Multiversity 101: Premature Solicitation

By | April 18th, 2010
Posted in Longform | % Comments

We live in a digital age. Everything is available to us for a few clever Google searches and a few clicks of the mouse button. We no longer have to wait for a movie to come out to know how it ends because someone somewhere saw it and they’ll write it all online. We no longer even have to wait for CDs to come out because someone has an advance, and they’ve put it online for you. But in our world of comic books, if you want to know what’s coming out in a few months, you don’t have to search for someone sneaking around and revealing the information prematurely – all you have to do is go to the companies themselves. You can go through a third party (like us or perhaps Newsarama/CBR) or directly on their site (a lot of DC news is broken on their blog, The Source, for example), but the information is all generally there.

The problem is – the information that we’re given comes out in a fashion that ruins the comics that we are reading now.

So let’s discuss this issue a little bit, shall we?

There are many culprits at hand in this incident. It’s very widespread. I do, however, come equipped with an example for you:

Have you been reading Guardians of the Galaxy? Spun out of the events of Annihilation: Conquest and the Starlod mini, the GOTG book followed our rag tag group of cosmic adventurers as they battled against the future, got involved with the War of Kings, and have tried to save the universe. Of course, one of the BIG mysteries of the book since day one was: well, Adam Warlock is alive – so who is in the cocoon?? While that might not make sense to anyone not reading the book, those of us who have been following have been wondering this for quite some time. Of course, then came two Marvel solicits – one for Guardians of the Galaxy #25, and one for a brand new mini-series/event comic called the Thanos Imperative. And wouldn’t you know it, just like that, we knew who was in the cocoon. After all this time, the Mad Titan himself and one of the Biggest Bads of all time, returns!

Of course… the emotional impact of the final page of Guardians of the Galaxy #24 would have meant a LOT more if we didn’t know that, don’t you think?

Look – right off the bat, I’ll throw something out there: I understand that the solicits are made for retailers so they know what to order in advance. I’m not playing dumb to this fact. This is why things like the Diamond Retailers Summit (which we just reported about on Friday) exists. But we live in a digital age, and the majority of comic fans have an internet connection and like to browse the internet for upcoming things. When we get situations where Marvel (or any company – not trying to pick on Marvel here) ruins something like this, it’s really upsetting to fans. Let’s be honest here, folks: if a retailer is buying Guardians of the Galaxy for 24 issues anyway, chances are they are now comfortable with the book enough to know how it sells, in which case Marvel could do a little more to help us with the mystery. Something as simple as a black silhoutte on the cover until the day the book hits the stands is PERFECT for situations like that, and they could still announce The Thanos Imperative because it doesn’t overtly ruin that he was the one in the cocoon. A clever fan could figure it out, sure, but it’s not as bad as saying “Look guys! You’ve been fans this long, now let’s ruin the magic of storytelling!”

The real problem with this is that, though, is that books like Thanos Imperative get announced before they’re ready. Let’s take a look at DC for a minute (so it doesn’t seem like I’m a Marvel bully). DC had to announced Brightest Day, right? They need retailers to know that it’s ready to be pre-ordered, and it had to be announced before Blackest Night was over. However, here’s the folly in what I think of what DC did – Blackest Night is followed by Brightest Day, a 26-issue bi-monthly on-going? Alright. Fine. Don’t post the white lantern logo in your advertisement. That’s a spoiler, and as much as DC wants us to know what’s coming up so we can get excited for it, simply the words “Brightest” and “Day” will work. Here’s a good example: Joe Quesada’s OMIT. Know what the teaser is for that? A black page with the letters O, M, I, and T on it. No more and no less – and it’s enough to entice the reader. We don’t need to know more than that right now, and the fact Quesada is writing and Raimondi is arting is enough to sell the book in my opinion. Granted, by the time this publishes, OMIT may have been revealed, but the simple elegance of the teaser makes for great advertising and less annoyance on a fan capacity than something like Brightest Day and the big White Lantern logo does.

Continued below

Before Blackest Night ended, DC and co. had done a pretty good job of keeping things tight lipped. A lot of the solicits read CLASSIFIED and featured black covers instead of the real deal, which was a great move on their part. Blackest Night changed a lot of things, and there was a lot to be spoiled and leave us shocked. Only problem is, as we got closer and closer to the end, they started revealing things. Green Lantern #50’s cover came out with a nice big Parallax on the cover, which ruined the ending of the issue. I’m sure that they could’ve saved that cover for issue #51 and given #50 something less spoiler-iffic. Not only that, but the CLASSIFIED solicits and covers slowly became revealed before the books came out, ruining the “return” of the Anti-Monitor as well. The one good thing they did was not reveal the cover of Blackest Night: Flash #3 until after Flash #2/Blackest Night #6 came out and we saw that Barry now had the blue ring. See, DC? That’s how you do it!

All of that is of course not mentioning the fact that DC spoiled Nekron before Nekron was revealed as well. The Big Bad of Blackest Night had been a big mystery since before Blackest Night started, and a lot of people were taking guesses as to who it was going to be. Then DC and Johns go on IGN.com and say, “Here you go. Cover to issue 5, it’s Nekron.” Most people ended up saying “Who?”, and in a way I suppose that was DC’s point there. Nekron had been a total of TWO Green Lantern stories before this – one where he fought Hal Jordan and one where he fought Kyle Rayner (and NO, internet, in the Kyle Rayner story he did NOT raise the dead Lantern Corps with black rings). It gave the opportunity for people to go out and find the issues Nekron was in and figure out the plan. But you know what? We could’ve done that just as easy when we read the end of issue #4, and I can guarantee you that if we didn’t know who Nekron was beforehand, the emotional impact of the story would’ve been much greater within that issue. Guarantee.

