Spoilers. Whether you love them or hate them, in the past fifteen to twenty years our internet based culture have brought on an entire industry devoted to telling you what is going to happen to your favorite film, comic, book, etc. before they come out. Heck, before television, radio, and movies, people would skip to the last page to find out who the killer was or if Tom Sawyer survived. We’re an inquisitive species and when something grabs our interest, we want to know everything about it.
But can it go too far? On Monday, the website “Bleeding Cool” released some scoops that contained some pretty specific spoilers for upcoming Marvel Comics titles. Dan Slott, writer for “The Amazing Spider-Man” and other titles, went ballistic, calling out the website for what he considered predatory practices. His opinion, shared by Brian Bendis, is that websites like that should not under any circumstances print any spoilers since that would be ruining the hard work of comic book creators everywhere.
I’m conflicted on spoilers. I totally get where Dan Slott and Brian Bendis are coming from because as a writer myself (of a book on sale for FREE on Smashwords this month. Purchase it here! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/48189), I would be livid if someone spread the word on the big ending for my story without my direct approval. And frankly yes, knowing how something ends ahead of time can be make or break for some folks as to whether they invest in a comic, book, movie, etc. Comics are just as much an industry as car manufacturing.
On the other hand, the reason I’m familiar with sites like Bleeding Cool and Latino Review is due to the scoops they receive. When Star Wars Episode 7 was announced, I read Da7e Gonzales here on Latino Review religiously for any scoop or tidbit he was able to find. Were Disney and Lucasfilm happy with what he was able to break to the public? Probably not. Yet for me the scoops I read from him and others got me all the more excited for the film as well as giving me an inside look at the creative process.
What Dan Slott and Brian Bendis want when it comes to spoilers simply won’t happen. Again, I understand where they are coming from and would probably fall into line with them when it comes to my work but the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to spoilers. Websites like Latino Review, Bleeding Cool, Ain’t It Cool News, and others have been around long enough that people are frankly accustomed to getting this type of information on a regular basis. Spoilers aren’t going away. And while we can wish for that bygone era where websites weren’t around to spoil every little thing about the latest comic or movie, with the free flow of information as we have it today, that will never happen.
Long story short, my personal opinion is spoilers are newsworthy. Can they ruin the experience for some people if presented wantonly? Of course. Can they ruin the hard work of creators who want to surprise the audience? In a way, sure. Especially if it is a product someone was on the fence about in the first place, one spoiler can be make or break as to whether money changes hands. But the fact remains that when there is a market for information, people will come along to give that audience what they want.
But there have to be standards people follow when posting them, standards not just for the websites that run them but for the comic book companies as well.
For websites, you have to be discreet in how you post them. Not everyone wants to read a spoiler so just laying it out in an article with no warning whatsoever is just bad form and makes you and your site look bad. I happened to speak to Da7e Gonzales on Twitter and he had this to say.
For companies, they have to work on plugging leaks if they’re looking to keep the content of storylines secret. After Dan Slott’s vent on Twitter yesterday, Marvel went and spoiled a big plot point of the latest issue of Civil War 2. That sort of made Dan and others in his position look bad. At the end of the day, Dan Slott and others are cogs in a multi-billion dollar machine. Well paid cogs but cogs nonetheless. If he were publishing a comic with a smaller company and actually owned the work, he’d have a lot more control of how information on the story is spread for the press. When it comes to a company like Marvel, Mr. Slott and others are at the whims of the company. If Marvel wants to release information before a comic is released, he probably has little to no say if they do. Also, with the sheer amount of folks working for Marvel, there’s a bigger chance of information slipping to the press than there would be from other companies. Loose lips sink ships is the old saying and when it comes to information like spoilers, they’ve sunk a lot of ships.
This is a complicated issue. While creators understandably get upset when the stories they create are spoiled before folks have a chance to check out the work, there is a market for this information. The creative process is frankly fascinating. This is a tough issue because I can honestly see both sides having a point. While I disagree with the analogy Dan Slott gave on Twitter which states sites that post spoilers are like someone selling you a dozen eggs where one is poisoned, he is right that spoilers can ruin the work of artists, writers, and others in the comic book industry. If one out of ten people don’t buy a comic due to a spoiler they overheard, that’s money lost and bad for business. On the other hand, if folks like myself who writer for websites obtain information about a comic, movie, book, etc., we have readers that would love to read this because the creative process is fascinating. You can’t turn the faucet off on the type of information people are used to getting. It’s not going to happen. What we can do is make sure that if we’re presenting that information to the public, we’re doing so in such a way as to let folks know what they’re getting into.
One last thing to consider is social media etiquette. A website may do everything in its power to shield a spoiler from folks not wishing to see it or a comic book company successfully goes out of their way to keep a twist ending a secret until it’s ready for sale but when someone tweets a link out and in bold letters announces DUMBLEDORE IS KILLED BY SNAPE!, it gives the reader looking to remain unspoiled no chance to avoid them. Other websites like Facebook are bad too because in the news section, when the Captain America/Hydra silliness occurred, they posted the reveal right in the news post which was not right. While they ended up changing it, most folks opinion of the piece was formed on that one little blurb. The audience figures into this equation too. So folks, be nice!