Comics site ICV2 has just published a two-part interview with Titan Entertainment Group Managing Director Nick Landau and Executive Director Vivian Cheung, the duo behind UK-based Titan Entertainment, which has a long history and broad business portfolio that’s invisible to many people in the business, who are only familiar with its recent expansion of comics and graphic novel publishing.
The interview explores some of the company’s long history, and offers an insight into the scope of the company’s activities and ambitions. In Part One, Nick and Vivian talk about the roots and expansion of Titan’s publishing operations. In Part Two, they talk about Titan’s merchandise division, the current shape of its publishing, upcoming expansion, and its retail stores.
Titan has been publishing since 1981, since Nick’s time as editor of 2000AD, after which he originally set up Titan Books to publish a whole range of 2000AD and Judge Dredd graphic novel collections, entering the US market in 1994. (He also notes the success of Eagle Comics in the early 1980s; the first Judge Dredd comic they published sold 100,000).
Nick notes the current expansion of Titan Comics is something of a natural progression for the company, which fully launched in Magazines Department in 1995 with Star Trek Magazine and a UK version of Simpsons Comics.
“Ironically, all the editors that joined us for licensed magazine publishing had a great love of comics, as Vivian and I do,” he notes, “So it was very natural to us to migrate that into comic book licensed publishing. We already had the expertise from the magazines, fiction and the illustrated books.
“So fast forward another 10 or 15 years, and a few years ago we came to the conclusion that we really wanted to become comic book publishers in the US market.”
While the company is now well known for its licensed comics, particularly its top-selling Doctor Who range (and has seen great success with books such as Dark Souls, Penny Dreadful, and Rivers of London), Nick is still keen to continue publication of translated bande dessines, something he began doing back in the 1980s, but not on so large a scale as Titan has recently.
“Basically I’ve been a collector of French BD forever,” he explains. “That’s how I learned French (although a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve learned French). We were doing it back in the 1980s and when the opportunity came to do it again, we leapt at it. And I think we’re quite well positioned in the UK to broach that gap between the US and the French markets. Geographically it’s a great place to be and also logistically we felt we could really bring something to the table.”
Turning their attention to Titan and Forbidden Planet’s merchandise lines, Nick notes the company has two key merchandise areas – apparel and Titan vinyls.
“We do a blind box with a new release every month, 14 to 20 figures a month,” he notes. “We have a significant range of licensed characters, with Doctor Who. We have seven or eight different ranges of Doctor Who.” (Doctor Who is the company’s top line in t-shirt sales).
“The biggest part of publishing would be a toss-up between our illustrated books and our fiction,” he feels. “You have to bear in mind that comics and graphic novels are a part of the business that we’ve only been in for three or four years. We came into the business in 2013, that’s when we started to ramp up. Although we’ve been in the business for 40-plus years, our comics and graphic novel business is a very recent one.
As to the future of their comics? “We’re ramping up, publishing about 20 to 25 titles per month. It’s the fastest growing division… We are growing significantly. Part of that is that we’re a new business. We can see that there is market growth.
“We’re feeling quite bullish about the market, very excited about it, with the number of new launches that we’ve got coming up and some new partnerships,” he continues. “We’ve got two very exciting partnerships that we’ve formed. One is with the British movie studio, Hammer, and we are launching the first in a series of titles with them. And being with a movie studio, there’s very good potential for those comics be ultimately be developed. For that reason and that there’s a history of fans who are very excited about those properties, that’s a really interesting range to follow.
“The other one is Hard Case Crime, which we are going to be launching in October at New York Comic Con. We’ve been the publisher of the Hard Case imprint in fiction, for years. We’ve been looking forward to the time where we could bring those same sensibilities to the comic book market. What we’re doing, effectively, is broadening the comic book base. With Hammer we’ve got a very a strong, proprietorial horror line and with Hard Case Crime, we have a noir crime line. We’re working with very strong brands to develop them. So we’re not just going out and saying we’re going to do a horror comic and a crime comic. They’re not drifting. They’re actually tied up with strong brands.”
This wide-ranging interview also spotlights the Forbidden Planet stores, the upcoming launch of the Warhammer 40K comic, digital comics and much more. It’s a rare and interesting chat with these two comics entrepreneurs.