Slott, Spoilers and Sales Tactics

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Posted January 26, 2015 by Josh McCullough in Comic Books

*SPOILERS FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12*

So recently, there was a discussion between us here at the site regarding Amazing Spider-Man #12, in particular referencing the article from Bleeding Cool that claimed it would “break the internet”. During this discussion it came to light that I myself was a Dan Slott fan (you can see some not at all out of context quotes from me on the matter in Stephanie’s review of the issue here) which seemed to actually cause some controversy among us. Many people were left feeling indifferent to the final outcome however, with the reveal of an alternate universe Uncle Ben leading to an earth shattering “meh” from a large majority of the comic book community. While the end result ended up being more of a fizzle than anything “internet breaking” it did get me thinking about my own opinions on Slott as a writer, his controversial twists, the spoiler culture that has cropped up in the comic book community and his stance on that.

 

 

Spoiler alert: it lead to the article you are now reading.

Firstly, let’s start by addressing the main bombshell of this article; yes I am a huge Dan Slott fan, particularly his run on Spider-Man. For those who have chosen not to walk out on me and blacklist this site, allow me to explain. From what I understand, most of the outrage towards Dan Slott seems to be because of his “disrespect” for continuity. Such as in the example below:

I however love this fact about Slott. As any long time comic reader will know, due to the mass marketable nature of these characters the status quo must always be maintained to keep the characters accessible to new readers and to ensure they can survive for as long as they have. A lot of comic fans themselves also seem very adverse to change, usually only seeing the characters and situations they were in when they started reading as the only “real” take on them. Slott however chooses to kick the beehive of the comic community and their penchant for things being set in stone by completely twisting these characters into new situations. Nowhere was this more apparent than his run on Superior Spider-Man.

I’ve mentioned a few times during my time on the site that I’m a massive fan of this run, in which Doc Ock became Spider-Man (lovingly dubbed SpOck by fans) after mind swapping with Peter Parker. It was met with a huge amount of controversy, leading to many fans claiming that Slott had “ruined the character” or even more graphically “raped their childhoods”.

dan slott memes

Post like this were commonplace in early 2013

Despite hyperbole like this however, the book sold incredibly well and only grew in popularity as it continued. For me it cemented Slott as a man who’s not afraid to really shake things up and try to do something new with half century old characters, even if die-hard fans refused to accept it.

Part of what made this book so good, for me at least, was the constant twists and turns Slott threw at the reader; for as rigid and fixed as comics are it felt like Slott was just blowing something up every issue then strutting out twenty pages later. It was one hell of a time to be a Spider-Man fan and was one of the few instances of a writer living up to his “everything changes” promises. Given that so much of the impact of the book came from these shocking twists, Slott became very tight lipped about upcoming events, usually only hyping up specific issues with promises of “big things”. Working against Slott however were sites looking to spoil upcoming events in order to score the biggest page hits.

He was not a fan of this.

Slott is one of the biggest critics against sites leaking stories and using them as clickbait, he will often call out sites that practise this, particularly Bleeding Cool. He has had many personal dealings with the site, a quick look at his Twitter shows tweets such as the one below.

Slott often locks horns with Bleeding Cool, in particular Rich Johnston. He takes issue with two specific aspects of the site’s form of journalism; their rumour mill reporting and their habit of spoiling comics before their street date. Slott went on a particularly strong rant against the site after they ran a story which spoiled the inclusion of Stephanie Brown in Batman #28, claiming that it was in “bad form” and that they should “let storytellers do their job”. His full statement can be read here.

Batman_Vol_2_28

Chances are you had this spoiled for you as well.

This has been a divisive issue in the comic book community; Slott often frequents online message boards to further defend his ideology on spoilers and clickbaits, leading to many labelling him as petty or overly defensive (particularly on the Bleeding Cool forums themselves). While I personally don’t want to slam another site I can sympathise with Slott and his situation, I think the man is a good writer and I’ve found myself entertained by what he does. In the digital age we live in it’s getting harder and harder for creators to keep their plans secret, so I can understand the frustration they must feel when all the hard work becomes worthless so that someone else can profit momentarily off of it.

While the conflict so far seems to be over page hits, I’ve noticed however a strange new argument being used against Slott and others who are against spoilers, one that I can’t quite grasp the appeal of. The idea that knowing the ending of the comic will actually make them want to purchase it.

It’s something I heard regarding the previously mentioned Batman #28 spoilers which, to be fair, I kind of understood. The idea of a fan loved pre-52 character returning is surely something newsworthy and something that would drive people to pick up the book, but again, I have to stand with Slott; this is something that was surely prepared to be a massive shock ending intended to get people to check out the book. I don’t see why this couldn’t just have been left to word of mouth after the book had released, allowing fans of the series to get that shock value and then spreading it to people who would otherwise be uninterested, instead of spoiling it beforehand simply so sites could get some page hits.

