London Horror Comic celebrates its 10th year in publishing and I’ll be doing a series of posts around the journey that’s brought me to this milestone throughout 2016.
Along the way there will be useful tidbits about self-publishing, so don’t worry, it won’t be a completely incontinent stroll down memory lane with a forced stop off behind a big tree.
Some history for the uninitiated: London Horror Comic began life as a web comic and made its jump to print as part of the Film 4 FrightFest 2006 programme guide. It was at the end of 2007 that the dedicated first issue came out.
Over the 10 years there has been much that’s happened: the book was distributed with Diamond Comic Distributors, it was dropped from their Previews catalogue in 2008, I had to learn how to sell the book at conventions, the book has won awards and been praised by people I admire.
But perhaps the most meaningful achievement to me is the most blandest: the book is still going. It’s still here.
This lends itself nicely for a blog post about a subject you don’t hear too much about in comics, which is namely, how you stay the long term. Especially when you decide to go it alone.
Regardless if you’re a writer, artist, or publisher, there’s plenty of monkey shit that will be thrown at you, which you have to dodge if you want to keep doing what you want to do.
Since 2006 there has been a huge number of changes in the world that have affected the reality publishing a comic exists in.
iPhones, tablets and such have made digital comics a commercial reality for the mass paying market. Retail models for shops selling entertainment media (HMV, for example) are getting a handle on how they can adapt to survive. The Cinema Store, a place in London for scoring cult import DVDs and Blu Rays and which had been going for 20 years, closed its doors last week owning to excessive rent for its retail space.
The web might be the tool to keep a culture alive with its various routes for commentary, discussion and reporting but fundamentally a culture needs its allocated physical space to have any impact in the real world. The rise in UK comic conventions is one of the main reasons the London Horror Comic has managed to survive.
That said, there’s never been a better time to be a comics fan. The surreal moment you see a billboard for a “Deadpool” movie on a major road, you’re reminded how much movies and television now draw inspiration from comics.
At the same time, we’ve also seen how print titles, like FHM, which used to draw hundreds of thousands of readers, have closed due to changing tastes. In this way, you can see how nothing, however once popular, is guaranteed a future.
Despite this, the sales practices of the big two comic companies (revamp after revamp, variant covers, editorial short termism) seems based on appealing to readers from the 90s’, rather than the new readers being brought in to the medium looking for something interesting to read and not a gimmick.
With all the above trends, how then do you meaningfully carve out a future for yourself?
The best answer I can give looking back on the last 10 years is that you have to genuinely start with a love of what you do and make that the through-line for every action you take.
Had my priorities been overridden by a need to get rich doing comics, breaking in to the mainstream, being fashionable or getting the right reviews or copying the in-thing in comics that year, I don’t think I would have lasted the course.
The London Horror Comic began with a simple intent of telling off-beat stories coated with black humor. It’s the equivalent of meeting me in a pub and me being drunk enough to want to tell you a dirty joke, because I’ve sensed that you might be like-mindedly miserable.
Whatever stage of the journey you’re on with your own creative project, when you encounter difficulties, always go back to the smallest of reasons that got you started on the journey.
If it’s true enough, if it motivates you to still want to connect with people, you’ll always have something to say and stories like this never go out of fashion.
Not even after 10 years.