After being chastised for spoiling the Watchmen movie, based on a 1986 miniseries, author John Scalzi considers the statute of limitations on revealing key plot elements.
"Look, Watchmen is twenty three years old," Scalzi writes on his blog. "Surely the statute of limitations on spoiling the book has run out by now. SPOILER ALERTS should not be in effect forever. Yes, they have their place: If I had run out of The Crying Game screaming 'The chick’s a dude!' as people were waiting to see it for the first time, it would be a case of justifiable homicide. But now, in 2009? Sorry, man. You missed your window to be outraged."
He goes on to suggest time limits for television shows, movies and books (one week, one year and five years, respectively).
However, Scalzi doesn't mention mainstream monthly comics, whose frequency of release and episodic nature create no end of spoiler-fueled problems for publishers, creators, websites, bloggers and readers.
When fan can have the latest releases in his hands early Wednesday (if not before), and be posting the plot points on message boards, blogs or Twitter by lunchtime, how long should everyone online hide the details behind spoiler tags or under post breaks? Two days, to allow direct-market customers to make their weekly stop? A week, for the slowpokes? A month, out of respect for those who get their comics in monthly shipments?
Whatever the answer, it's undoubtedly complicated by Marvel and DC Comics turning with more frequency to outlets like The New York Times, USA Today and the New York Daily News to "break" major story developments on the day of the title's release.
I receive my comics on a monthly basis, and I'm not that interested in chasing cliffhangers from issue to issue. So as a reader, I don't really care about spoilers. But as a blogger I have to be, or risk incurring the wrath of the last five people to get their hands on whatever comic (Identity Crisis #1, Captain America #25, Amazing Spider-Man #545 -- you decide). My personal rule has been "spoiler alert" and post breaks until the Saturday after release; after that, all bets are off.
But that's just me. What do you think the statue of limitations should be for comic-book spoilers?