)!
1:45:03-2:01:44: Ah, we’ve hit the “Jeff panics we haven’t really talked enough about comics!” point of the podcast! Graeme has been reading and very much enjoying The Dreaming: Waking Hours by G. Willow Wilson and Nick Robles and how it feels like a smart updating that also captures all the best stuff of Gaiman’s Sandman at its height. And Jeff has been reading vol. 201 of Golgo 13, The epic collection Punisher: Return to Big Nothing; the first three volumes of Those Snow White Notes; Sundome!! Milky Way; and a return to the ultra low-key Steaming Sniper by Marley Caribu (pseudonym for the writer of Old Boy!) and Tadashi Matsumori.
2:01:44-2:08:20: And then Jeff started to badmouth Ed Piskor’s Red Room and accidentally unplugged his whole headset, throwing us into tech chaos for several minutes! Instead, Graeme points out it’s darn near closing time, and *also* points out that Marvel Unlimited has added a bunch of issues that he thinks are from Marvel’s upcoming August 1961 Omnibus! Dive in and get your Patsy Walker and Millie the Model stories while you can!
2:08:20-end:  And so….closing Comments! Look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.
Next week: Drokk!! Read Judge Dredd: The Complete Casefiles vol. 27 and join us!




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9 comments on “Wait, What?, Ep. 324: Stub Sack

  1. Shadavid Aug 16, 2021

    Like yourselves the gorgeous art of Javier Rodriguez drew me into Defenders #1 and Al Ewing’s script meant it was a happier stay than History of the Marvel Universe. I’m supposing he coloured it as well, but I don’t see a colouring credit in the issue.
    My entry in ‘Sandman-but-better’ (it is a competition, isn’t it?) is ‘The Cat Lover’ from Not The End Of The World by Kate Atkinson.
    Of the 1961 Marvel comics I particularly liked the cover of Patsy Walker #97. Al Hartley’s smiling-in-profile-faces leave me wondering if the person is drugged or has been replaced by replicant.
    Your discussion of Sub Stack was interesting, but reaffirms my inclination not to delve too deep into the social media. It’s partly an age thing and also I’m a person who’s willing to take your word that the milk is off, I don’t need to smell it myself.

  2. Voord 99 Aug 19, 2021

    I don’t think one necessarily needs to speculate about Substack’s founders being comics fans or try to work out some way in which this is likely to be profitable for Substack.

    I think it’s relevant that Substack raised $65 million in venture capital a few months ago, and the people running it had to find somewhere to put that money, somewhere that looks like growth. The familiar story. This all probably makes complete sense for the financial interests of the individuals making the decisions. Cf. WeWork — the flaws in the business model are obvious, much more so than with Substack (which, as Jeff says, would make sense as a low-overhead modest little operation that basically saved people hassle), but it has not stopped investors throwing money at the shiny object.

  3. Cheers for a top show, as ever. This Substack comic business is mystifying to me, I just don’t get it… some comics creators are sending comics attached to newsletters for a subscription? Others are just providing ‘Director’s cut’-style behind the scenes stuff? Surely anyone who wants the comics will wait for the trade, rather than buy it in bits of random size? I really think James Tynion IV is overestimating his fanbase – people like his writing, they like Batman, so when he’s on Batman, it’s big sales. When he’s not on Batman, the sales will be less. When he’s not on Batman and expecting you to pay for whatever offcuts he’s willing to give, forget it. Heck, any juicy DC gossip he shares will show up on Bleeding Cool pretty darn quickly. I think Substack comics will sink pretty quickly. Substack sounds subpar.

    I liked the Defenders book, lovely art, fun script, but it didn’t hit me as groundbreaking. Also, the random brown hair of Stephen Strange annnoyed me!

  4. Owner of an expensive book Aug 23, 2021

    As a owner of the August 1961 Omni, I can confirm the ones in the picture are indeed in that omni.

  5. Good to have you back after a well deserved break. You certainly know how to bring the variety to a variety show about comics and pop culture.

