Spoiler sport

April 14, 2005

While I’m not really interested in many of the books tied into the run-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis, I did read the interview with Greg Rucka in this week’s Comic Shop News. I’m still not interested in the event or whatever its consequences are for the tone of DC’s books (and nothing, but nothing makes me less enthusiastic about a comic than the knowledge that Dan DiDio is excited about it). But one thing Rucka said did get me thinking:

“The point all along, and we said this in that early interview — for God’s sake, let yourself be surprised. Enjoy the fact that on Wednesday a new issue of the story comes out. You don’t have to know how it’s all going to end to enjoy it. Not everybody needs a spoiler.”

Maybe it’s a little odd that this sentiment emerges in a fairly lengthy preview of an upcoming comic, but it’s still worth considering. It’s one of those subjects that raise more questions for me than conclusions of any sort, so I’ll just throw some of the questions out (and for the sake of discussion, “spoilers” can also be read as “detailed plot descriptions”):

Can surprise actually improve a comic? Does a lack of advanced knowledge about its contents increase the likelihood that you’ll enjoy it, just because you have fewer preconceptions (positive or negative) about what your response will be?

Is my fondness for manga at least partly due to the fact that I very rarely know precisely what I’m going to get from a given title, aside from maybe a short solicit in Previews or the teaser on the back cover? Is the un-distilled quality of the reading experience part of the pleasure?

If spoilers can constitute an obstacle to actually enjoying the work, why do so many creators give out so many of them? (You know those movie comic attractions that make you feel like you’ve already seen it? A lot of “preview interviews” give me that same feeling about comics.)

As a follow-up, why do those same creators who trade spoilers for promotional noise turn around and moan about someone else airing rumors or spoilers about upcoming plot developments? Is that just because these leaks – which often aren’t any more informative than what the publisher has provided – aren’t part of the official hype cycle?

How ingrained are spoilers in marketing strategies? Is it a given that a certain amount of plot material is going to have to be revealed to entice readers to buy it?

If it is, how did it get to that point? Which is the chicken and which is the egg, publishers feeling compelled to provide spoilers to lure readers, or readers becoming conditioned to expect them as part of the pitch?

How can a creator effectively straddle the line between teasing their work, giving away just enough information to make it enticing, and undermining at least part of the sense of discovery and surprise they wanted readers to have? Who’s particularly good at this sort of promotional chat?

Factoring in the potentially detrimental effect of spoilers, how can a reader balance that in the risk-return equation of comic fandom? With high comics prices and the often laborious process of tracking them down to buy them, how sensible is it to go in blind?

As I said, no answers, but sometimes when a number of questions swirl around my brain, it helps me to put them down on paper. Or blog.

New at CBR

April 14, 2005

Comic Book Resources has pieces on two of my favorite books.

Dave Richards chats with writer Marc Andreyko about Manhunter, one of DC’s more interesting (and sales-challenged) titles. Andreyko always gives good interview, and there are some nice sound bites in this one. There’s also this mildly provocative notion:

“‘Kate is a character who fills a void in the comics world, she is a flawed, intricate character who goes beyond the typical women in superhero comics,’ he said. ‘A lot of the things that people say make her ‘unlikable’ are traits that, if in a male character would be trumpeted. So, it has been fun to take the female archetype and toss it on its ear.'”

In the latest Calling Manga Island, Tony Salvaggio discovers that it’s never too late to fall in love with Planetes, which is probably the closest thing to a crossover hit manga has. Just more evidence that if you like comics and think you don’t like manga, there’s at least one title you might want to try.