Comic News: Always in the Future

Face front True Believers, comic sites are proud to announce that in six months the Human Torch will die. Now enjoy the next issues waiting for his heroic date with destiny. Excelsior! This is the message that publishers are releasing to fans; be excited for our stories half a year from now, but please continue purchasing the current releases, which we may or may not have spoiled.

The comics media is out of sync with normal time. They report four to six months ahead of actual release date. This is a great way to psych fans up for future stories or create interest in a series that hasn’t launched yet. However, it does distract from issues that are hitting stands today. When Marvel teases Dark Reign before Secret Invasion ends, it alerts consumers how the current “things will never be the same” event is going to end and tail spin directly into the next “can’t miss” blockbuster. This can make issue seven of nine irrelevant, because the conclusion is already revealed. Beyond that, there is a premium on news stories that detail what is going to happen. No one wants to read the blurb at the back of the book for what happens next, they want to read the solicitations for three months from now. This causes readers to reconcile what is occurring today and piece together how the characters will end up in the position described in the future. With an eye always on the horizon, can fans truly appreciate what is in front of them?

Spoilers. Fans hate when they are randomly dropped on them, but will consistently seek them out when they are created as part of the news cycle. All major publishers release a listing of future solicitations three months ahead of street date. Fans will comb through these and find clues as to the impact on current events. Is a prominent member of the Avengers missing from each issue? OMG they probably died! Is an ongoing series mysteriously missing a solicitation? What does this mean to the space/time continuity!? These solicitations garnered enough attention that there is a separate Previews publication released each month. Marvel has determined that fans are even willing to pay, $0.99, for this information.

Information about future storylines are prominently displayed in headlines, banners and landing pages. Fans who visit a site, hoping for reviews, features or editorials must dive through these spoiler filled waters. News outlets do not gate these articles with spoiler tags, because they generate click-through traffic. An alternative, though not ideal, is to not interact with sites which engage in these practices, but that is not always full proof.

On the other end of the spectrum, though just as nefarious, is when publishers release a press release to a major news outlet before the event hits stores. When Peter Parker removed his mask in Civil War #2, people didn’t find out about it while reading the issue but instead in USA Today. Before Damian Wayne met his demise in Batman and Robin the story was part of Entertainment Weekly’s news reel. Publishers engage in these tactics to drive casual consumers into purchasing new issues and be part of the comic fandom. Unfortunately, these practices do not create new returning readers and hurt the existing collectors.

Sites about the comics medium should strive to promote creators, publishers and works as they occur not generate spoilers of the future. Comics are a monthly serial form of storytelling, or so if you read trades, and should be allowed to thrive as such. Let’s try and focus on the now, enjoy the issues released every Wednesday and speculate what’s going to happen next instead of jumping online and figuring out who killed the Watcher.

Level Up, Friends!