Okay, so a member of the Fantastic Four died in FF #587 — a comic which would normally be on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, like usual, but went on sale early at selected retailers. At the same time, a story hit the wires, NPR and just about every other media outlet with a “DEATH IN THE FAMILY” type story, effectively spoiling what had been a pretty well kept secret until then. Twitter was fluttering from the moment the stories hit. Whether you were outraged or shrugged your shoulders at the spoilage it was yet another example of a Big Two publisher planting a major media story and having no good option for timing. This also happened, famously, with the death of Captain America, the death of Batman, and surely many other stories we are too jaded to remember.
Despite the many cries for more regular media coverage of comics to get new people thinking about buying comics, no one is ever completely happy with this. For years, Marvel’s David Gabriel has been appearing on retailer message boards begging them to heed his mysterious warnings that “This issue will be one people are talking about!” To give credit where due, Marvel and DC are both very good about getting these stories in the Times or USA Today or somewhere where they are likely to get picked up — so when they say they are going to do it, they are right. The timing of the Torch — OOPS! — announcement was tied in to the Tuesday delivery — critics say it could have been on Wednesday and civilians wouldn’t know the difference. but when is the good time/ If you announce these things ahead of time, the books aren’t available then. If you let it leak, the major media won’t run the story because it isn’t exclusive any more. If you can’t say what exactly it is, why should retailers order enough for the demand?
This time out, Marvel certainly did a good job of letting people know SOMEONE was going to die, and everyone played along with not letting the secret out. The industry is more interested in selling comics than playing “I know something you don’t!” these days. While FF #587 didn’t get the massive civilian invasion of the Death of Cap or Obama meets Spidey, there were people coming into stores around the nation looking to buy just that issue, according to retailer reports. There really is no perfect way to handle these things, it seems. One thing’s for sure — as long as a death causes this much hullabaloo, publishers are going to keep doing it.
Elsewhere, if you want to read the scene in question, David Brothers posts it.David Uzumeri explains why it had to be Johnny. Laura Hudson smartly interviews the smart Jonathan Hickman about how the story came about, spoilers and more:
CA: I think it’s been an interesting reflection of how spoilers function right now in comics culture. There’s a lot of nostalgia about the days when people only learned about deaths and plot twists when they read the book, but with the internet it’s really hard to have that experience and to prevent information from getting out. Do you think the culture of spoilers is fundamentally changed in comics, that it can never be that way again?
JH: It is my belief that if you want something to be a surprise you have to tell no one. And you have to get them on the first day. Other than that, it’s only a true surprise — the ending of a movie is only a true surprise if you tell someone, don’t market it, and see it on opening night. Otherwise, the chances of it being ruined for you grow exponentially every day. We just have to accept that this is the world that we live in, and stop writing stories that are only about reveals, and make them more about stories that unfold. Which is why I’m OK with people knowing that a character dies. And I’m OK with them knowing who it is now, because we’re not done. It’s part of the journey and the greater story. I’d like to think that I’m embracing the way you have to tell stories nowadays rather than trying to desperately hold on to what I consider to be an outdated mode of storytelling.
In the sardonic corner, Graeme McMillan suggests other characters who might profitably be slain. Our own suggestion? The Spectre. That would really be ironic.
Speaking of grisly, MTV Geek caught up with Stan Lee to see what he had to say about it, and it’s not what you expected:
“I’m too shook up about it to make a comment,” Stan said with a laugh.