Notorious spoiler-hater Dan Slott took to Facebook in the wake of DC spoiling its own Batwedding in the New York Times to talk about “spoiler culture.” DC’s self-spoiling follows a long tradition of comic book publishers spoiling their own stories pretty much whenever a mainstream media outlet is willing to pay attention to them over the last few years. The Fantastic Four writer was blunt about how he feels.
I hate this spoiler culture we’re in. Storytellers WANT to tell you the BEST stories possible. To do that, some of the most important tools in our toolbox are surprise reveals. If you rob us of that, you can kill the heart of a story that MANY people have poured months of our lives into- writers, pencilers, inkers, colorists, letterers, and editors. For a lot of us TELLING that story is more rewarding than any paycheck– it’s why we do what we do.
Slott isn’t a fan of spoilers, even when it’s his own employer doing the spoiling… though he does attribute that to purer motives.
But Dan, don’t the companies spoil things ahead of time? Yes, they do. And that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. And if you don’t think the people working on the stories AREN’T ticked off by that too, you’re not giving us enough credit. The short version why they do that: To get traction in the mainstream and OUTSIDE of the usual people who buy comics. They’re doing that to grow the industry, bring in new readers, and make the industry stronger– so we can keep the lights on at the company– and at brick and mortar stores.
But Slott is less generous in interpreting the motives of others:
When gossip or comic news sites spoil things ahead of time, they’re doing it for clicks. When fans find out stuff and spoil it ahead of time, they’re doing it for attention. That’s frustrating.
Though he does admit that maybe there are sometimes when fans aren’t doing it just for attention:
It’s even more frustrating when a fan reads something ahead of time, LOVES IT, and wants to SHARE that love with you. They want to let you know what cool thing is coming up because they’re genuinely excited about it.
Of course, it’s debatable whether Slott’s rosy interpretation of publishers’ intent to “grow the industry, bring in new readers, and make the industry stronger” is accurate. Comic book publishers rarely seem to think beyond the current quarterly financial cycle, with short-term boosters like reboots/relaunches, variant covers, and super-mega-crossover events being the most oft-used tools to sell comics. Spiking sales in the short term appears to be the goal in most cases, as opposed to slowing building a bigger readership over time, and how is that really any different than doing it “for clicks” anyway?
It could also be argued that when Marvel or DC spoils something on the New York Times, it’s worse than when a clickbait website does it since those websites generally obscure the spoiler behind warnings, leaving it up to fans whether to be spoiled or not. When Marvel or DC spoils something in the New York Times, the spoiler is often right in the headline, unavoidable.
Leaving that aside, it’s also questionable whether, assuming Slott is correct about the motives, spoiling a Batman comic in the New York Times even has any net positive effect on comic book readership. Publishers have been spoiling their big reveals for a few years now, and there’s no evidence of a major uptick in comics readership as result.
Well, what do you think of all this? Let us know in the comments.