Spoilers for Batman #50.

§ July 6th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 15 Comments

So you’ve found out that Superman is about to be killed, fighting the alien monster known as Doomsday. Pretty wild, right? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that DC Comics wouldn’t actually kill off Superman…er, would they? There’s a lot of anticipation and promotion building up for the issue where the deed is done. It’s being talked about, not just in the fan press, but on actual real news programs on actual television. It’s popping up on talk shows, in newspapers. You decide…hey, you need a copy of that! You’d better get yourself to the local comic book emporium and…whoa, stand in line to get in? In a huge line? Wrapping around the building? Holy cow, this must be huge! You can’t wait to get your hands on it!

Abd finally, it’s yours! You were lucky enough to get a copy, and at cover price even, despite stores being caught very off guard by the immense demand for a comic they’d placed order numbers for about two or three months prior. And look at that bag! That solemn black bag with the bloody red “S” on the front…that’s gotta mean Superman is dead, right? Defying all laws of collectability, you tear open that bag, marveling at the black armband you can wear to mourn Superman’s passing, at the promotional trading card advertising the forthcoming “Death of Superman” set, at the stamps highlighting characters from this momentous event. All these geegaws and tchotchkes, produced specifically to support the idea that the Man of Steel is gone, sacrificing himself for the greater good.

But the story, the story…! How does it actually happen? Everyone and everything is telling you that Superman dies, but just how exactly does he die? You’d better sit down and read the darn thing…I mean, you opened the bag, might as well. And you pore over the story, flipping through splash page after splash page of this knock-down, drag-out battle with Doomsday, as Superman’s friends and family look on in worry and fear.

And then, there it is. The climactic moment…Superman and Doomsday unleash their mightiest blows upon each other, each felling their opponent with their final exertion of strength. Now, there they both are, silent and unmoving on the ground, the air still with shock from the onlookers. Lois rushes to Superman’s side, tears in her eyes…tears matching the ones in your own eyes as you turn to the story’s final page…

…Whereupon Superman opens his eyes, sits up, puts a firm hand on Lois’s shoulder, and reassures her “Oh, I’m fine, Lois…that was some battle, huh?” Superman then stands, as the crowd that had gathered around the scene lets out an exuberant cheer! “Thanks, everyone! But you’d better stand back while I and the good men and women of the Metropolis emergency services clean everything up! We’ll have our fine city back in tip-top shape in no time!” You look at the final image of the story, with Superman’s smiling face winking at you, the reader, with the concluding caption reading “NEVER the end!” scrolled along the bottom of the panel.

And you wonder…okay, this was pushed as the Death of Superman. All the promotion, all the ads and radio spots and news stories and the cardboard tombstone standees DC sent out, was around the idea that Superman dies. Stores were encouraged to participate in their own homegrown celebrations — or, rather, wakes — for Superman’s passing. And despite all that, despite the endless promises of his demise, no such thing happened. Not to say it was a bad comic, by any means. It was professionally done, entertaining, and presented a kind of extended physical conflict for Superman that was rarely seen in the comics. But, regardless, you feel a little bit like you experienced something of a bait-and-switch, where marketing promised you one thing, but the actual storytellers had something entirely different in mind. That maybe the story should just have been left to work out as it worked out, without the ultimately misleading promises that this was an “event,” an unprecedented occurrence in the Last Son of Krypton’s life, rather than simply another exciting adventure.

There can be red herrings, and fake-outs, and surprise endings in stories, and you think that’s fair play. That’s all part of storytelling. But you think it seems a bit unfair when the marketing pushes the story as being one kind of event, with the implied promise that if you follow that story, the event would be delivered. …Oh well, lesson learned, you’ll be a little more wary of the insidious workings of the hype machine next time. But honestly, what are the chances they’ll try something like this again?

15 Responses to “Spoilers for Batman #50.”

  • Rich Handley says:

    MIKE (MIC) DROP!!

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Okay, haven’t read it, as I normally pick up my comics on Saturday, so I can’t judge the issue on its merits.

    But, just to play devil’s advocate, maybe a wedding not taking place is a little more fair than a promised death not happening? Because in real life, there are people who are left at the altar, right?–I mean, everybody thinks the wedding is going to happen,and then groom or bride gets cold feet on the day and it doesn’t. Or that part where the celebrant says “And if anybody objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace,” isn’t there occasionally a time when somebody actually does speak up, and the wedding doesn’t take place?

    Maybe it’s even more realistic for the comic to do that, because a called-off wedding when everybody is there in their nice clothes expecting an event that doesn’t take place is an awful lot like a wedding promised in a comic that doesn’t take place.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    “Because in real life, there are people who are left at the altar, right?” Are there? It is a common occurrence in movies and TV shows, but I cannot remember ever hearing of it happening in real life.

    “Or that part where the celebrant says, ‘And if anybody objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace,’ isn’t there occasionally a time when somebody actually does speak up, and the wedding doesn’t take place?” Again, I have to ask, is there? I have definitely never heard of that actually happening. Also, that “Speak now or forever hold your peace” bit is strictly a bit of ritual that long ago lost any meaning. A wedding will not actually be stopped if someone objects at that point (unless he or she offers proof that the bride or groom is already married, and so another marriage would be bigamy–but if you had such proof, would you actually wait until that moment to present it?).

