London Horror Comic #1
"London Horror Comic #1"
Written by John-Paul Kamath
Art by Lee Ferguson, Marc Deering & Hi-Fi Design
As anyone who's ever made it to a comic convention in the UK will know, there's a thriving scene of incredibly talented artists and writers, all of whom have, at some point, knuckled down and built the comics they want to read themselves. In the back of The London Horror Comic, writer John-Paul Kamath has written a short essay about the process of following your muse. He shares the advice that kept him going - "Persist, even if the world call it doing evil."
As writer of his own horror comic, you have to assume he knows a bit about evil.
Persistence has paid off, though. The London Horror Comic is an incredibly polished piece of work - an anthology of 4 fairly substantial tales, it's professional enough that it wouldn't look out of place on the shelves of any comic shop alongside the major publishers. In an indie scene occasionally swamped in low-quality photocopies, Kamath's effort in crafting a professional piece of work gives him immediate credibility.
But - and this is the important bit - is it actually any good? A high-quality print job and decent artists can be bought, but raw, writing talent? That's not going cheap. Do the stories live up to the standards the books appearance sets? Well, of course! Which is good, because it'd be a real shame if Kamath's clear amount of effort in putting his work together was at all undermined by the actual substance of the book.
There are 4 stories in this issue, all horror-themed to some degree, though the second half of the book is much darker than the others. My favourite of the bunch involves an amateur writer pondering his own work while the reader sees some hauntingly familiar events played out, with an ambiguous ending that suggests there might be more to his fiction than he realises. It's got a fairly complicated narrative, but works wonderfully. The familiar setup of detectives investigating a suicide and a twist ending makes it feel timeless, almost like a short from Tales of the Darkside, George A. Romero's TV horror anthology series (think Twilight Zone, but scarier).
The opening two shorts take a more humourous tone, and while the second is probably the weakest piece in the book, the first more than makes up for it by being genuinely hilarious at times. I won't spoil the jokes by repeating them, but again, if you've ever been to a British comic convention it'll be twice as funny.
The artwork and colouring is of a fairly good quality. It's in a different league to most indie comics, of course, and while some of it is occasionally wonky, the visuals complement the writing and never take away from it. The final, silent story especially rests a lot on the shoulders of the penciller, Lee Ferguson, and he pulls it off nicely.
It's not a flawless book - the lack of a title and credits on each story (they're all collected at the front) means that at least once I read past the end of a story without noticing. You can get away with this in some anthologies, but when the artwork and colouring is handled by one team the stories don't visually stand apart enough that you can get away with it.
In addition to this, despite the title there's very little about this comic that screams "London" at you. The horror element is there, but besides being made in London, there's not much of a connection to the city. Going into it I was expecting some greater links, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed not to find any. And two stories featuring comic writers does little to enhance the diversity of the work, though it's not overly distracting.
The back cover contains a preview of Issue #2, and it's good to see Kamath's already got work on this going, and I look forward to the day when I can pick up a copy and see what he's come up with next.
Anyone wishing to purchase a copy of The London Horror Comic for themselves can visit the official site for further details, and we're reliably informed that John will be exhibiting with copies at London's annual comic convention the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing on 22nd March 2008