The standard cover for "Batman Incorporated" #8
Comic Book Movie and IGN (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AT BOTH SITES) have both recently reported that a leaked cover may have possibly spoiled "Batman Incorporated" #8. While we are not going to "spoil" the issue with what has been learned so far, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the idea of leaks themselves, how they happen, and how they can be prevented.
First, lets talk about the anatomy of a comic book leak. There are many chances for specific details of a comic book to be leaked during every step of its production -- though the modern comics publisher has followed Hollywood's lead and is quite thorough in keeping secret information a secret (which is why it's called "secret"). Based on my own experience as a comic book editor, I can verify that methods used to keep spoilers unspoilt include having creative teams sign non-disclosure forms, printing scripts on a "mauve" color of paper (unXeroxable), and basically being very very stern about the whole matter. The rise of digital media -- including pirated comics -- has made these attempts to halt leaks far more difficult to control.
Take the case of "Batman Incorporated" #8. While the content of this book can be reasonably protected from within the safe shell of the editorial/creative network, once the comics get printed and prepared for retail, there is a problem. A spoiler can be spotted at the printing plant, have a quick photo snapped of it, and then it is all over the Internet in a matter of hours. Retailers and reviewers also get advance material pertaining to specific "high profile" comics. Advance copies can be quickly scanned and pirated by a rogue store employee, writer or other person with access to this material; these pirated copies are easily "dropped" into the Internet maelstrom. Digital copies of the comic in different formats also float around.
(Lastly, a comics leak could happen the old-fashioned way: some "insider" tells somebody who is in a position to inform about a billion people via the latest technological advances in computer communications. Said "somebody" could risk destroying relations with said publishers by annoying them severely with the publication of said leak, and might even face a legal issue over it -- but if couched as "rumor," such a person is relatively safe, though unauthorized images might get a cease-and-desist notice. I have even heard far-fetched stories of spoilers and other somesuch news being purposely leaked by the publishers themselves, to drum up buzz -- but that, of course, is only a rumor. Unfortunately, I have yet to be approached for such shenanigans, though you know where to find me guys if you're interested.)
In the case of "Batman Incorporated" #8, IGN reports that a one Al Mega, comic retailer, posted a photo of previously unreleased variant covers for the issue -- the covers feature an image that is, simply, quite very spoilery. When coupled with current storylines and, more crucially, advance solicitation text for the Bat-Family books as a whole, they do not paint a particularly rosy picture for a certain character.
But if you really want to enjoy your comic book, why would you want to know this information in advance, anyway? And how do you, as a fan, navigate the mine-field of the Internet as to not have your story spoiled?
I really don't have any concrete answers here as to how to stop leaks, other than to perhaps install some sort of harsh penalty (maybe you lose a pinky finger in the town square) and maybe get drones or microchips involved. As to the matter of avoiding leaks, I suggest you close your browser and perhaps go outside for a while, or, if it is a particularly blustery day, play a boardgame with a loved one or roommate (I am not insinuating here that your roommate might not also be your loved one, so please do not go all "Internet Rage" on me).
Taking a broader view, perhaps this is the price Comics has to pay for operating in a more high-profile, "mainstream" position. In a world where we have "Star Trek Into Darkness" Cumberbatch speculation every five minutes, how can we expect the demise/sex-change/marriage/presidential run of a superhero well-known by even Muggle standards to not zip back and forth across teh interwebs?
At any rate, you will not see me leaking any of this particular "Batman Incorporated" bit of stuff before the title comes out, or an official publisher-sanctioned announcement has been made. It would be like robbing you of a special comic book moment.