Titan Comics PUBWATCH: January 2020

Titan Pubwatch Banner from Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince #2

New Year, New Decade! (Though some may debate if we are really in a new decade.) Let’s take a bit of a look at what December brought from Titan Comics, and some of what to look forward to this year.

Titan Comics News and Announcements

March 2020 Solicitations

We have news on Titan’s two Free Comic Book Day titles. One comes from an ongoing series (Blade Runner) and one will kick off a new series (Horizon Zero Dawn).  The Blade Runner comic will set the stage for the conclusion of the second arc that will come a few days later on May 6th.  The Horizon Zero Dawn FCBD title will kick off a new ongoing series written by Anne Toole, one of the video game’s writers.  Free Comic Book Day 2020 will take place this year on May 2nd.

Before Free Comic Book Day, March will bring continued adventures in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Year 2, Adler, and the kickoff to the second arc of Robotech: Remix.  Star Trek fans will have two new magazines in March, both celebrating the CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard—Star Trek #75, and Star Trek: Picard The Official Collector’s Edition. And there’s some fun art books and novels as well, featuring everything from dark fairy tales to special effects makeup to even Spider-Man!

The March solicitations also had some advance solicits for the spring.  The Hard Case Crime imprint brings two new stories for June, including a new Ms. Tree collection.  A new Snowpiercer story comes in May, and Alien fans can look forward to a 40th anniversary commemorative art book.

Syd Mead, 1933-2019

A futuristic storefront with skinny robots
Syd Mead Concept Art for Blade Runner

The Blade Runner community lost the man who provided the vision for the futuristic with the passing of Syd Mead on December 3oth after a battle with lymphoma.  Mead received his start in design working for Ford Motor Company, founding his own design firm in 1970.  In addition to Blade Runner, Mead did design work for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Tron, and Mission Impossible III.  Sometimes his fanciful futuristic visions dipped into reality; a painting of his exhibited in 2012 (but done decades before) showed handheld information devices that bore more than a passing resemblance to today’s smartphones.

2019 Reflections

Whenever folks who want to get into comics ask me where to start, I always tell them “well, take something you like—a movie or TV show, for example—and see if someone made a comic from it.” That was Titan’s greatest strength in 2019: its adaptations of licensed properties.  Some received fresh interpretations, such as Robotech: Remix.  Others helped fill in a drought for fans, like Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor.  Their use of many European artists on their titles introduced some excellent talent from across the pond: Claudia Ianniciello, Roberta Ingranata, and many more.

One thing Titan got very much right this year is its Doctor Who comics.  The decision late in 2018 to scrap the entire existing line to start fresh with the Thirteenth Doctor, and tie it directly to the show eliminates a big barrier for new readers: confusing continuity.  Story structure for these comics also improved, focusing on specific, self-contained four-issue arcs. The editorial team tightened things up making for a smoother reading experience.

What would I like to see from Titan in 2020? Print and digital releases on the same day. There were a few times I went to pick up print copies of Titan titles, only to find out they weren’t available until the week after their digital releases. (This could have been shipping delays. Comixology still list print and digital dates for Titan titles as the same.)  I’d also love to see Titan take a page from Humanoids and launch their own superhero universe.  They have the depth of creative talent, and having something completely original would bring in new comics readers who only see them as a clearinghouse for licensed adaptations.

What I’m Reading

It was a light month for comics in December, but we have a double dose of Doctor Who for you (right on the heels of the Series 12 premiere), including a look at the debut issue from Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor Year Two! 

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special #2

Enrica Eren Angiolini (colorist), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (letterer), Jody Houser (writer), Roberta Ingranata (artist), Richard Starkings (letterer)
December 18, 2019

The Doctor, holding a sonic screwdriver, with the shadow of Krampus behind her.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special #2, by Jody Houser and Roberta Ingranata

Our TARDIS friends are in a bit of a jam up at the North Pole.  They’re having disturbing gaps in memory, and have found themselves behind bars at a North Pole that certainly isn’t cheery. But not for long with a rogue elf named Baxter to their rescue. Now free, the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan take on their Bad Santa: a minion of Krampus building an army of scary Santas for its master. It’s a race against time to set things right before December 25th arrives.  Will the Doctor do it, and still have time for Christmas dinner?

I had concerns about how this would all get resolved in the second part.  While the plot does come to a conclusion, complete with heartwarming ending of kin gathered round for celebration, it felt rushed. Blink and you’ll miss just how the Doctor takes down Krampus. But the characterization of the Doctor, as witty with a lesson or two to tell, is spot on.  One year under her belt and Houser shows she knows how to write her characters well.

The art has improved from the first issue. It’s never easy trying to bring a three dimensional person into two dimensions.  More contouring helps to give depth that was missing from the previous installment, but moments of too much detail on facial features do leave faces occasionally unfamiliar. Oddly enough, simpler sketching often proves more realistic.  Ingranata’s Krampus is frightening to behold, but only so much.  The late introduction of this primary villain and quick resolution of the conflict also dilutes down any intended fearful effect.

A good holiday special provides a story with a start and finish that is both all-ages appropriate and doesn’t require too much prior knowledge. For the most part, this two parter series did just that, though I would have loved to see one more issue, just to allow for more breathing room.

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Year Two #1

Enrica Angiolini (colorist), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedricks, Jody Houser (writer), Roberta Ingranata (artist), Richard Starkings (letterer)
January 8, 2020

The Thirteenth Doctor holds a TARDIS in her hands while the Tenth Doctor peeks out the doors of the TARDIS
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Year Two #1, by Jody Houser and Roberta Ingranata

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends.  Even if they are your past selves. Instead of heading to Woodstock in 1969, Thirteen and friends find themselves in London in that same year. And that’s where Martha Jones and David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor are stuck, having lost the TARDIS thanks to a Weeping Angel attack. And those Weeping Angels are still on the prowl.  All the Doctors and all the companions have to do is save London and save themselves from the Angels. And of course do it all without causing a time paradox.

Those who watched the New Year’s Day special “Spyfall” saw that the new season of the TV show plans to lean hard into series history and lore, and that seems to go for the comics as well. This is a reinterpretation of the 2007 episode “Blink” for a new audience. And it’s done in a way that explains just what new readers need to know, while inserting a few Easter eggs for the longtime fans.  I said in the review of the holiday special above that Houser has a keen grasp on writing these characters, and that’s on full display here.  No one is out of character, just out of time.

The experience also shows in artwork. There’s more familiarity in faces thanks to Ingranata opting for the idea of “less is more” in her artwork. Less detail in facial work leaves everyone more recognizable, but they’re not totally flat drawings either.  If there is any weakness in the art, it is in setting.  This London of 1969 looks rather generic.  A period detail or two, outside of Yaz’s hairstyle, goes a long way in helping to set scene and show this team way out of time.

This creative team has certainly found its stride, and I’m very eager to see what comes in Year Two.

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski

Librarian by day, comics nerd by day and by night. Also published at Geeks OUT and Multiversity Comics (where she is also the social media manager for the site). Originally from New Jersey, now of Connecticut and New York City. Raging feminist your mother probably warned you about. Body positivity and LGBTQ+ advocate. Lover of good whiskey, Jensen Ackles, Doctor Who, Funko Pops, knitting, Hamilton, and the New York Mets. Will defend the Oxford Comma to her deathbed. Find her on twitter at @librarian_kate