Sometimes I ask myself: What is the f**king point?

I’m not even going to bother with a proper spoiler warning because if you read this site then you’re a comic book fan and if you’re a comic book fan then you already know what the events of Batman Inc #8 are. This is because the comics industry doesn’t seem to care weather you read their comics or not.

Everything wrong with comicsThis excerpt from the USA Today piece about Batman Inc #8 is everything that is wrong about comic books for me at this point in time. Not reboots, retcons, or changing beloved character’s iconic designs, in fact I like that kind of stuff because it can lead to NEW things happening. But this, using news outlets both comic and non-comic related to report on the latest shocking twist before it happens is a growing and major problem. If you read the USA Today piece then you get all the key points of the story. I am still going to read it (it’s downloading on my iPad at this second) but a lot of that initial reading experience has been negated for me. Damian’s demise will no longer be a shock for me, it will just be a shrug moment and the sad thing is, I love Damian Wayne as a character! If I went in blind then I would have that shock value intact and the moment would have impact, see the recent death of Knight, of Knight and Squire fame, in an earlier issue of the same comic for reference.

Now I know what you are thinking, why not just avoid the news? What not just ignore it until you’ve read the comic? Well let me tell you the story of how the death of Robin was spoiled for me…

20130226-batman-inc-306x-1361913065Until this week the death of Damian Wayne was just a niggling feeling in the back of my mind. Something that made sense for how Grant Morrison writes and uses comics. He’s a big crazy ideas guy but when he’s done he puts all the toys back in the toy box, neatly. The end of his New X-Men run levelled the playing field to allow the next writer to come in and be able to continue telling stories about Marvel’s Mutants. I had similar feelings that this would happen in Batman Incorporated because it has several big crazy ideas in play:

  • Batman franchising his crusade to other heroes like a caped hero version of Starbucks
  • Introducing Bruce Wayne’s bastard child and making him Robin
  • Making said new Robin the potential reason for Gotham’s apocalypse via a war between the child’s parents (divorce proceedings on a massive action-packed scale)

Also there had been rumblings on comic news sites that something big was going to go down in issue #8 of Batman Inc. Then you had the tease at the end of issue #7,

Hmm...So I knew something was going to happen, all signs pointed to death but then again this is Grant Morrison and he likes to personally mess with me. He’s that kind of guy. So I was content with second guessing myself until I read the actual comic. Then this week started…. As of Monday it became next to impossible to avoid having the issue spoiled for me.

I usually try my hardest to avoid spoilers and read my comics as raw and unfiltered as I can. For the most part it works because the only places spoiling them are comic book news sites and for the most part they hide them behind clear info free images like this,

Bleeding Cool Spoiler WarningsBleeding Cool, the comic book site we love to hate and love then hate again all at the same time. is the best for this kind of stuff because they don’t spoil anything unless you want them to. You have to click that Read More… tag then the onus for it is on you. But when a comic book story is given to the wider press to report on (more on this in a bit) it quickly becomes impossible to avoid spoilers of any kind on any website. As soon as places like USA Today, BBC News, CNN, etc. start reporting on these shocking twists, comic book news sites scramble to put up content for the casual reader or interested observer who stumbles on their site while googling “news: robin dies batman.” So from Monday onwards I have been treated to stuff like this filling my favourite comic book sites,

Newsarama Robin ContentHmm…I wonde what the big twist relates to? Any guesses? No? None? It like going “Robin dies in Batman Inc #8! Oh…spoilers by the way.” or to put it better, “In Citizen Kane rosebud is a sled. Oh you haven’t seen it? I don’t give a shit!”

Still even with all this going on I had still had a certain level of deniability. I still didn’t know what really happend in the issue. Damian could just have his back broken or disappear or take up knitting. Anything was still possible. Then my wife came home from work…

We were chatting as we usually do and then she said, “Oh on the radio at work they were saying that DC have killed off Robin.”

BOOM! Comic spoiled and all the images on all the sites make sense. All ruined for me by the one person I love most in the world, my wife. A cruel twist of fate fit for a comic book and one that sums up perfectly my problem with all of this reporting before the issue comes out stuff.

Once a news site/paper like USA Today is given the info on something like Robin dying that shit spreads like wildfire. It becomes the “Also in the news…” piece of the day/week and it travels around the net spreading, ruining the actual comic for people who like actually read them and not read about them. It even reaches the local radio stations here in England were the majority of people stare at you blankly when you mention comic books. Your wife hears it comes home and knowing you love comic books, brings it up innocently. She asks you about it because she is currently reading the various Batman books you buy and enjoys them but she is confused, she is up to date on all things Batman and no Robin has died.

BOOM, in a singular moment it is ruined for the both of us. My reaction speaks volumes, I sigh, apologise to my wife for my outburst (trust me there was an outburst) and quietly hate the comics industry just a little bit more.

USA_Today_logoThe big problem I have with this is that it doesn’t need to happen this way at all. In a regular week places like USA Today, E!, Entertainment Weekly, etc. etc. etc. do not give a rat’s arse what happens within the pages of the dozens of comics published week in week out. They only report on them in advance of the issue coming out because the comic’s publisher sends them a copy of the comic early with a press release detailing everything they need to know to write a fluff piece about it. It is a mutual partnership because the news reporter gets a boost in site hits/papers sold that day as the story spreads and people come looking for the source. The comics publisher get a temporary boost in sales as muggles wander into their local comic book store asking why Robin died. We know this to be true because various comics sties talk about it, regularly. But the best case and point is Amazing Spider-Man #700.

What a twist!This was a storyline and twist that in advance of it coming out was not given to the wider press to report on. Marvel came out and said this in advance of the issue. “It is issue #700 something big is going to happen” is all we knew. The wider press had no idea it was happening until the issue itself came out. Then as the internet exploded and people everywhere started talking about it. The news sites reported on it like it was…you know….news…that had just happend… No intricate details two to four days in advance. No comic book sites flooding with related posts until after the issue became a big news story and after everyone had read it. Yes there were a couple of posts about the issue leaking online but they were usually clearly labelled and didn’t give away the finer details. No muggles wandering into comic book shops asking why Doc Ock is Spider-Man now until late on Wednesday/early Thursday. It didn’t get spoiled for me at all. I read my comic on the edge of my seat, shaking with adrenalin as it unfolded before me. I was shocked, amazed and….happy.

Happy because I realised it was the first time in about a good two years a major plot point for a comic book hadn’t been spoiled for me in advance of the issue coming out. I got to experience the novelty of a shocking twist once again and I loved it. The press then reported about it after the fact like they do for everything else. We got discussion, debate, fan rage and bemusement all without ruining the comic book itself.

Now why can’t it happen like that all the time?

UPDATE: It’s as if DC don’t want you to bother reading Batman Incorporated #8 at all.

From Bleeding Cool,

Channel 52 Spoils Batman IncThis appears in every DC Comic published this week. So say you’ve managed to avoid it completely but decide to read something else before reading Batman Incorporated #8 you are shit out of luck I am afraid.

 

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