Imagine if you will a little town in England called Bouveray Town, Three Kings to the residents. It seems typical enough: shops, pubs, restaurants, neighbors that have known each other for decades, men and women getting up for work everyday while the children go to school. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Well, that’s unless you’re Jimmy, enforcer for the reigning crime lords. What follows is a series of vignettes about Jimmy, his family, and the various quirky citizens of the now not so quiet town.
It’s sad that so many comic websites focus mainly on the mainstream American direct market. Yes, I am even talking about Image, BOOM!, Oni Press, and all those darlings. And it’s true. Rarely do I see a site pay as much attention to Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, self-published books, and the various manga publishers as much as the billionth Batman comic. And pieces about European comics? Rare as a white, I tell you.
I understand why. It’s because these comics are, as stated, mainstream. They get the most promotion and produced works with large impacts on pop culture. I mean, that’s what pop culture is about, right? Not necessarily what is good, but what is popular.
Now, don’t take this observation as an anti-mainstream rant to bolster indie comics. There are equal amounts of good and bad comics on either side of the fence. However, I think that comic websites could do a lot better to look for, review, and promote comics that don’t get a spotlight for whatever reason.
An untapped market are Webcomics. There are exceptions like Sunstone with huge mainstream success, but must go unnoticed. Now, a lot of Webcomics are imperfect. After all, they tend to be made by a small group of people, usually one person, self-edited, published without the resources of a publisher. There can be delays in updates, the art isn’t so good, or the story riddled with holes. I say it is still important because Webcomics are a way for those with fresh ideas and perspectives to release their work.
Webcomics have a lot of potential to grow the industry, and to ignore them is criminal. That’s why I’m happy to review Slang Pictorial, a new Webcomic by Nick Prolix about a small little town with a lot of big drama. It’s got old school-inspired art, unique characters, and a myriad of influences that coalesce into a quirky slice-of-life story.
Now, there is a print version of the first chapter along with the actual Webcomic, so I think I’ll review both formats in terms of their functionality. With any print comic, I focus on the cover and how well it does in capturing my attention and selling the contents of the comic. Unfortunately for Slang Pictorial #1, it’s a rather boring cover
It has a block of red color at the top half with a map of the town in the bottom half, and the title of the comic and its creator across the center, but nothing else. The cover of issue #2 isn’t much better. In fact, it’s just the first cover but instead with a blue block of color. I appreciate how this comic implies that the setting is going to play a major role in the story, but where are the characters? Where are the implications of what happens in the story?
I need more details than what is provided. It doesn’t have to be much, it can be a group shot of the characters, scenes from the story put in the background, or mere objects placed around the cover that have significance to the story. The cover could be a nice way to anticipate the reader for what will happen, perhaps leave clues for them to put certain parts of the story together. Whatever is done, as long as it catches the eye somehow.
I will compliment, for both the print and Webcomic version, the layout of the panels. Typically, they are laid out vertically on a triangular page. Here, it is like a newspaper’s comic section where the comics are printed horizontally. This layout fits the art style which is like an extended newspaper strip. It also helps that at the beginning of Chapter One there are ads that look like the kind you would find in the back of a newspaper (We still remember what those look like, right?). It’s interesting to have this layout because it forces a comic artist to tell a sequential story with a limited amount of space. This might not sound good, but keep in mind limitations are an opportunity to find new, interesting ways of storytelling.
As for the Webcomic’s format, it is good, but the only issue is that there is no archive button yet. However, it is important to keep in mind the Webcomic has just started and there are not that many pages to it, so there is not yet enough material for one.
The result of Nick Prolix’s choice of layout for the art is a mixed bag. On one hand, he creates a detailed setting by masterfully moving from wide, spacial views of the town, to close ups on people and details. At first, I thought there were too many close ups that obscured the architecture. However, there were more establishing shots as the story went on.
As for characters, their designs resemble the look of Krazy Kat and Popeye: exaggerated anatomy, emotive facial expressions, and haircuts that look like they went to a madman barber. The style fits perfectly with the early 1960s jazz/beat era of the story. Reading the comic is like stepping into that time period and getting a feel for the working class neighborhood.
Prolix manages a lot of details with just black and white, using the various inking details such a cross-hatching and motion lines to mimic movement. Unfortunately, the limited panel space makes it so that movement is imperfect, especially with how much buildings and background environs can clutter up the page and obscure motion lines. This might mess with the layout, but perhaps larger panels for scenes of significant movement will be of better use in future chapters.
Another issue is that anatomy wasn’t always consistent. Yes, it’s meant to be exaggerated, but there were where it went too far with misproportioned limbs and uneven spacial relations between objects and characters. These are flaws easily fixed though and don’t impede too much on the reading experience.
Also, the black and white color choice of Chapter One caused scenes to feel cluttered, preventing the reader from discerning objects and details. However, the addition of minimalist color fixed this. Objects and people are clearly separated, not to mention details missed before fleshed out, and I’m able to appreciate Prolix’s pencils more.
