Titan Comics And DC Reprints In The UK

Here in the UK, Titan is the name of a publisher who, among other things, reprint DC titles for a UK audience. Like Panini UK (and Marvel UK before them), superhero reprint titles on these shores usually consist of each issue featuring reprints of 3 stories from the US. So for instance, Titan’s The Flash title reprints Flash issues from the US.

Superhero reprints in the UK have been around a long time. In the 1970s, Marvel UK had titles like Mighty World of Marvel, an A4-sized black-and-white reprint publication which featured the likes of the Hulk, Fantastic Four, etc. As far as DC are concerned, in the 80s, companies like Egmont and London Editions Magazines (which I believe was part of Egmont) had reprint publications devoted to Superman, Batman, etc. They did a fine and consistent job. Today, Panini UK reprints Marvel US issues for a UK audience and does a stellar job with it.

For a very brief period, between 2003 and 2006, Panini acquired the licence to reprint DC titles (DC had been absent from our shores for a while). They published a fantastic title called Batman Legends, which featured a mix of modern Batman tales and classic tales. However, in 2006, Titan acquired the licence to reprint US DC stories. Using the Batman Legends name, they published a title from late 2006.

Since that time, Titan have been a little inconsistent. It almost feels like their reprint titles are an afterthought. It wasn’t the best start for their Batman Legends title when they chose to reprint All-Star Batman despite the fact that title had been plagued by delays in the US (only one issue of that title came out in 2006, for instance).

Today Titan have many DC titles. And as the likes of Bleeding Cool have reported – http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/04/29/concern-over-titans-uk-reprints-of-dc-comics-titles – many fans are despairing of Titan’s errors, woes and inconsistencies.

It is important to remember that no-one would criticize occasional editing errors – even Panini UK does that – but there are many, many things that Titan is doing wrong. The video in the link above covered a lot of it. Even worse is that Titan’s responses don’t often seem to take the issues that seriously.

So what are the problems?

1.) A lack of communication over cancellations. Cancellations are fine: if a title isn’t selling, it’s not viable for Titan to continue it. However, we never get to learn why. Often we don’t even know a title has been cancelled until weeks or months after. Their Supergirl title just disappeared. No updates on their website, no updates on their social media pages and no responses to e-mails. They then informed us it had been a mini-series and had been retroactively cancelled.

2.) A lack of communication, period. Their website isn’t updated, unlike other publishers. Their Facebook page isn’t updated regularly, either. A lot of FB comments are from folk wanting to know where certain issues are. We also have no idea if a title switches from monthly to bimonthly until it actually happens. It’s a constant guessing game. It’s a constant ‘game’ of heading to WHSmith to see if a series is out. It’s pot luck whether it is or not. Regular updates of such information – on, say, Facebook – would keep customers informed. A simple “Guys, this title is now bimonthly” would save a lot of hassle.

3.) Editing errors. I won’t dwell on this because the link/video shared a few paragraphs back covers that. It does come across as unprofessional when it happens so much. And suggests, even though I don’t really believe it, that the reprint titles are an afterthought. I can count editing errors by Panini UK, over the last decade, on one hand. However, the editing errors concerning “next issue dates” occur with more frequency in Titan’s reprint titles.

I really want Titan’s reprint titles to succeed. DC reprints were absent from UK shores from about 1994 or 1995 until 2003. Yes, TPBs and that were available, but there wasn’t a DC reprint title here during those years. Panini did a great job initially with Batman Legends. Since that time, Titan hasn’t been as consistent. Fans are frustrated. We don’t know what is happening with titles because Titan aren’t as communicative as other companies. I know it is not the most important issue in the world, but it is a minor issue (in the grand scheme of things) for those of us who follow the titles.

All of Titan’s woes concerning their reprint titles could be avoided. I was most disappointed when one Titan employee, via Facebook, told me that subscribers of a cancelled title had been informed, but that it wasn’t possible to communicate to all readers. Not possible? This is the age of the internet. And if their internet sites aren’t regularly updated, they could let readers know via a brief mention in the editorial pages of one of their many titles. Could they not have used the editorial pages/letters pages of one of their Batman titles to let us know another title has been cancelled?

UK DC fans want Titan to succeed. We want to be able to look forward to picking up their various titles. We simply want consistency. We don’t want to play guessing games about when a title is out. And we don’t want to spend weeks traipsing around branches of WHSmith, only to learn weeks later that a title has been cancelled.

All of Titan’s woes, and fans’ frustrations, could be avoided in the future if Titan simply works harder at having a more regular and consistent internet presence. They could set up a dedicated Twitter feed to inform us of cancellations or to announce a title has switched frequency from monthly to bimonthly. They could have a more consistent Facebook presence, letting us know that the issue we thought was out one week won’t be out until the next week. And it would definitely make them look more professional and communicative to customers if their website was updated with the same frequency as others.

On a final note, a similar thing happened with Star Trek Magazine, also published by Titan. From about late 2015 until the spring or summer of 2016, no issues were published (the title is bimonthly, at least I think it is). No updates on their Facebook page. Nothing on the website. I did eventually get a reply via Facebook, but never learned the reason or reasons for the delay. It does lead to goodwill being sapped away.

How Comic Books Taught Me Geography

As a kid, some of my geography education came about due to superhero comics. Sure, I knew that, in DC Comics, the likes of Metropolis and Gotham City were not real-life cities on the East Coast of the United States. I knew that Solovar, a nation that was home to sentient apes, could not be found on a map of the world. I did get all that.

I was also aware that Marvel Comics used some fictional locations, i.e. Wakanda, home of the Black Panther. Or Latveria, the nation that Doom rules with an iron fist (sounds similar to Latvia, though, right?). That said, Marvel did use a lot of real cities in its stories, most notably New York City, found in, of course, the state of New York. In recent years, we’ve seen Los Angeles and San Francisco used in various Marvel tales.

Now, comics are, first and foremost, meant to be about entertainment. We read them, or should read them, in order to immerse ourselves in the exploits of Iron Man, Captain America, Daredevil, etc. Mind you, who said comics can’t be educational in a certain sense? Who actually went and looked up gamma rays in an encyclopedia? I did. Back to geography, though: the likes of Spider-Man had fantastic adventures in the city of New York. Boroughs such as Manhattan and Queens were mentioned. So as I grew up, I got to learn where all these places were. I knew that if Marvel was using real cities, it was bound to be using real boroughs, too. There would have been little point in having Spider-Man tales set in New York whilst creating fictional boroughs. So I did get some of my New York geography education from our favourite web-slinger.

It wasn’t just geography, either. Let me return to science: I knew at the time, even as a silly child, that Stan Lee and others were probably not 100% familiar with cosmic radiation, gamma radiation, etc. However, when reading about such forms of radiation, it did encourage me to seek out the real facts in science books. I remember asking my mum about radiation as a child (she had worked in a hospital) and she did mention how radiation could be used in the treatment of certain cancers. I looked up cosmic rays in a book years later. And it wasn’t just about radiation. When Batman used a forensic science technique, I appreciated artistic licence was used, but as someone who is naturally curious, I would go off in search of information pertaining to real-life forensic science.

There are numerous other examples, too. For a while, as a kid, I struggled with the spelling of San Francisco. The first ‘C’ in Francisco was usually substituted with an ‘S’ (back in the day before home computers and spellchecker). Of course, when you keep reading the name of that city in comics, your brain eventually lets you know what the correct spelling is.

Who said comics can never be educational? Let them remain as forms of entertainment primarily, but if teaching you a thing or two, or encouraging you to learn something later on, becomes a byproduct of the entertaining world of comics, then so be it.