Batman #50

On Batman #50: They’re Only Spoilers If The Book Is Only Spoilers

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I’m not going to spoil DC Comics’ Batman #50. The long awaited issue features the wedding of Batman and Catwoman, written by Tom King with art by Mikel Janin (as well as Joëlle Jones, David Finch, Lee Bermejo, Frank Miller, José Luis García-López, Ty Templeton, Becky Cloonan, Andy Kubert, Neal Adams, Rafael Albuquerque, Mitch Gerads and more). So if you’re searching for the answer to what happens, you can look to literally any other site.

But what I do want to talk about is how spoilers are only spoilers if the book is nothing but spoilers.

As a culture, we’re in the midst of a non-stop, constantly evolving discussion of what constitutes a spoiler, and when it ceases to be a spoiler. For some people, finding out a major twist is a spoiler. For others, hearing whether a movie is good or not is a spoiler. Some people think that if you aren’t watching a TV show live, it’s your responsibility to avoid spoilers. Others think spoilers can happen any time, even years after the episode has aired*.

(*These people are wrong.)

And when it comes to comics, the discussion becomes even more complicated. Comic books are solicited three months in advance, meaning that technically spoilers are out there before the issue an event happens in is even available for sale. Publishers can redact details, or black out a key portion of a cover. But ultimately because comic shops order issues based on customer demand, these solicits need to spoil details to get readers excited.

Then the comics themselves are sent to retailers on the Monday or Tuesday before the issue hits stands, which leads to some less than scrupulous shop owners dropping details on the internet. Add in the press cycle, which aims to alert the general public that A) there’s a big issue hitting stands, and B) yes, they’re still making comic books, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid a big character death or twist dropping in headlines all over the internet.

But here’s the thing: a spoiler can only really ruin a comic book if that’s the only thing the comic has going for it. Same thing for a movie, or a TV show. Or anything, really. If the whole piece of art is built around and towards a twist or a plot point, it’s ignoring character, emotion, and perhaps even pure spectacle.

It doesn’t deserve to be spoiled if that’s accurate; but it’s also a failure on the part of the creators.

On the other hand, particularly with a comic book, there’s a lot more craft that goes into making an issue. Yes, it’s tricky to balance a complete plot and character arc with a jaw-dropping twist in twenty or so pages. But the best comics creators do exactly that. In particular, King is a master of the form right now, writing and plotting epic ongoing stories, while still aiming to make each issue sing on its own.

Then there’s the art. Saying that one plot point spoils an entire comic book is, frankly, an insult to the artist, who most likely labored an entire month crafting panels and layouts. How about the inker, and colorist, and letterer and editors? They worked hard too, and their focus isn’t necessarily that one plot point you’re pissed about.

Are some comics disposable, to be read and put aside in five minutes? Unfortunately for my wallet, and the time and energy people put into making the books: yes.

But most aren’t, and if all you’re taking away is one line or a short series of panels, you’re not getting out what the comics creators are putting in. You’re dismissing the work and craft put into creating a book.

I’m not going to deny that finding out a major plot point in advance can be upsetting… The twist is ideally part of the fabric of the piece, and a good comic creation team will build emotionally and physically to that moment. But swearing you won’t buy the issue because you discovered one detail is punishing yourself, not the publisher.

There’s is something to be said for massively changing the way the comic industry works, breaking the wheel that causes comics to be spoiled sometimes months in advance. But that’s another piece, for another time.

Ultimately, if a spoiler is so huge it ruins the entire experience of reading a comic book, it probably wasn’t a comic worth reading in the first place. That’s not the case with Batman #50; and frankly it hasn’t been the case with most mainstream comics “spoiled” in the past few years. There’s enough going into these books that make them an experience beyond one plot point, or even the plot itself.

…Though if you do pick one of these books up, don’t be a jerk and spoil them for someone else. Thanks.

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