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Why DC revealed the Next Batman's identity ahead of time, explained

February 2021 Future State Batman
(Image credit: DC)

So this afternoon you might be thinking, 'Why the hell did DC and writer John Ridley tease the secret identity of Future State's the Next Batman for nearly four months, only to blow the mystery themselves nearly a month before the release of Future State: The Next Batman #1 on January 5?'

Next Batman

(Image credit: DC)

DC's Thursday reveal seems to follow a pattern by DC and Marvel Comics (and to be fair, other publishers too) in which they hype a big mystery reveal or continuity development for weeks and sometimes months, only to spoil the story themselves days or weeks before. 

Sure, some of it has to do with the nature of comic books' online community. Given time zone differences and availability of comic book on digital platforms, its almost impossible to actually surprise readers with a new comic book story on Wednesday (which in DC's case is now Tuesday) that won't be all over Twitter and comic book news sites the morning the issue is released. 

Heck, Newsarama is guilty of this ourselves. But motivated readers can still avoid spoilers when they have advanced warning and fans and news sites play fair.

So why did DC voluntarily reveal the Next Batman's identity on December 10, almost four full weeks before The Next Batman #1 goes on sale? That answer is tied into the idiosyncrasies of the retail comic book Direct Market, where publishers like DC actually sell comic books to two distinct audiences - readers and retailers. And because these two parties are often at cross purposes, comic book publishers always have to navigate robbing from Peter to pay Paul from a marketing and communications standpoint.

As both a long-time observer of the comic book Direct Market and Marvel's manager of marketing communication for a very short while a very long time ago, I can speak with some authority when I tell you while some comic book readers appreciate a good in-story mystery or surprise reveal, most comic book retailers do not.

Having potential customers come into their stores seeking an issue getting buzz on the internet only to not have enough copies on their shelves to meet immediate demand is the Bane (sorry, this is a Batman, story, I couldn't resist) of their existence.

Retailers want to know as much as they can about every issue to be able to anticipate ebbs and flows and ideally spikes in demand of existing series and to see all of the publisher's cards for new titles, for which retailers have to rely on making uneducated guesses. 

For some of you longer-time comic book readers, my short-lived (did I mention it was short-lived?) Marvel tenure began the year then-president Bill Jemas decided to stop giving retailers ANY advanced solicitation copy.

That decision was reversed during my year there, but oh boy ... retailers did not like that. My ears are still ringing.

Next Batman

(Image credit: DC)

To explain more specifically, while The Next Batman #1 doesn't go on sale until Tuesday, January 5, Sunday, December 13 is The Next Batman #1's Final Order Cut-off or 'FOC' (pronounced 'fauk') date, the day comic book retailers have to finalize the number of copies they want to order.

Retailers can increase their orders and place reorders after this date and get served by publishers overprinting titles, but the FOC is the last date they have to try to nail anticipated demand, and they cannot decrease their orders after this date.

So servicing reader demand (what the industry calls 'sell-through') of new #1s and key issues is often mitigated by how many copies retailers ordered weeks before their release (called 'sell-in') and thereby exist on store shelves.  

In other words, fans who want to read about who the Next Batman's is in-story, can't if there aren't any issues on the shelves because a retailer didn't order enough to meet demand. 

Sure, they're always digital, but that's a conversation for another day.

Like many publisher-initiated spoilers through the press before it, the reveal of the Next Batman's identity Thursday is designed to increase awareness of and generate increased interest in the issue among the retail community to give them more information to anticipate demand, which DC of course hopes is increased.

Whether this week's reveal moves the needle, we'll never know. But given publishers keep doing this sort of thing over and over, you have to think it's based on past successes.

And while it's been a while, I've seen evidence of it myself.

And speaking of anticipating the release of new Batman comics, check out our rundown of everything coming out between now and February. 

I'm not just the Newsarama founder and editor-in-chief, I'm also a reader. And that reference is just a little bit older than the beginning of my Newsarama journey. I founded what would become the comic book news site in 1996, and except for a brief sojourn at Marvel Comics as its marketing and communications manager in 2003, I've been writing about new comic book titles, creative changes, and occasionally offering my perspective on important industry events and developments for the 25 years since. Despite many changes to Newsarama, my passion for the medium of comic books and the characters makes the last quarter-century (it's crazy to see that in writing) time spent doing what I love most.