Clickbait Is Bad (Comic Books Edition)

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Today’s topic probably doesn’t interest most of you, but there’s a larger point to be made. I want to take a break from the hard political news today to talk about one of the more irritating habits of journalism: The clickbait headline.

Clickbait has been around as long as there has been money to be made from online revenue. It just isn’t limited to the mainstream press. In fact, a lot of smaller outlets tend to use it in order to drive up their revenue. They are harder-pressed for cash at times than the big players.

Comicbook.com is an occasionally solid site for reporting comic book and movie news as it happens. But I found myself very disappointed in an article yesterday, and it wasn’t for the content.

The headline: “Batman Writer James Tynion IV Quits Book In Move to Substack and Creator Owned Focus

The problem? That isn’t what happened.

James Tynion IV is a great writer. In fact, between him and Scott Snyder, the main line of Batman comics coming from DC of late have been extraordinary. Snyder ran with the Joker during some major plot lines and capped his run off with the incredible company-wide Metal and Death Metal events, and created one of the best Bat-villains in The Batman Who Laughs.

When he left DC, Tynion picked it up and the storylines didn’t slow down. We’ve seen Batman’s oldest and closest ally, Alfred Pennyworth, die. We’ve seen an entire Joker War. We’re watching a brand new futuristic, yet equally dark Gotham take shape. Tynion has been a master world-builder.

His run with Batman ends in November. It will be the natural conclusion of his stories. Likewise, his run on the limited series The Joker will end in early 2022. This will completely tie up all the loose ends in the stories he’s built.

DC offered him a longer spot in the company, to continue writing for them. At the same time, Substack offered him a contract that would allow him to do more independent work on his own schedule without having to worry about the major comic company breathing down his neck. He took the latter option.

He didn’t “quit,” as the headlines (not just Comicbook.com’s) suggest. He did not sign a new contract with DC. He is going to finish his current projects and then leave.

This urge to write the most compelling headline, facts be damned, is a highly annoying one that journalists and websites really should work harder to avoid. A simple read of the story underneath the headline tells you it’s not true.

The Eisner-winning writer of DC Comics‘ Batman ongoing series has announced his exit from the series. James Tynion IV leaves Gotham City behind to launch a new comic, Blue Book, with acclaimed artist Michael Avon Oeming via a Substack newsletter. “This wasn’t an easy decision,” Tynion told The New York Times. “In order to invest my time in new material, I needed to choose. I could not do both.” DC Comics announced Tynion as the new Batman writer on Batman Day in 2019. He’s led the Batman led through a period of expansion, including a relaunch with the beginning of the Infinite Frontier era. His run will continue through the upcoming Fear State event and end in November.

While Tynion is known to DC Comics fans for his work on Batman, he’s built up a stellar catalog of creator-owned comics. Something Is Killing the Children has been a hit at BOOM! Comics, with a spinoff series and Netflix adaptation in the works. In a post on Sustack, Tynion expressed a desire to create more of his content as a big reason for moving away from DC.

Nowhere in any of that does it say he’s “quitting.” And the term quitting implies he’s just up and leaving the company immediately. That isn’t the case, but that’s what the headline would have you believe, so you click to see what that’s about and, honestly, you just end up disappointed.

So, no, Tynion isn’t “quitting.” He is wrapping up his current projects.