    So, yours might have been the best explanation of Substack I’ve encountered, and yet I still don’t really understand it. For the longest time I confused it with Medium, which I also don’t think I understand. Substack is *not* some alt-right, fash site like Breibart, but it publishes, if that’s the word, some authors who have political stances that are non-starters. Going by that article by Jude Doyle, one of those authors is anti-trans. The entire service isn’t anti-trans, but the money it makes helps pay those authors. Obviously it’s not a direct payment. You’re $5 to James Tynion doesn’t go directly into that anti-trans author’s bank account, but overall logic still stands. Tying this to your overall argument of what is ethical consumption, both of you watched “The Suicide Squad,” and I presume you watched it through HBO Max. Are you not paying Warner Bros. directly so they can turn around and pay J.K. Rowling to write another “Fantastic Beasts” movie? Should everyone who works for Warner Bros. go on strike until they stopping purchasing scripts from her? I’m not trying to call you out, and I don’t have answers to those questions. I suppose my real question ties back to not fully grasping Substack: Why, of all things, is the service that sells subscriptions to newsletters worthy of condemnation over something like Warner Bros. or any other problematic media entity? Why are these comics creators being pilloried over other Substack contributors?If a debut novelist sells their book to Hachete, should they be pilloried for knowingly getting into bed with the publisher of the Harry Potter series? I think most of us would say no, so what makes Substack so worthy of opprobrium? Is it the medium itself? The size of the paychecks grossly out of proportion to the quality? Sour grapes? Or, simply, I guess, the idea of paid subscription newsletters in 2021 the year of our Lord just grinds people’s gears. They should be forced to slum it on Twitter and the likes just like the rest of us. :)

    One point of disagreement with Graeme. I don’t think Batman will be fine without Tynion. I think it will be better off.

    • Jeff Lester Aug 24, 2021

      These are great points, Miguel.

      You mention The Suicide Squad and J.K. Rowling, but for me a better point of reference is the first Suicide Squad, which was partially funded by and therefore greatly enriched Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of Treasury and all-around shitbag (OneWest foreclosed on 36,000 homeowners in California with over a thousand violations of foreclosure law under his tenure). His name is all over a bunch of DC movies, not to mention some actual *good* movies. (Sorry, Aquaman–I still love you.)

      Or you know, Ike Perlmutter?

      At the risk of digging my own grave—I should know better by now than to argue with *you*—but Substack would be really happy if your narrative became the accepted one, and I’m not sure it’s accurate.

      It’s not that Substack publishes some authors who are political non-starters; it’s that Substack *actively recruited* those authors so that they would do exactly what Substack wanted them to do—make a big show out of quitting their current platforms (just like Tynion), insisting that they were being censored by liberals who were more concerned with politics than truth and reason. Substack did it for the eyeballs, which it got. And now bad faith actors like Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, and Jesse Singal have far more freedom than they would in any kind of just world.

      So for this particular bad faith actor—I think it’s probably too late to stop Stephen Mnuchin, J.K. Rowling, and Ike Perlmutter from making money, and too late to keep Hollywood from being Hollywood. But I think it’s not too late to stop Substack from being Substack, particularly at a stage when the reason they’re throwing all this money around is to get eyeballs and money. Telling people why they should consider whether or not to give Substack their eyeballs and time still feels like it might have a chance to change the outcome.

  6. Person of Con Aug 25, 2021

    I checked out Centaurworld on Graeme’s recommendation, and I’m glad I did. It comes off a little goofy at first, but by the tornado in episode 2 it had won me over entirely. And some of the songs are extremely, extremely catchy.

  7. Jeff,

    Thanks so much for the reply–and for retroactively making the first Suicide Squad movie even worse. I had no idea Mnuchin was involved with that and I… *long sigh* *longer sigh* *fills giant mug with whiskey*

    Thank you also for explaining the issues with Substack. Again, my ignorance of the platform prevented me from understanding what’s actually going on there. (Honestly, I really think I was confusing it with Medium this entire time, just like I used to confuse the Baldwin brothers.) I thought Substack was the equivalent to when people were quitting Twitter and Facebook to join those alternative sites like Ello. (Whatever happened to them, btw?) I was ignorant of the whole recruitment thing and how they were trying to leverage that. So, yeah, I guess it is worth trying to change the outcome, and that explains why it has a become a hot topic.

    Here’s hoping Jason Momoa has enough money to finance Aquaman 2 himself so that a war criminal doesn’t have to!