It used to be taken for granted that you could reach the end of your favorite comic book series without any of the major plot points being spoiled for you ahead of time. After all, in the pre-internet age, readers only had limited access to news coverage, insider leaks and fan speculation, which kept spoilers to a minimum.
Things have changed, however, and today it’s virtually impossible to avoid spoilers ahead of publication – especially with the “Big Two” publishers, Marvel and DC, intentionally spilling the beans to the press! We aren’t talking trivial story beats here, either: as the following list illustrates, some of the most earth-shattering moments in superhero comics have been ruined for fans after they were prematurely announced!
10 The DC Multiverse Still Exists
When it came out back in 1985-86, Crisis on Infinite Earths served as the centerpiece of a concerted effort by DC to make its titles more accessible to new and casual readers. A core aspect of Crisis was that it condensed the sprawling DC Multiverse into the more streamlined DC Universe, doing away with the multiple variant versions of heroes like Superman and Batman that left newbies scratching their heads.
Fast forward to 2006, and the powers that be at DC decided that they wanted to restore the multiverse concept – limited to only 52 alternate Earths, to keep things manageable – at the conclusion of the year-long weekly series 52. As you’d expect, when the final issue of 52 dropped, fans went bananas – so imagine how much crazier their reaction would’ve been, if co-publisher Dan Didio hadn’t given the game away via a coded message months earlier!
9 Captain America Lifts Thor’s Hammer
As if discovering Captain America is an agent of Hydra wasn’t enough of a shocker, in the Free Comic Book Day issue of Secret Empire, we see him heft Thor’s enchanted hammer Mjolnir with ease! It’s a jaw-dropping finale that left Marvel fans wondering how a fascist like “HydraCap” could possibly be worthy of lifting the magical mallet…it’s just a shame their jaws hit the floor ahead of time.
That’s right: Secret Empire: Free Comic Book Day found its way online before it had hit retailer stands. As you’d expect, the issue’s climax spread across message boards and entertainment websites like wildfire, spoiling the story even for those prepared to read it the honest way.
8 The Flash Returns And Batman Dies
2008-2009 mega-event Final Crisis was a polarizing affair, with a vocal contingent of DC fans criticizing writer Grant Morrison for underdelivering after generating massive amounts of buzz. Still, regardless of what you think of the story, you can’t say that Morrison skimped in terms of scope: the so-called “Day That Evil Won” saw practically every DC superhero defend reality itself from two heavyweight, otherworldly threats.
Along the way, Silver Age Flash Barry Allen was resurrected (in lead-in special DC Universe #0) and original Batman Bruce Wayne was seemingly killed after mortally wounding baddie Darkseid. These were huge plot twists – and annoyingly, they were both spoiled early by DC, either in interviews or solicitations!
7 The Death Of Ultimate Spider-Man
Spider-Man dying is always going to be big news – even when the wall-crawler kicking the bucket isn’t technically the “real” Spider-Man. So we kinda get why Marvel divulged to the media that a then-upcoming issue of its popular Ultimate Spider-Man title would see the Ultimate incarnation of the character fall in battle against his archenemy, the Green Goblin.
After all, an announcement like that was bound to generate publicity – especially among non-fans unaware that the Ultimate line is set outside of the main Marvel continuity – and boost sales. But it was also a bit unfair to loyal fans who had been following the series for over a decade, and deserved to witness its biggest scene unspoiled.
6 Batman And Catwoman Get Married
Pre-release reports of the Batman/Catwoman wedding in Batman #50 represent arguably the most prominent recent instance of a comic book publisher letting the cat out of the bag on purpose. Certainly, it’s one of the most controversial, with even scribe Tom King expressing his disappointment that DC would blurt out the exciting premise of his story before readers had actually sat down to experience it themselves.
Even worse, it all turned out to be a bait-and-switch anyway: although they come close, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle don’t end up tying the knot by the end of the issue. To say that fans were unhappy over being misled is an understatement – and their inevitable negative reaction is probably yet another reason why King was fuming.
5 Alexander Luthor Kills Nightwing
The first of two entries on this list where reader backlash to leaked story developments led to them being reversed by the publisher – in this case, the planned demise of Nightwing. As has been well-documented in the years since Infinite Crisis was published, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio was initially very eager for Batman’s former sidekick not to escape the crossover event alive.
As word of Nightwing’s impending death slowly disseminated among the professional and fan communities, the strong opposition to the idea from both forced DiDio to relent. That’s why when baddie Alexander Luthor blasts the one-time Robin with an apparently fatal wave of energy, the young hero manages to survive.
4 The Human Torch Is Snuffed Out
Both Marvel and DC are both fiends when it comes to leaking superhero deaths to the press. But if we had to say which publisher was the worst, we’d rank the House of Ideas a teensy bit higher than its Distinguished Competition.
Why is Marvel so obsessed with announcing which of its costumed adventurers is about to be killed off? Simple: letting it slip that a big name is poised to take a long dirt nap can cause sales to skyrocket.
Take Fantastic Four #587, which saw the Human Torch snuffed out as the “Three” story arc wrapped. This baby sold out before it even landed on shelves, a phenomenon directly attributed to news of the Torch’s death circulating prematurely.
3 Monarch’s True Identity Is Revealed
And here we are at the second colossal revelation that was altered prior to publication after fans got wind of it: the true identity of superhero-turned-supervillain Monarch in DC’s Armageddon 2001 crossover. See, writers Archie Goodwin and Denny O’Neil intended for Monarch to be unmasked as Captain Atom, but had to course correct when everybody found out.
To preserve the 1991 storyline’s aura of mystery, Goodwin and O’Neil instead settled on a different hero, Hawk, as Monarch’s alter-ego. Fans were indeed surprised – but not in a good way, since Hawk and his partner Dove were previously established as the only characters who couldn’t possibly be the futuristic despot!
2 Captain America Is Gunned Down
The mid-2000s Captain America comic book run penned by Ed Brubaker is rightly regarded as the best of the modern era, if not all time. Along with a roster of brilliant artists including Steve Epting, Michael Lark and Bryan Hitch, Brubaker not only introduced several enduring concepts – most notably, Bucky Barnes’ revival as the villainous Winter Soldier – he even bumped off Cap himself, at one point!
Maddeningly, this was yet another instance where Marvel tipped off the media beforehand, with articles covering the Sentinel of Liberty’s death in Captain America #25 popping up days in advance. Of course, seasoned fans didn’t expect Steve Rogers to stay dead, but Brubaker and Epting crafted such a visceral death scene, it might’ve felt permanent if readers hadn’t seen it coming.
1 The Watchmen Characters Cross Over Into The DC Universe
Although Watchmen is published by DC, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ insanely influential deconstructionist superhero tale exists outside of the DC Universe itself. Or at least, it did…until the DC Rebirth relaunch event, which saw the two fictional realities collide for the first time in 30 years.
Whether or not you agree with the creative rationale underpinning the DCU/Watchmen crossover, there’s no denying it’s the most monumental development in superhero comics in decades. So when preview copies of Rebirth leaked online, it put a real dampener on what should have been an out-and-out bombshell!