Lon­don Horr or Comic

How to pub­lish in­de­pen­dently – and suc­cess­fully – in the UK

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“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!”

scare tac­tics

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

vis­ceral splat­ter-fest

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.

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