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    To be clearer on that first point–Of course there are cases of people becoming engaged, and getting far along in their wedding plans, before one of the parties changes his or her mind. However, getting so far as the wedding itself, with everyone in attendance, and then the bride or the groom does not show up, or does show up but leaves before saying the vows–that is a sitcom plot, not reality.

    Well, I cannot state that it has NEVER happened, but it is definitely a rare event.

  • Adam Farrar says:

    This was great Mike. Thanks!

  • Mikester says:

    Thelonious_Nick – You’re not really saying any I’d disagree with as far as the story goes…I just feel like there’s a certain expectation built by the promotion that doesn’t match the story. The actual events of the comic, I’m okay with…I like where things have been going and are appearing to go. But to promote it as “WEDDING WEDDING WEDDING” complete with ersatz invitations and in-store events, only to say “sorry, no event here, move along” — that seems like bit of a cheat. Like I said above, it’s okay in-story to misdirect and surprise, but when marketing pushes Big Changes when what’s ultimately delivered is “status quo: UNCHANGED” — that’s just taking advantage of the public, both customers and retailers.

    Even if this is just part of a larger story, putting off the wedding ’til farther down the road, what’s markeeting going to do then? “THE WEDDING OF THE CENTURY, NO, REALLY, WE MEAN IT THIS TIME.”

  • Daniel says:

    I don’t mean to sound glib, but with the Batman #50 debacle, maybe now people will finally understand how we Zack Snyder fans felt about the bait-and-switch WB/DC pulled on us with the Justice League movie. We were on board for the dark, melancholy approach to the characters. It was different. It was serious. It was artful. We were emotionally invested in what we felt was the super-hero movie equivalent of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II only to have WB/DC pull the rug out from under us and give us the super-hero equivalent of Johnny Dangerously instead of The Godfather Part III.

    The leadership at the DC division is incompetent. They are sabotaging their own work and driving away a loyal audience. I’m a lifelong DC fan but I feel the company deserves to reap the results of all the bad will they have repeatedly sown over the past few years in both their film and comics divisions.

  • Andrew Davison says:

    So Superman didn’t marry Doomsday?

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Daniel, I do not want to defend anything about the DC movies, but there was no bait and switch there. MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN V. SUPERMAN both made less money than Warner had hoped (SUICIDE SQUAD, however, outperformed expectations); WONDER WOMAN, done in a different style, was a greater success*; the folks at Warner thus realized that the path that they had been following was not working, and so they tried something different.

    Zack Snyder fans are hardly legion. They are very loud on the Internet, and visiting certain forums may give one the impression that they are numerous, but really they are just a noisy few.

    *In the US, anyway. In terms of worldwide gross, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN is on top. Both in the U.S. and worldwide, JUSTICE LEAGUE is on the bottom. That is notable, because the obvious intention was that it would be the biggest hit, that everyone who had seen the previous movies would come running to see this, the culmination. That was the plan with the first Avengers movie, and it worked–that movie made much more money than any of its predecessors. Daniel would probably argue that JUSTICE LEAGUE went down because the Zack Snyder fans renounced it, but the far likelier explanation is that some substantial portion of the people who had seen the Snyder movies had said “That’s enough, I don’t want any more of that.”

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    By the way, Daniel, Snyder’s intention was not to create another GODFATHER but another FOUNTAINHEAD or ATLAS SHRUGGED. He is a devout Randite, which was part of the problem–he just cannot comprehend an altruistic hero, which is what Superman and Batman are.

  • Jeejayo says:

    ““THE WEDDING OF THE CENTURY, NO, REALLY, WE MEAN IT THIS TIME.””

    heh, the ‘Lois And Clark’ tv series from the 90s had an episode in season 4 actually titled “Swear to God, This Time We’re Not Kidding”. It was the long-promised, long-delayed wedding of the main characters.

  • DK says:

    Three possible outcomes:

    1) They get married. It happened on Earth-2 and some good stories came out of it. The characters grow and explore new stories and events that weren’t possible before. Superman has been married for 20+ years and it works fine.

    2) They get married, but fans hate it and Bruce later makes a deal with the Spectre to retcon it out of existence and everyone forgets about it. But no major comic company would run a story like that!

    3) She bails. Keep that status quo chugging along for another 75 years, whatever it takes to preserve the illusion of change. Damian Wayne? Who dat?

  • King of the Moon says:

    This issue left me unlikely to pick up issue 51 and killed my plans to purchase Catwoman 1

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    If I were still a retailer, I’d probably be pissed.

    As a fan though? I loved the issue. King’s the best in comics right now, and that cliffhanger answered the question I had going into the issue, which was how could he keep the run going for another 50 issues, when it all had apparently been building to the wedding.

    I don’t really think this comparable to a promised death not happening, for reasons Thelonius went into above. Again, it’s kind of weak, and I get why retailers are mad.

    The real comics example I can think of, by the way, is Fables #100. Willingham promised that the awful villain he introduced after the War storyline finished in #75 would be defeated in #100… and he was, for like a page. I dropped the book and never looked back, but that only had a bit to do with Willingham’s lie and more to do with the book being awful after its main storyline ended. King’s Batman has been great, and as I mentioned above, the cliffhanger added to the book and made it even more exciting, Batrimony or no.

  • Jeff R. says:

    Come on, the language is already right there for #100:

    “Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not an Imaginary Story!”

    (#50 falls firmly into the ‘Hoax’ category.)