I have been reading comic books for a long time. If you frequent the site then that shouldn’t really surprise you and if you’re new to the site, hiiiiiii won’t you please stick around and check out our archives. While my wallet often protests the number of comics that I read, I can’t help but ignore it. I love the medium. Comic books are where some of my favorite stories are told and in a serialized, mostly, monthly manner. Where else can you really get storytelling like that nowadays?
Like most forms of entertainment, i.e. television shows or movies, no one likes spoilers. Sure, we like to be teased and have the anticipation build but no one really wants to have story points ruined. Except you few who have no patience and actively seek out spoilers. For the rest of us we have trailers to help us get by. These quick thirty seconds (tv) or two minutes (movies) give you just enough (sometimes too much) to bring you in because at the end of the day movies and television know that if they spoil their product whose going to actually watch? It’s a matter of numbers in the end. It always is.
That rule of thumb doesn’t really hold to comic book companies. In fact, comic book publishers tend to ignore that fact altogether. I can’t tell you just how many times that major comic book developments have been spoiled by the publishing company right before the book gets released, and honestly, it pisses me off. Big time. Just in the last two weeks, a major return has been spoiled by Marvel and the answer to a burning question has been spoiled by DC. Why?! Why can’t you let the fandom experience this on its own like any other medium?
I get why it happens but it doesn’t mean that I approve. It seems that the numbers for comic sales haven’t been the greatest, in fact, they’re down. That’s sort of expected in the type of age we live in. Why spend money for things if you search the interwebs hard enough you’ll find what you’re looking for… free. As the saying goes “if it’s free it’s for me” but it’s that mentality that is ruining the comic business to the point where publishers need to spoil their own books in the hopes that people will buy them. It’s sad and infuriating and not the solution.
Think about the short-term response, yes, a number of people will tune in to see how said spoiler will happen, but how many of them are actually sticking around? For instance, way back when Mark Millar’s Civil War concluded the media spoiled the fact that Captain America would die in his stand-alone book. Sorry, no spoiler warning as it was almost ten years ago and Steve Rogers is very much alive and Hydra free at the moment. There is little doubt that the numbers for that book rose but it’s mostly from readers who want to see how a company killed off a famous character or from collectors who think the book will have some future value. How many of those “fans” stick around for the next issue? Also, how much are issues when characters die worth when death in comic books is pretty much meaningless?
Now by allowing the news of Steve Rogers death to be spoiled, you’ve pissed off your core fan base. The people who are reading your books on a monthly basis. The ones who would have been shocked and floored by actually reading the events of the book as they transpired. Shouldn’t these be the people that we’re accommodating? Afterall they’re the ones who come back month after month to read about their favorite heroes. Shouldn’t we hold their fandom in accountability? Instead of spoiling them maybe rely on them to use word of mouth. Social media has become such a large part of our lives now, you don’t think that if you kill off a major character that readers won’t turn to Twitter or Facebook to shout about it? Next thing you know casual fans or movie fans get wind of it and start asking readers questions about stories and the event itself. Maybe even the media catches wind of it and starts publishing stories on the event. Now through word of mouth you’ve built interest and interaction. People are curious about the product as a whole opposed to just the event. One would think that this would lead to more readership, right?
Out of the two spoilers that have come in the last two weeks, I managed to stay away from one. The “smaller” of the two as it were. The first one focused on a major return and the circles I keep on the interwebs wouldn’t have allowed that to stay quiet for very long. Did it stop me from buying the book? No, I still bought it because it was an important issue but it did hinder my surprise or enjoyment. I kept thinking just how much cooler that would have been if I hadn’t caught wind that someone was coming back. If it just happened within the pages in a natural storytelling method. God forbid.
I worry about the comic medium. I do. Buying comics isn’t the cheapest hobby in the world and I can see that as being a driving force to keep readers at bay. DC has at least taken this into account and lowered the majority of their books to $2.99 as well as some of their events as a way of being more fan friendly. Marvel, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care about readers wallets and constantly put out books that cost $4.99 and up because it’s a “can’t miss event starter”. That’s frustrating when the comic company you support and love won’t take care of you. Especially when you consider they’re spoiling what happens in those pages anyway. Why should you even think of forking over that money? Unless you’re like me and have that compulsive need to find out just what exactly is going on.
Do I think that word of mouth is the solution to comic book sales and keeping big events secret? No, but it also couldn’t hurt. I’d prefer to learn about new comic developments within the comics I’m reading and not the media. But my hopes for change aren’t exactly high. This is something that’s been happening since Doomsday killed Superman when I was a kid. I just wish there was a better way to do this. Maybe even wait a week before spoiling or vaguely hint at what’s going to transpire. A trailer or preview if you will. Otherwise I feel that you’re going to chase away loyal readers and in the long run comic book companies need to hold on to those fans with extra kung-fu grip. Otherwise, where will the medium be?