Let’s get to what really sort of bugged me, though – maybe I’m alone in this, but the official announcements of the Secret Avengers really annoyed me. This has nothing to do with who is on the team and whether or not I have a problem with the roster, but rather the fact that it was announced. Some of you might be saying, “What? What kind of idiocy is that?” Well, in my mind, you’ve got a book called Secret Avengers, you’ve got a writer named Ed Brubaker, an artist named Mike Deodato, and a mysterious set of silhouttes and quotes to tease us – the reader – as we wait for the book to hit. That is more than enough to sell the book. A book like Secret Avengers is clearly marketed to on-going fans of the never ending story of the Marvel Universe, and I’d guess that 90% of us will see the team on the book and buy it for that alone, and the remaning 10% will pick it up because it says Avengers and has a nice shiny #1 in the corner. I LOVED the fact that we hadn’t found out the team and it didn’t look like we would, and I fully would’ve supported the company if they chose not to reveal the team until the book came out. You know why? Because it’s been PROVEN people will buy this sort of thing.

Where? In the Dark Avengers. Marvel announced that following Secret Invasion, a “Dark Reign” was coming. We didn’t know much more than that, really. Then we saw the cover of Dark Avengers #1, and it was a group of recognizable heroes (in a cover that obviously was a reference to New Avengers #1) without their identities revealed. As we saw how Secret Invasion ended and then picked up the issue of Dark Avengers, we saw exactly who was in whose costume, and it made for a nice reveal (as a note, I do not remember if Bendis or Marvel said anywhere who was on the team until the book came out) – and the book still sold well and still continues to sell well with only one issue left. Even now, as we’re almost out of Siege and have some reveals about Bendis’ post-Siege plans, aside from the “good guys winning” thing (which is a story telling trope that we all assumed), Bendis has done a GREAT job of keeping his lips sealed on how Siege ends and what we can expect from a certain title, i.e. Siege: The Fallen – which features a silhoutted character (assumedly the one who dies). Is that SO hard to do? Is it too much to ask for this to be a universal comic book company wide practice?

Continued below

Of course, it’d be odd of me to write an article about premature solicitation and spoilers on covers if I didn’t mention Buffygate. For those that don’t know, Dark Horse sent out solicits to websites, and on the cover it featured Buffy and Twilight entwined – kind of. It actually featured Angel dressed as Twilight entwined, with the solicit revealing that Twilight had been unveiled. This was an admitted error on Dark Horse’s part, as Twilight had been the Big Bad of “Season 8”, and he wasn’t supposed to be revealed before fans got to read the comic. This is why Dark Horse had two covers made – one masked, and one unmasked. I’m a Buffy fan, but I’ve never read the comic, so “Buffygate” didn’t effect me in any way that I wouldn’t have eventually been hit (i.e. I would eventually read Season 8 in trade, at which point I assumed any spoilers would’ve already hit me). Here’s the thing I really want to know though – Dark Horse and Whedon KNOW that everyone is itching to know who Twilight is, and they also know that people are going to see the solicits before the issue hits stands… so why make two covers at all? I love Dark Horse and all, but that just seems like a foolish move to me. If you’ve got a huge mystery character, like a Twilight, even THINKING about putting his true face on the cover before issues hit stands – even when you’re soliciting a book that will be out in two months – is a foolish idea. Either that or be more careful about sending out your solicits. Didn’t at one point the cover for one of the issues of Buffy feature the unmasked face darkened with a big question mark on it? Why not keep sending out solicits like that until people are holding the Twilight reveal comic in their hands?

(For more on Buffygate, you could check out this cohesive play by play of the story.)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love a good mystery. I don’t need anyone to put something in front of me and have it explained so I can enjoy it. This is why I watch programs like LOST and do my best to avoid reading anything about it – even interviews with the cast and crew. I watch it the night it airs, talk about it with my friends, and leave it alone from there. Obviously ABC and the LOST crew don’t WANT us to know how it ends. They want us to watch it first, and they have an obviously better set-up since the show airs once a week and no one has to worry about pre-ordering. All this aside, I believe that comic companies would fair better if they tried harder to keep things a secret like LOST does. I mean, you and I will probably still go out and buy the book even if we have it spoiled for us because we’re fans and we support the stories, and we still want to know what happens next. But as much as I like Guardians of the Galaxy, knowing that Thanos was in the cocoon completely ruined the impact of the ending.

Marvel and DC have shown creative ways of how to coyly entice us as readers and as buyers of a product to want to continually purchase their goods. Smaller companies like IDW, Image, and Boom! (who perhaps don’t feel the need to be so competitive digitally or through Previews) have proven that they can still move their products without the glitz and the glamour and the rickamaroll. Considering Marvel and DC both have in the past and in recent memory been good enough to just say, “Look, you can’t see this yet, but you’re going to want it,” you’d think that they could continuously maintain that policy. I don’t want to know who comes back before I flip to the back of the book as I read, and chances are I will be apt enough to buy a book called the Thanos Imperative or Secret Avengers just based on the team of the book and the title. Less is more, ‘they’ say, and I fully believe that certain solicits need to reflect this idea.

//TAGS | Multiversity 101

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."


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