Sometimes, you see the announcement of a project that, although you are quasi-convinced that it's likely to end in tears, you can't help yourself but be grateful for it happening in the first place, and also hoping against hope that it succeeds against the odds. To wit: the news that Titan Publishing is launching a new line of creator-owned comics aimed at the American direct market but created by British creators.
To be realistic and pessimistic first: The line is lacking any massively big names to anchor it or promote it, both in terms of properties -- it's a creator-owned line of mostly new material, after all -- and creators (X-Men: Legacy's Si Spencer is the most well-known creator attached to American audiences, I think, and while he's definitely a creator worth paying attention to, I'm unconvinced that he's well-known enough to bring in new readers or retailers), and the direct market is almost set up to eat that kind of thing alive. A flip through Diamond's Previews will see any number of similar publishers lost in the morass that is the back half of the comics listings, not receiving the attention they should, after all. Without some kind of massive promotion that gives readers a reason to check the first releases out, I worry that the line is going to disappear without a trace.
And yet ...
I find myself surprisingly excited about the line, for some reason, and hopeful that -- if the DM orders don't live up to optimism -- the digital market will take up some of the strain (a la Monkeybrain, among others, which has demonstrated an ability to let creators and concepts unfamiliar with audiences find some level of traction). The Titan Comics line, you see, feels like a breath of fresh air in an industry that feels increasingly stagnant; it's not just that it's a line full of new ideas and series that are distinctly un-superhero, but that it's a line created by non-American creators who'll bring their own influences and cultural references to the work. I've written before about 2000AD's "Britishness" and the fact that it offers an alternative to the norm that we're used to seeing in mainstream comics; Titan Comics has the potential to be exactly the same thing, but moreso, so obviously I'm on board. We need more diversity in influence and outlook as much as we do in execution and subject matter, after all.
(Titan's Nick Landau told USA Today that the publisher wouldn't be limiting itself to British creators, promising to spotlight "top new creators for the USA and elsewhere in the world." Given that the American comic industry is already made up of international creators, that makes sense, but I hope that it doesn't signal a genericism of content down the line.)
The new line launches in July, with Spurrier and PJ Holden's Numbercruncher, which has already run in the Judge Dredd Megazine, but is being colored/reprinted in this new edition, a la Andy Diggle and Jock's Snapshot, about to get the same treatment from Image, and Stuart Jennet's Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol. Even if I'm pessimistic about the line's overall chances, I find myself telling myself things like "2012 was the year when Image Comics made a comeback and people started paying attention to creator-owned books again! Maybe it can work…!"
Don't let me down, optimism.