This same situation seems to have been what happened with Amazing Spider-Man #12, though in this case it was an actual retailer who spoiled the book. According to the Bleeding Cool article he deliberately photographed the page and sent it to his customers in order to get them to buy the book. This I really don’t understand, why would revealing the ending of a comic to your customers convince them to buy it? Surely just teasing something big would be enough? Here at the site we got pretty excited trying to guess what would happen, so much so that I went out and bought the comic first thing the next day. Other retailers did the less spoilerific act of simply hyping the book, and Slott seemed pretty happy with this, so why would completely ruining the ending work any better?

Ben

Would being sent this make you buy the comic?

What’s even more worrying in this growth of spoiler culture is that it’s not just being down by sites for clickbait or retailers looking for sales, it’s actually being done by the publishers themselves in order to generate hype and sales for a book. A trend I am very much set against and that seems to undermine plights like Slott’s.

Right now I’m aware that Deadpool will be dying in a few months, that following DC’s weekly Futures End and World’s End series there will be an event called Convergence featuring the return of many fan-pleasing characters and continuities and that all the teasing and speculation from John Hickman’s Avengers will cumulate in a massive Secret Wars event similar to DC’s Convergence. I don’t have any insider knowledge or someone leaking me this information, the big two are more than happy to provide me with this, all in the interest of selling more comic books.

This has become an increasingly common practise, especially from Marvel. It’s no doubt it gets them the attention, one just needs to look at the recent buzz they got from announcements such as Captain Falcon or the new Thor to see it clearly works in getting them mainstream coverage, but it seems to come at the cost of fan enjoyment of this series. We don’t even have the first issue of an event book before Marvel are releasing plot points on what’s happening half way through the book and announcing books to follow up after it (looking at you Axis). It’s getting ridiculous at this point.

MarvelSecretWars

We’ll probably know the ending of this before even reading an issue.

At the time of writing, Marvel are currently hyping up a Secret Wars announcement, four months before the book is even out. We got an announcement, for an announcement, for a book that is coming out in four months. I really hope I’m not the only one who finds this hype machine a little over the top. Imagine if it were like this in other mediums; you see a trailer for Citizen Kane and then it tells you within the first minute that “Rosebud” is a sleigh (sorry, spoilers for a 74 year old movie). To me, it shows a lack of confidence in the final product to deliver the impact they expect, so they need to tell us in advance that there’s some sort of “big event” coming up to get people talking and ensure the book is a big success. If a book is strong or shocking enough it’ll be able to makes those waves on its own merits, not through manufactured hype.

This brings us back round to Slott and his own thoughts on spoilers. I know many of you may be thinking that this idea of hyping up big events is something I had no problem with Slott doing earlier in the article (you’re not right but I’m glad you’re paying attention), in fact he does quite the opposite. Slott knows when to hype up his books as he knows the spoilers will be coming, he gives out these warnings as he respects the fans enjoyment and wants them to go in fresh. This is the complete opposite in my opinion of publishers deliberately spoiling their books for the sales boost, in that case their putting sales before fans.

The disparity in tactics can be seen when looking at the fallout of the response to Amazing Spider-Man #12; Slott came under fire on Twitter due to many believing he overhyped the issue for increased sales, when in actuality it wasn’t him who made any of the “internet breaking” claims at all, it was sites like Bleeding Cool, Slott simply told fans that there would be spoilers out there and to be wary.


The damage was clearly done however and lead to a very lukewarm and in some places even hostile reception to the newest issue. It’s another unfortunate side-affect of the want for spoilers and the hype machine blowing things out of proportion.

So what can be said then about the growth of spoiler culture in our community; sadly it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. With superhero comics becoming more popular than ever in the mainstream, ruling the box office and making even the most obscure characters into household names the pressure is on for publishers to sell even more books, which means even more hype and spoilers in advanced to ensure those sales. Sites too will also always be looking for the next big scoop and ready to pounce on any leaks to ensure the biggest page hits that day.

Despite the doom and gloom however, those of us who care about good stories and remaining unspoiled can still do our best to discourage them. I personally choose to stand with Dan Slott on his stance against spoilers, I do my best not to read them in order to avoid giving sites hits and encourage anyone else who cares about these stories to do the same. Don’t be suckered in by marketing hype and big events, read the stories you enjoy because you enjoy them, not because there’s some big spoiler or event that needs to be known. Above all, just enjoy comics and do your best to respect both the creator’s intentions and other people’s enjoyment too.


About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.