London Horr or Comic
How to publish independently – and successfully – in the UK
“How do you break into comics?” That must surely be the question the professionals at any Comic Con are asked the most. Maybe more aspiring creators should take a leaf out of John-Paul Kamath’s comic book and simply do it themselves.
After submitting numerous failed pitches and contributing to little-known American horror anthology Trailer Park Of Terror, Kamath decided to shape his own destiny. In 2006 he started an online monthly strip and the debut print edition of London Horror Comic hit the shelves two years later. A further five, increasingly lavish-looking full-colour issues have followed.
Kamath was persuaded to go it alone after trying and failing to get his work published by traditional
means. “I sent a US editor the idea for an all-silent story about a pensioner dying alone in his flat but without a twist,” he recalls. “He said it was ‘creepy but not for them’. I thought the story had merit, so I had a friend draw it and we stuck it on the web. We ended up getting some good feedback from folks, including Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano. The act of publishing one short story on the web didn’t make me a success, but the feedback did convince me that writing comics in my own way, and without having to ask anyone’s permission, might have merit.”
Kamath, who maintains that “the definition of success is getting what you want,” has never looked back, but while his work has been praised by such esteemed figures as Garth Ennis and Stewart Lee, he is determined to keep his feet on the ground. “Staying level-headed about why you’re getting into comics – especially self-publishing – is extremely important if you want to survive in the long term,” he insists. “If your motive is to write the perfect Spider-Man story or get rich and famous, you’re going to be disappointed!”
In a market dominated by spandex-clad supertypes, Kamath’s preference for succinct, selfcontained tales of terror makes for a refreshing change of pace. Like its preceding volumes, London
Horror Comic #6 boasts three spine-chilling yarns of varying styles and increasing nastiness.
“The short story anthology format has several benefits, which have been essential for London
Horror Comic’s success,” he says. “Each issue is easy to pick up and get involved in. You don’t have to read the previous issues to get up to speed and you don’t need to buy the next issue to find out what happens next. This makes the book very easy to hand to people at conventions and for them to make a quick call about whether it’s for them or not. From a creative point of view, it allows me to experiment with the broadest definition of horror. Stories can range from psychological horror to a more visceral splatter-fest and even comedy. Unlike other anthologies where you have to rely on the diversity of the writers to provide a mixture of tones and styles, I can’t fall back on a single way of writing. That keeps the writing fresh and alive for me and hopefully for the reader as well.”
From eerily empty tube trains to seedy backstreet bars, London Horror Comic also depicts many of the capital’s recognisable locales in an unsettlingly unfamiliar light. “Horror can mean many different things, from the body and its vulnerabilities, to the mind and its fragility, or the heat or absence of our emotions,” says Kamath. “As a city, London mirrors this eclecticism, which is reflected in the subject and tone of the stories. It’s a dark, anonymous, frequently frightening and funny place, which is also compelling enough to make more than eight million people want to be a part of it. For me, it’s the perfect marriage of genre and place that provides the inspiration for some bizarre stories. Taking things a bit deeper, horror is the genre for me that most approximates fairytales and how they can help children develop. The peculiar thing is that, as we get older, there are very few fairytales that address adult tensions and anxieties that are presented to us in modern life. But that’s where the horror genre, at its best, can operate. I find this the most fascinating aspect of writing horror and using London – and its people and places – as my inspiration seems to work.”
While Kamath is London Horror Comic’s sole author, having a regular art team in the form of Lee Ferguson and Dean Kotz also provides a sense of continuity. “When you’re working with a creative team you trust, it’s important to let them know the overall effect that you’re trying to achieve but not necessarily mandate how that should be done,” says Kamath. “They bring their skills to the table to make my story work better, so I let them do their jobs.” Mostly sold online and at conventions, London
Horror Comic has attracted a loyal, diverse audience that seems to appreciate Kamath’s
Stories can range from psychological horror to a more
distinctive vision. “While it can be difficult selling a version of horror that doesn’t rely on any standard horror tropes and does incorporate humour, more often than not it’s a great way of bringing people into the genre or at least getting them to dip their toes in the water,” he reasons. “The most repeated comments I get from people who have read the book have been along the lines of ‘I don’t like horror or comics, but I liked your book’. That said, you also get the guy who walks past your table at a con with a copy of the latest Walking
Dead omnibus under his arm and who tells you point blank that he’s not into horror. The world’s a strange and powerful place!” You can order a copy of London Horror Comic #6 at www.londonhorrorcomic.com.