I can’t tell what the overarching plot of the story is yet. So far, it’s a series of character-focused vignettes. The first two characters the reader meets are Jimmy and Linda. Jimmy is a smooth-talking debt collector for the mob. Arrogant and self-serving, he has violent fantasies about murdering his boss Vasos. It seems Jimmy is incredibly egotistical, and even the slightest insult or command he doesn’t like causes him to burst. He does help people, but only if there is something in it for him.
It’s pretty obvious Jimmy is the macho man type, always needing to appear tough and cool. Part of his machismo are gendered insults toward men to make them seem inferior to him, his favorite being “darling.” However, Jimmy is not this way with his younger brother Georgie. Georgie designs clothes for women, and one might think that Jimmy would berate him for not being manly. That’s not the case though. Instead, Jimmy encourages Georgie and even offers to intimidate judges at a contest to be in his favor. Jimmy is a good brother, except for the creepy way he hits on Georgie’s friend and love interest Hattie.
Linda is a seamstress that works hard in the morning and party harder at night. She lives with her parents, but they don’t know the full extent of her antics. She seems to like her dad well enough, but accuses her mother of being stuck up. Linda comes off as selfish and immature, only interested in the night life and not much else. However, just like Jimmy, there is more than meets the eye. At work, Linda has to deal with a manager that sexually harasses her and she quietly dismisses it, not bothering to report him to the boss. This is contrary to how she is with Jimmy. She likes the guy, but does not put up with his crap whenever he is late. In one scene, Linda gets so peeved with Jimmy she decides to dance with another man. Jimmy doesn’t take too kindly to this and scares the poor guy off. They make up and dance anyway.
Jimmy and Linda are both complicated individuals with both good and bad qualities, sometimes contrarian in how they act around certain groups of people. They also seem to genuinely like each other. Their first date ends with coitus and see each other the next night. My feelings toward them are complicated, which is good. I like that I never truly love or hate them. They resemble real people, and real people make us feel a variety of emotions even when we consider them friends.
Other significant characters include Georgie and Hattie who are also in a process of romantic adventure. Hattie comes with Georgie to art and political protests against the South African government, despite the disapproval of her older brother Eustace that thinks it is best not to get involved. Jimmy’s other family members include his sister Maria and their father. Maria is a hardworking daughter and surrogate mother/wife. The stress of taking care of all the men gives her a short temper, although given Jimmy’s antiques, it is justified. She loves him, but boy would she like to give the two-bit hustler a punch in the mouth. Dad is a kind man but a drunk. There is an implication that his wife and mother to all three children is absent (whether dead, missing, or no longer in their lives is not explained, and it would be interesting if it never was). So, it could be that alcoholism is a way to cope with her lost.
Despite the lack of an overarching story, Slang Prolix is doing a lot of character development and drama that draws the reader in. With Jimmy’s uneasy employment to the mob, Georgie’s protests, Dad’s depression, and the various romantic relationships going on, there is a lot of potential for different plots to unfold.
What I find most interesting are the eclectic influences. Slang Pictorial is an anthology of sorts, but with a main story, The Sheep and the Wolves, the one I’ve just analyzed. Nick Prolix got the title plus some story elements from a pulp novel written by George Burnett. The comic’s story structure, as he describes it is inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight and Death Proof…in which Tarantino is happy to put the brakes on the central plotline and will instead shift the focus onto a seemingly unrelated, languidly paced conversation between his knowing characters.” Also, Slang Pictorial is the title of a track by rapper Cappadonna. It’s interesting to see all the things that inspired the story when it seems like it has nothing to do with those influences, at least not yet. Who knows? Maybe in the next few chapters, Jimmy and Linda will be holding up diners while discussing beer served in European McDonald’s.
One more thing I’ll touch on: I liked the introduction in Chapter One where the character Gus the Gent introduces the reader to Three Kings ad drops some factoids about the town. This was interesting because it allowed the reader to get a better sense of the town. Sadly, this does not appear in Chapter Two. I hope that they return in later chapters. Factoids sprinkled here and there about a setting can make it feel like its own character and not just a background for the humans.
Despite being relatively new, Slang Pictorial has a lot of potential. There are flaws in the art, but the rich setting and fascinating characters draw the reader in. I highly recommend it for fans of historical fiction, romance, comedy, family drama, and crime thrillers. If you’re interested in getting into Webcomics, then this is a great place to start.
Story: Nick Prolix Art: Nick Prolix
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy/Read
The Webcomic: http://thesheepandthewolves.com/page:12
Nick Prolix‘s Twitter: https://twitter.com/nickprolix
Buy the printed versions: http://nickprolix.bigcartel.com/
Nick Prolix‘s patreon: https://www.patreon.com/nickprolix