Nick Prolix’s Slang Pictorial is one of those comics that we can file under “really should have had more coverage on Broken Frontier by now”. A year or two back we ran a series of Prolix’s Bullpen Boot-Camp features, a text and illustration strip that provided “lessons from classic comic creators for making it as an indie!”. You can read them all in one place at that link and we recommend that you do!
Slang Pictorial acts as an umbrella title for Prolix’s work with the main feature of the comic being The Sheep and the Wolves, his webcomic in print form. Appropriating the title from an obscure British crime novel, The Sheep and the Wolves is set in a distinctly unglamorous 1960s London (the fictional Bouveray Town) with a sprawling cast, but focusing on the sometimes fourth wall-breaking central character Jimmy Angel, a small-time debt collector.involved in petty crimes and dodgy dealings. The wider role call is made up of colourful characters including Jimmy’s extended family, girlfriend Linda, her sleazy boss Mr. Bunting, Linda’s suspicious father Wilf and a cast of ne’er-do-wells, working class stalwarts and everyday folk trying to keep their heads above the water in difficult times.
Prolix uses the format to tell his continuing soap-style tale but also to contrast it with spotlight shorts on supporting cast members or time-jumping tales of the characters in their younger years. While earlier instalments in Slang Pictorial #1 are comparatively raw and show the marks of an artist finding his voice, the evolution of Prolix’s visual style is rapid.
By the third issue that progression is pronounced; giving us fluid, engaging cartooning with one foot in expressive caricature and one in urban realism, allowing the reader to engage and relate with his characters on multiple layers. You only have to look at his cityscapes in latter issues and the way in which the reader can get lost in the detail of a single panel to see that. Lettering is also inventively used with symbols often employed for effect instead of text or speech balloons being obscured to note background noise or characters talking over each other.
Thematically there’s a lot going on in the various The Sheep and the Wolves narratives. Light interlude strips pepper the longer-form dramas which have a large number of characters and plotlines interweaving through each other dealing with everything from the comic relief of inept criminal enterprise to serious threads concentrating on 1960s bigotry and workplace harassment.
If there’s one more obvious criticism to be made it’s that as time goes on Prolix perhaps tries to incorporate too many strands of storytelling into each issue, giving us too little progression in some ongoing features and meaning the most recent issue has something of a scattershot feel. But over-ambition in self-publishing is certainly preferable to the alternative and underlines that Prolix is proving to be a one-man ideas factory. Check this out in conjunction with some of his sketchbook offerings to experience the cartooning energy of a creator whose profile has been deservedly rising ever upwards over the last couple of years.
For more on Nick Prolix’s work check out The Sheep and the Wolves website, buy his comics in print here, and follow him on Instagram here and on Twitter here.
Review by Andy Oliver