Look, I can “report” comic book “news,” too.
Because I spend time on comic book Twitter, I saw Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan take the time to end an otherwise fairly normal Instagram post with a postscript.
The postscript was meant to reassure fans that, yes, Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples are still working on Saga. It was no doubt an attempt to curtail the otherwise-inevitable deluge of comments asking when Saga would return from its now-almost-three-year-long hiatus.
The fact that Vaughan felt the need to preempt the internet’s cries of “Where’s Saga?” is neither surprising nor particularly uplifting. The fact that comic “news” site ComicBook.com twisted Vaughan’s postscript into an article that somehow merited the headline “Saga Writer Brian K. Vaughan Confirms Series Will Return Soon,” blatantly stoking the same “Where’s Saga?” fever Vaughan was trying to head off, is just incredibly disheartening.
I’ve played the comic “news” game (and I may again some day). So I know there are good, respectable sites out there that are genuinely trying their best to report comic-related news and draw traffic. These sites may not always have the time, money, or staff to report things as thoroughly as some might like, but they report industry developments accurately and with care. Any site that used Brian K. Vaughan’s Instagram post to tell you Saga is returning soon, or even to pretend they had any new information at all about when Saga would be returning, is not one of the good, respectable sites.
What’s worse, however, is that ComicBook.com was likely rewarded for writing their misleading nothing-burger of an article. The article is filled with all the right keywords (“Vaughan” “Staples” “Saga” “return” “soon” “confirm”) to generate traffic. It got at least one Saga fan excited enough to post it to Reddit, which no doubt generated even more traffic. Because of articles like this one, ComicBook.com generates enough traffic to snag exclusive previews and interviews from publishers, who want to put their books in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Those previews and interviews generate more traffic, which makes ComicBook.com appear more worthwhile to publishers, who then feed the site more exclusive content, creating a comics news ouroboros. Meanwhile, ComicBook.com continues to publish clickbaity and/or entirely-false articles like their “Saga return” article, because they perform well and traffic (not care or accuracy) is really what it’s all about.
If you’re wondering why fans and publishers give these sorts of sites the time of day, it’s because they expect no better. Gone are the days when a site like ComicBook.com might have reached out to Image Comics or Vaughan or Staples to get a better sense of when Saga might actually be returning. Instead, a likely-unpaid “freelance journalist” connected to ComicBook.com’s Slack workspace was probably sent a link to Vaughan’s Instagram post and told to write an article about the post within the next thirty minutes. That’s not enough time for anyone, even an actual journalist, to source enough information to write an article that matters. It’s certainly not enough time for a “journalist” who is working a real job and “reports” comic book news on their lunch break to put together something real.
(Again, I’ve been inside this machine. I have written [hopefully more accurate and more informational] versions of ComicBook.com’s Saga article on my lunch breaks, and in twenty minutes of downtime between real work tasks, and on weekends.)
However, the search engines must be fed. They must be fed often, and they must be fed quickly. By this point, fans have consumed so many of these clickbaity articles that they come to expect them. Real insight and straightforward reporting is now the exception, not the norm.
While I currently have no time to feed the machine, I don’t typically take much issue with those who do. But ComicBook.com’s “Saga return” article was so egregiously misleading, and fans on Reddit got so excited at the thought of Saga returning “soon,” that I could not get the article out of my head. It just continued to piss me off. Because when some of the Saga fans who read ComicBook.com’s article hear Saga‘s actual return date, seeing the year 2022 or 2023 is going to piss them off. ComicBook.com promised something they are not on the hook to deliver, and they set Vaughan and Staples up to take the blame when Saga does not return “soon.”
Of course, the worst irony of this whole thing is that when Image, Vaughan, and Staples do announce Saga‘s actual return, ComicBook.com is going to be one of the first to report it. They will likely link to their January 2021 “Saga return” article, throw in the words “as we reported earlier,” and revel in the inevitable traffic that news of Saga‘s return will bring. They won’t care that their earlier report was inaccurate, and someone will likely post ComicBook.com’s new article to Reddit, too.
P.S. – I have no @#$%ing idea when Saga is coming back.