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Why would Marvel spoil its own comics weeks ahead of release?

If nothing else, spoiling something ahead of time definitely gets people paying attention...

ASM Spoiler
Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

Spoiler Warning: This piece talks about the spoiler revealed by Marvel for Amazing Spider-Man #26, to be released two weeks from now. If you are not spoiled (congratulations!) and wish to remain so, then stop reading right now.

For those not paying attention, the following is a timeline of how the death of Kamala Khan was revealed to the world. More than two weeks before publication, a blurry photo of the last page of Amazing Spider-Man #26 was released online, leading to both the comic’s editor and Marvel’s official Twitter account asking fans to be careful to avoid being spoiled just a handful of hours before Marvel itself spoiled the comic with high-quality versions of the same page and more via a story in Entertainment Weekly and a press release. Within 24 hours, Marvel itself was tweeting about the death without any spoiler warning, with Amazing Spider-Man #26 still two weeks away from release.

So… why is Marvel seemingly so eager to give away the ending to one of its own comics, especially one that has been teased as being shocking and controversial for months at this point?

There’s an answer to that question that argues that the leak put the information out there, and Marvel is simply operating inside that context — although such an answer doesn’t really explain the change in attitude between asking fans to avoid spoilers and then putting that same spoiler in your own tweets less than a day later. For that, perhaps a more cynical answer is necessary: namely, that Marvel wants the information out there in the hope that the upset surrounding Kamala’s death will increase sales.

Retailer orders for Amazing Spider-Man #26 closed in late April, meaning that stores won’t be able to significantly increase their orders for the issue in the wake of the news… but it’s unlikely that Marvel will be upset to issue a press release announcing a sell-out and rush-release of a second printing to meet the demand for this red-hot issue at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, the spoiler allows the publisher to reveal the full title, cover art, and creative teams for the July release that had, until this point, been only known as “Fallen Friend,” with no other information available, making it far more likely to be of interest to retailers as they start to consider which comics to place emphasis on for that month’s orders. Everybody wins, if you ignore people who might want to read the end of a story at the end of the story.

This isn’t the first time Marvel has spoiled its own stories before fans had a chance to read them. In 2017, the end of Secret Empire was revealed in a New York Times story, just as Captain America’s “Hail Hydra” reveal had been, months earlier. In both cases, however, those were stories published on the same day as the comics’ publication, instead of two weeks prior.

We could, however, point to the Times spoiling the Batman #50 twist about Batman and Catwoman’s wedding days before the issue was released in 2018 as prior evidence that publishers can and will place stories ahead of time to try to goose sales, although in that case, the outrage against the twist likely had the opposite impact. (Sorry, DC.)

It’s not that long ago that Marvel’s VP of sales David Gabriel was rumored to have suggested that Marvel would have the death of a major character every financial quarter, following the sales success of the then-recent death of the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four series. While that forecast never came to fruition, it’s fair to say that Marvel has remained in the business of gleefully killing, and then resurrecting, characters as a way to grab attention and headlines. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen the deaths of Peter Parker (kind of; 2013), Wolverine (2014), Cyclops (2016), the Hulk (2016), Iron Man (2016, which was apparently a big year for deaths), Thanos (2018), Galactus (2020), the Scarlet Witch (2021), and Doctor Strange (2021), not to mention any and all of the X-Men who’ve died and can be resurrected as part of the Krakoan era.

Each death has been reversed within a handful of years, if not less, and that’s a fate we should all be expecting for Kamala Khan, especially given that she’s about to star in a high-profile Marvel Studios movie this November — one co-written by the same man who wrote her comic book death, notably. It’s very possible that, within a year, the shocking events of Amazing Spider-Man #26 will already be forgotten, as will be the manner with which Kamala’s death was revealed.

If, in the short term before that happens, however, enough people feel shocked, outraged, or otherwise upset in any definition, to buy the issue and Fallen Friend and any other tie-in issue, then revealing the spoilers ahead of time will have achieved its purpose. It’s worked countless times before, and I have little doubt it’s going to do the same again.

Revisit the original leak and its immediate fallout, as it was happening.

Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.


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