Writer: Nick Henry
Artist: Mike Burton
LC Comics, 2022
Monsters, creatures that are not part of the normal life, are first and foremost characters to swiftly get rid of. Or, in what is usually a more tolerant post-modern trope, they are beings that have their own right to live (and reproduce, and sing, and dance, and write, etc.).
If they fall into the first category, there needs to be a hero (or heroes) to kill and dispatch them to wherever they came from (usually Hell or something similar, some place that is filled to the brim of evil and bad intentions).
In a fictional work, this leads to those who fight for a good cause and want to prevent evil’s spawn from becoming the only species ruling the Earth. They are supposed to stand for good. After all, theirs is a task of ethical and moral importance. They are the ones who stand between chaos and order, between the fundamental right to living in a society (ours, with its laws) and the fear of seeing all our culture (and biological make) go to waste.
Monsters, moreover, can also eat us. To them we, after all, are as much food as cattle (a terrible thought, to be sure, especially for those who believe that the mind is more important than the body, or that our constitution veers more to the abstract field of our synapses than to the fleshy muscles stuck around our bones).
London Gothic (the first chapter) sets out to delve us into such nightmare, where we are turned into innocent victims of creatures who want to sink their teeth into our necks. We are thrown into a world where the boogeymen are real, and magic, although shrouded from society, exists. This is a London, the one depicted by the authors, that is home to the last Templar (a group now called Tuttori) whose job, with the help of some friends, is to protect us. We see a hero who is as good with his weapons as he is with his tongue. We go back in time towards a period (Victorian England) where the city was as filthy and unliveable as perhaps it has ever been in its long life. This is a world inhabited by strikingly different social classes, their division visibly more strongly then than it is today. This secondary element of cultural and historical flavour, the need to turn us towards a time that does not exist any more, is mixed with magic and the ever-present fight between good and evil.
This first chapter is interesting. The organization of the narrative discourse uses well-known topics yet, at the same time, feels fresh and charming. We are in a territory we know already, mixed with a masterful characterization of its elements. Writer Nick Henry allows us to delve deeper into the mythos. The end result is a tale that not only moves fast, page after page, knowing its own personal rhythm (a rhythm which gently holds the reader’s hand without squeezing it). But it also succeeds in having us want to know more – we find ourselves invested in it.
We think London Gothic knows what it is: a pulp story that draws inspiration from many a different tale (or, in some cases, the tropes of the genre) without ever falling into the trap of becoming trite and boring. London Gothic boasts a good plot structure, solid art and well written dialogues (the English language is given so much space here). There’s little more to be said, once we reach the last page of this first chapter. But we want to know how the story is going to unfold beyond this first issue – and whether the writer and the artist are going to stay the course and keep the same high quality.
Interview with writer Nick Henry
WCBR : While reading the book we are given the impression that we are in front of a pulp story, one of those we could find in Weird Tales, for instance. What (or who) are your inspirations?
Henry : The inspiration for the story really grew from when I was a young child in the 70s, I was fascinated with horror and would never miss the Saturday late night horror double bill on BBC2 they had here in the UK, from watching old black & white American movies with the greats Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney to the wonderful Hammer Horror flicks starring horror legends such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, so I suppose these really old films and moving onto some of the 80s classics such as Evil Dead & Poltergeist were my inspirations.
WCBR : What led you to choose that precise setting, that is, London (and Europe) in the nineteenth century?
Henry : Growing up in the 70s I was kind of a feral kid, so a gang of us used to go out and explore London which then still had a lot of creepy old places, still with Victorian cobbled streets, also the river Thames was a great place to explore because that also had huge drainage outlets which of course we used to dare each other to go into, this along with buildings that were of a sinister nature just had to be investigated I absolutely loved the feeling of being scared shitless, strange kind of child really! lol
From that early age I learned a lot about Victorian London, I had a Nanny Liz who was born in 1899 and was enthralled by her amazing stories like Jack the Ripper and the Highgate vampire, not much telly in those days so I suppose anything to entertain the kids and frighten the living bloody daylights out of us kept us quiet! I realized then that Victorian London with its smog filled eerie streets and strange characters was the perfect setting to create an amazing, unique horror story.
Upon researching I found that Europe had very similar places with horrific background stories just screaming to be developed.
I was told a few weeks ago that I’m a sick, twisted kind of Charles Dickens, so I’ll take it as a compliment!
WCBR: What kind of narrative freedom does it give you?
Henry : The freedom to mix factual places and events with fiction is an absolute joy, there were some extremely nasty characters through history that (let’s just whisper), some of the characters are based on 😉
None of my characters are shocking and horrific for the sake of it, they truly are just nasty bastards and it is within their demonic or psychopathic nature to be so, this is very important to the story and hopefully to the reader who will absolutely fucking hate them.
WCBR : You seem to give a lot of importance to the way each character speaks, be it the accent or the vocabulary used. Do you think language is an important part of creating a character?
Henry : Most definitely and especially in the case of Jellico, you have to read him with an Irish accent in mind and it will then flow, and you will endear to him, his demeanor is totally based on an uncle in Ireland and upon writing could hear his every word, he was an absolute joy to write dialogue for. In the case of characters in Chapter 1 the mix of upper-class Victorian society and the mainly cockney working class was a must. I wanted to draw the reader into becoming part of the story and try and give as true as possible a glimpse of what the mix of cultures and accents that were prolific of the period.
WCBR : How is the story going to unfold? Can you give us any detail (no spoilers, of course) as to what the next three chapters are going to be about?
Henry : I really don’t want to give too much away and spoil anything even though I would absolutely love too!! but if you get lost in this world you become what I call London Gothic’fied, each chapter will introduce new characters which will entertain, shock, and enthrall you. The story develops intensely with shocking “what the fuck happened there” moments. Mike Burton my fantastic illustrator and partner on LG has left little clues within the illustrations that once the four chapters are finished will create some interesting talking points.
There are so many possibilities to where this story can go when we finish, we are already coming up with some amazing ideas to follow on with more, which we will do but only if the readers want it.
[Editor’s note: this title is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign: see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lgcomics/london-gothic-graphic-novel ]