Embellishing the Details: Spoiler’s Warning

“Dude, why are you so emphatic about your dislike of spoilers?”

It’s just a story, right? It’s meant to be told, meant to be shared.

When a writer writes a story, he or she takes special care to hit certain beats, to make sure the reader has an emotional connection to the characters. So when those characters face a certain situation, when a reveal is made, the reader reacts.

And it can only happen once.

Sure, you can reread stories all you want. It’s not a surprise the second, third, or fifteenth time one of Matt Murdock’s closest friends betrays him, kicking off Born Again. But that first time? That first time it’s a punch to the gut that can’t be felt the same way again. Granted, this could be one of those layered spoilers, where someone tells you the who, but not the why. Which, thanks to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, really makes it a memorable moment. Still, the less said about the first page of Daredevil #227, the better for the new reader. Damn. I just told you where to look for it.

Some people don’t care about spoilers. They’ll say it’s all about the context. You can tell them who the Joker is in the Batman: Knight of Vengeance mini-series, but that reveal won’t carry any weight with them until the read the story and see it unfold. Still, the less said about anything related to Flashpoint, the better for every reader.

There are some people who don’t mind spoilers because knowing what to expect excites them. They look forward to seeing how it plays out. I kind of understand that. We review the books we read on the podcast, mentioning some things, going into detail on other things, and listeners appreciate our opinion and our insight. Some use the review to determine if they’re going to read it, some to find out if our opinions match theirs. I tend to stay away from reviews. I’ve been burned once too often by people giving away too much information and painting such a detailed picture that there was very little for me to be surprised about.

I’m definitely in the fingers in the ear screaming “LALALALALA” camp. It’s hard for me to grasp how fans can shrug off spoilers before reading a story. You know what’s going to happen so do you turn each page like Buddy testing Jack-in-the-Boxes expecting it …NOW!? Okay, how about …NOW!? It just feels weird to me, it’d be in the back of my mind. I suppose those readers can push it aside and carrNOW!

I’m also in the camp that doesn’t believe in a statute of limitations regarding spoilers. Naturally, I’m not suggesting major moments are never to be discussed, but I am suggesting that you be aware of your audience. Especially in public or online. Few things are worse than being in a conversation about the latest issue of The Mighty Thor and someone ruins a moment from The Last Days of the Justice Society of America because they think they’re being clever by making some weak connection between the two. Yes, I know that story is over 30 years old. That doesn’t mean everyone has read it. And yes, I’m using a rarely-referenced one-shot that you can pick up in the three-for-a-dollar bin at a convention to illustrate my point. That point being not everyone has read what you have read. Get a read on the room before blurting out who the new Jackal is or ranking your most shocking moments from Identity Crisis as vividly as possible.

Slightly off-topic, but since I brought up Identity Crisis, retcons can be tricky and you may have to navigate your way through the conversation. I just made that sound like it’s more work than it actually is. It isn’t. If you’ve read The Justice League of America or The New Teen Titans or any DC comicbook from the 60s through the 80s (or watched Teen Titans Go!), you might know Doctor Light as some almost daft villain who is easy to laugh at. That pretty much changed with Identity Crisis. That was one tale that there was definitely no turning back from.

Other retcons include (but are not limited to by any means) the Winter Soldier from Captain America, Jessica Jones’ life story, and a few from Amazing Spider-Man. Again, in a general sense, I wouldn’t consider these topics spoiler-heavy, but there are moments within all of them that expect the reader to be taken aback when a revelation is made.

Attempting to get back on track, trying to avoid spoilers is another reason why I’m not the biggest fan of Previews. But I’ve trained myself to mostly check only for creators and select keywords.

Then there are covers… There is no way to avoid everything. And it’s hard to argue you that you weren’t expecting to witness the final fate of the Flash when you picked up Crisis on Infinite Earths #8.

Bringing this home without straying any further off course, just think about it. I get being stoked about wanting to talk about what you just read, but there are plenty of ways to go about it without ruining it for others. Everyone is different. Just because you don’t care if a story is spoiled doesn’t mean others feel the same way. I figure it’s better to err on the side of caution. Otherwise I have to ask: are you simply being selfish? Did someone walk out of the theater and into the lobby screaming “Yo, he’s Luke’s father!” while you were waiting in line to see Empire Strikes Back?

Don’t be that guy. Let the story affect them the way the writer expected it to affect them. Don’t take that experience away from someone.

Counterpoints can be emailed to me or left below. You can also find me on Twitter.

  • mc900

    Interesting points. Especially since you often go into a panel by panel description of some of the books you have read on the show.
    Are you cool with the idea of ‘spoiling’ or fully describing a book or story if it’s under the expectation it could happen like on 11’oclock or at least with someone who truly employs the use of a Spoiler warning?

    • David Price

      The three of us don’t really follow rules on the show, because it’s the same conversation we’d have if we all sitting around a table in a bar. But we’re aware of each other’s comfort zone. And there’s almost always a chance to ask if one of us have caught up on a book or if it’s okay to go deep.

      We try to give a spoiler warning if we’re entering into that territory, so the listener has a chance to react. But there are times when we don’t because we’re in the moment. We don’t get to ask if the listeners are caught up and we don’t get to wait for their response.

      I’m writing about it more in the sense of unsolicited information or speaking without a filter, where the conversation could have continued without that bomb being dropped.

      There needs to be a reason why we were moved enough to talk about a particular story. I feel you can get that across without retelling it verbatim if you want others to consume it.

      But to answer the question, I’m fine with spoilers with a warning. Give someone the opportunity to leave the discussion.