Batman and Superman may have started as comic book characters, but over the last few days, the superheroes got caught up in some really tall tales, making the fan consternation over Gal Gadot's body type or the general Ben Affleck meltdown look like the good 'ole days.
It all started on Saturday, when Bill "Jett" Ramey from the website Batman-On-Film.com, posted a blog called "Happy New Year 2014 BOF Mailbag."
Like all his "mailbag" features of the past, Ramey's post answered questions from readers — but this time, it concentrated mostly on the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (known by most fans and called by Ramey by the tentative title Batman vs. Superman).
Among many opinions and speculations, the writer said he's been "told" several things about the film — for example, that there are no Batman villains in the movie, and that the sequel is not being treated as a Justice League team movie, but as a Superman-centric film.
But in a casual Q&A style, he also began speculating on what fans might see in Batman vs. Superman.
"I believe we'll see a Superman film in the future that doesn't include any other DC superheroes," he wrote.
"If I had to guess, I'd say [Ben Affleck will play Batman in 5 films]: BvS, three solo Batman films, and another DC team-up movie."
"Personally, I'd say [Wonder Woman's role in Batman vs. Superman will] be about on par with Scarlett Johansson's first appearance as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. I believe it's a cameo-plus type of role that will (hopefully) serve as a springboard to a solo Wonder Woman movie."
"I'd bet a year's pay — in Monopoly money, of course — that the 'Amazons' of this cinematic DCU will be descendants of those 'ancient Kryptonians' who attempted to set up Kryptonian outposts throughout spaced thousands and thousands of years ago."
By Sunday, several comic book news outlets had started to report on Ramey's speculations, implying that the post by Ramey was actually based on movie industry rumors. Because Batman-on-Film has reported rumors in the past that ended up being true, other websites started to pick up the information.
"I guess I should be flattered that outlets picked up on my latest BOF Mailbag. BUT, most, not all, are completely twisting what I wrote," Ramey said on his twitter on Sunday.
But then the rumors spread across the internet faster than Superman can speed around the earth. Comic book fans were particularly incensed by the idea of Warner Bros. making Wonder Woman a Kryptonian.
By Monday, fans were outraged at Warner and DC for even considering a Kryptonian Wonder Woman. And the headlines were getting more and more incendiary.
"Latest rumors say Batman vs. Superman's Wonder Woman will be a descendent of Krypton," said a headline on ign.com.
"If this recently surfaced rumor is true, then Wonder Woman is about to get a verrrrry interesting new origin for Batman Vs. Superman," said a story on io9.com, under the headline: "The rumor about Wonder Woman's movie debut will make your head explode."
Ramey reminded his followers on Twitter that his take on Wonder Woman's origin was "pure SPECULATION."
"Anyone saying otherwise is wrong," he said.
To no avail.
Fans began reacting to the rumor, and posting it across the internet. By midday Monday, Ramey's casual guess had turned into an internet equivalent of Smaug the fire-breathing dragon. Throughout the Internet comics' community, the news was being cited as reliable:
Warner Bros. was going to ruin Wonder Woman.
"Message to WB: if you prefer Supergirl's origin story to Wonder Woman, add Supergirl instead," a poster on themarysue.com wrote.
"Essentially, a giant 'screw you!' to all the women and girls who have been reading Wonder Woman for decades," a fan wrote on io9.com.
By this morning, Ramey was clearly appalled at the way his own, personal speculation about what might happen was being blown waaaaayyyy out of proportion:
"OK, it's not funny any longer," Ramey posted on his Facebook page. "Now, many outlets have picked up the 'story' and have run it as either me claiming it to be fact or me claiming it's 'inside info/rumor.'
"BULLSH*T!" he said. "I get that people are anxious for BvS news, but this was ridiculous!"
While Ramey was clearly upset by the speed at which his speculation morphed into something ugly, the evolution of the story was, for some industry observers, actually comical.
"If you’re one of the people that flew off the handle and ran with the [Batman-on-Film] speculation as if it were factual…guess what?," said a post on latino-review.com, "Gary Busey thinks you’re dumb."
The parody blogsite theouthousers.com posted a list of several ridiculous "made-up rumors that we hope will go viral," including Batman being bisexual and Lex Luthor being played by a hologram.
At the heart of all the stories is one fact that is indisputable: Internet traffic is usually swift for any story involving a big film like the Man of Steel sequel, and even moreso if the potential is there for an extreme reaction by readers.
This story had all the elements required for a huge fan reaction: Not only did it seem to give significant information about the already controversial Man of Steel, but it focused on Wonder Woman, whose casting is already controversial — then indicated a change to the character's canon that would be considered even more controversial.
The temptation for websites to run unsubstantiated rumors is considerable, and the downside is negligible. Credibility becomes less of a priority in this environment, when jumping the gun and being wrong have few — or even no — repercussions, but getting the traffic from those rumors pays dividends.
Ramey understood why the fervor happened, saying on his updated blog post, "I get that people are starved for BvS information."
But ironically, his original post on Saturday also complained about websites that run unsubstantiated information — as well as fans who overreact.
"There are far too many of these sorts of outlets that make stuff up just to see the reaction online," Ramey said on Saturday — before the incidents that occurred over the last few days. "They are doing nothing more than throwing sh*t at the wall to see what sticks. There are a three or four sites – who shall remain nameless – that are very successful carrying out such illicit endeavors.
"As far as ridiculous fanboy online freak-outs and behavior, I’m sure that you all know exactly how I feel about that subject!" he said.