I got an email yesterday urging me to link to this piece from Unleash The Fanboy that reasons that Jarvis, Tony Stark’s robotic AI helper (voiced by Paul Bettany) will turn into Ultron in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron. The writer bases this on both canon—in the comics, Ultron lured Jarvis, who was an actual person, into working for him—and speculation: Joss Whedon says Hank Pym won’t create Ultron in the movie, some leaked storyboards has klews, and so on.
This email was effective, because while I was researching this story, I found a ton of websites had picked up this “news.” Even more interestingly, Google revealed that the writer, Steve L., has actually published a version of his theory back in July. So he’s definitely been working it. It’s not even his theory alone. The comics/movies hot stove league hashes over every detail of this stuff, and given the history, some kind of Ultron/Jarvis relationship isn’t so far-fetched.
This put me in mind of the “scoop” on Monday that Bryan Cranston will be Lex Luthor in the upcoming Superman/Batman movie, and has signed a13-picture deal with WB. This story was run on the otherwise unexceptional website cosmicbooknews, and was soon picked up everywhere from Rolling Stone to The Daily Beast.
Except, it’s almost certainly codswallop, as knowledgable movie sources tweeted all day. The Atlantic took a more critical view:
That said, El Mayimbe—real name: Umberto González—wasn’t buying what news organizations were selling today. “I can’t believe how many legitimate outlets got suckered by that BS @cosmicbooknews story. Wow,” he tweeted. He was not the only one to throw cold water on Cosmic Book News’ report. Mark “RorMachine” Cassidy at Comic Book News wrote: “A certain fansite (which we still won’t name or link to, any search for Cranston/Luthor will unearth it) routinely posts…well, complete horseshit for hits. Sometimes — as in this case — they expand on an existing rumor, and others it’s incredibly outlandish garbage, plucked from thin air — Matt Damon being in talks for Aquaman etc.”
It will come as no surprise that you can publish any kind of crap rumor on the internet and people will run with it, but the CosmicBookNews piece was so full of doody—a 13 picture deal???? Matt Damon as Aquaman????—that it might as well have had Rob Liefeld singing “Game of Thrones” over it as it was released.
Of course, we’re all used to the ebb and flow of information on the internet. A faulty web app mistakenly reported that Neil Armstrong died, when it meant to say he had died a year ago, and everywhere this morning people were talking about it. I saw it mentioned on various news round-up stories on credible news sites, and people tweeting about it.
ABC News mistakenly sent out a tweet, now deleted, that said, “Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Is Dead,” according to HollywoodLife.com. ABC was intending to tweet a piece about his passing to honor the anniversary of his death, but it was attached to a more current video, which changed the timestamp on the story to Aug. 27 and made everything appear current. The culprit was a misbehaving app, according to HollywoodLife.com. Social media eventually corrected the rumor, but not before it went viral.
Now a lot gets by me, and I don’t keep the news on 24/7 any more since it’s mostly crap too, but the Armstrong thing, when I first read it yesterday morning, didn’t sit right with me. There hadn’t been the flush of obits that you usually see with a major figure’s death. I did an investigation, which consisted of wondering aloud to my husband if Neil Armstrong had died. My husband—who gets most of his morning news from FB— already knew that it was a hoax.
So what have we learned? That my husband should write the news here. And that even actual, professional news outlets will pass along any rumor or bullshit because no one has time to check and someone else might get the scoop and the traffic first. I admit, I’m tempted to run by these guidelines, since it is now blog standard, but my inquisitive nature won’t let me. I know it may not seem like it, but I try to vet all the stories I run here in some crude fashion—either they come from a source I trust, or I can verify the details in some way. Sometimes I even ask around. “Asking around” is not as effective an investigatory tool as it used to be since with more media than ever, people are more tight-lipped than ever. But I try.
At San Diego, a comics figure who had been very much in the news a few months before thanked me for not running a story that everyone else did, even though it wasn’t true. I hadn’t actually run the TRUE story…but at least I didn’t run the wrong story. The glass was definitely half empty. But my pledge to you, faithful Beat readers, is this: No breathless half-assed rumors, unless they are very amusing, in which case they will clearly be labeled breathless half-assed rumors, not news or scoops. It’s a tiny effort, but better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.