John-Paul Kamath’s London Horror Comic is one of the true mainstays of the UK small press scene. It’s been around for longer than this column has been at Broken Frontier and it’s one of those books that we first reviewed back in the very early days of ‘Small Pressganged’. The latest issue of Kamath’s supernatural anthology is a bumper 50-plus paged entry in the series with a cover by Ben Newman and an alternate one by Claude TC, a recent guest at the Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw.
Kamath is an old school comics storyteller, playing to the strengths of the artists he collaborates with and concentrating on solid narrative rather than overt experimentation. His stories can range from chilling thrillers to neat takes on established horror standards, often with a wry sense of dark humour and a knowing wink in the reader’s direction.
That first tale in London Horror Comic #8 is ‘The Lonely League of an Extraordinary Loser’, illustrated with clear and bold line by Craig Cermak. Bob is something of a man-child, driving his girlfriend crazy with his endless DVD acquisitions as he expands his physical library of classic films and TV shows. A fateful buy in a curious junk shop sees Bob adding a cursed movie monsters box set to his collection. One that can bring the owner’s emotions to life.
The upshot of this bizarre buy is that Bob’s inner thoughts bring Dracula to life and his fears of losing his girlfriend Jane to his hobby take a very real turn when the vampire lord kidnaps her. With his imagination bringing a rag-tag group of fellow creature feature escapees into our plane of existence Bob must team-up with the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, a familiar-looking witch and a Vampirella substitute and decide whether his geek life or his romantic life takes precedence.
With a borderline meta commentary on the fanboy life, The Lonely League of an Extraordinary Loser’ is a fun exercise in exploring pop cultural obsession with a central character who will no doubt be relatable to many readers. It’s a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously with some snappy dialogue and plenty of neat references to delight the reader from a Gremlins-style retail outlet to a Gene Colan-esque Dracula. Cermak’s visual characterisation is a vital part of the humour here, accentuating the faintly ludicrous but always amiable premise of the story.
‘The Hunger’ is a very different beast, following a cheating, misogynistic husband on a nighttime drive as he picks up a mysterious woman who claims to have been dumped on the roadside by her volatile boyfriend. Kamath and artist Lee Ferguson keep a sense of tension and foreboding alive; no mean feat in a story that is by necessity largely talking heads for much of its page count. Nothing is quite what it seems here and there’s some twists and turns you won’t see coming and a truly morbid finale. Ferguson’s layouts and Hi-Fi Design’s use of colour ensure there’s an oppressive, claustrophobic pacing leading up to a dramatic denouement. A one-page short ‘Sex and Post-Apocalyptic City’ from Kamath and Ben Newman provides an irreverent take on the zombie theme to end on.
London Horror Comic #8 underlines Kamath’s ability to take familiar horror clichés and toy with them with a respectful fondness. For genre comics fans LHC remains a reliable exercise in escapist fare in the tradition of the very best classic US horror anthologies of yesteryear.
John=Paul Kamath (W), Craig Cermak, Lee Ferguson, Ben Newman, Claude TC (A), Hi-Fi Design (C), Matty Ryan (L) • Self-Published, £9.00
Review by Andy Oliver