The art of “spoiling” has certainly accelerated in recent years with the exponential rise in usage of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. so I apologize that I’m having a bit of a difficult time wrapping my head around some of the Internet outrage over Marvel’s publicity grab for last week’s Death of Spider-Man release. After reading numerous reaction pieces last week right after the news of Spidey’s death went mainstream and was published by USA Today and the Associated Press, there have been countless other “aftermath” articles explaining Marvel’s decision to leak news about the comic in advance of its release, including an interview with Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort late last week, and another interview with Arune Singh, director of communications, publishing and digital media at Marvel.
This just seems like a story that won’t go away, and for people who are seemingly demanding answers from Marvel for the leak, I think their motivation for is pretty obvious – the spike in sales generated by announcing the death of a character creates financial benefits that far outweigh the already captive fanbase that’s going to buy the issue no matter what. Or as Singh puts in during an interview with Comics Alliance:
As to the early part of the story, we’re entirely understanding of fans who feel that we’ve “spoiled” something for them and wonder just why we had to do it now – it’s certainly a fair question. But the answer comes from – and hopefully this doesn’t sound too blunt – looking at this in a larger business sense.
Not to be glib myself, but I’m still a bit shocked as to how fans can claim the outcome to a storyline called “The Death of Spider-Man” could be spoiled because the AP wrote about it. But I’m sure the contingent of folks who are up in arms about how this all played out will say I’m missing the point. Regardless, this is going to be one of the few times I side with the comic book industry here, as I can completely sympathize with their desire to generate mainstream attention for their product and bring casual or even non-fans into comic book shops out of curiosity – heck the buzz worked on me as I wasn’t originally going to ignore the Death of Spider-Man issue because it takes place in the “alternative” Ultimate universe which I don’t follow, but since Peter Parker’s death seemed to be evolving into a cultural milestone for the comic book industry, I couldn’t resist.
I also think as a society that specializes in digital and instantaneous communication, we’re moving well past a time where anything can truly actually “surprise” us anymore. Back in the 1970s, when Marvel killed off the popular Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121, there wasn’t the Internet or 24-hour news networks that needed to keep audiences entertained with a constant stream of information. The rise of these 24/7 mediums has also created a variety of hyper “niche” audiences, which means a story about a comic book death is more apt now to be mainstreamed than it was 30 years ago, because a wire report can be picked up by a media source and directly disseminated to a targeted audience.
It’s also worth throwing out there that in the cases of Ultimate Spider-Man #160, or the Fantastic Four issue where Human Torch died, only the general outcome of the issue was spoiled by the media. There’s still plenty of details about these issues that went unreported. Like how the writers and artists of these respective series arrived at these outcomes and executed. When I picked up my issue of Ultimate #160, I knew Spider-Man was going to die, but I read it carefully to see “how” they were going to do it, and to dissect if the execution of his death felt cheap or justified. It’s part of the reason wh I’ll often try and read the book first before I see a movie. Sure, I might know what’s going to happen, but I don’t just sit and watch a movie for the outcome – the journey and the execution (direction, acting, cinematography) is the bulk of the entertainment experience.
But again, I suspect people will say I’m missing the point. I understand that leaking the contents of Ultimate Spider-Man #160, prior to its releases sucks some of the “spirit” out of buying and reading new comic books, but the sense of outrage still seems misguided to me. The fact that we’re a week removed from the Spider-Man event and people are still dissecting what Marvel did here seems a little extreme. Spider-Man died in a story called “Death of Spider-Man” and if you were unlucky enough to read USA Today, or a wire report from the AP about prior to reading it in the comic book itself, I’m sorry. I’m sure there were ways for you to avoid the story and still be surprised by the outcome, or at least read and enjoy the comic knowing the outcome. But if that’s not the case then I really want to find the hyperbaric chamber y you’ve been sleeping in the past few years that shields you from all outside media but still allowed you to lead a functional life. I could have used that while Game of Thrones was on HBO.