Chalk Marks Part 1 - Dinopopolous and The Accidental Salad


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Small Pressganged is Broken Frontier’s weekly column designed to shine a spotlight on the often overlooked world of small press and self-published comics. Every Thursday we provide a mix of review round-ups of the best of current small press comics and spot interviews with some of the movers and shakers of the scene.

This week we’re shaking up the format a little by looking not at small press books per se, but at publisher Blank Slate Books’ s Chalk Marks series of titles; an imprint which seeks to give comics creators like established U.K. small presser Joe Decie a leg up via a first pro-published collection of work. The Chalk Marks books are produced in an A4-size softcover format with a very tactile aesthetic that beautifully presents short-form works of around 26-44 story pages with dustcovers and flaps.

In the first of two parts looking at the Chalk Marks titles we’re focusing on Joe Decie’s The Accidental Salad and Nick Edwards’s Dinopopolous. Next week HarveyJames’s The Long Day of Mr. James-Teacher and Box Brown’s The Survivalist will get their turns in the spotlight…

The Accidental Salad
Joe Decie (writer/artist)

The Accidental Salad is a collection of Joe Decie’s distinctive webcomics that combine autobiographical observational humour with an air of the dark, the bizarre and the downright ridiculous. Decie’s strips range in length from a single panel to a couple of pages and record Joe’s reflections on his (not altogether) everyday life. From organising the daily shop with the aid of someone else’s discarded shopping list to the threatening omen embodied in an eyeless Bart Simpson doll abandoned in the street, Decie’s ludicrous yarns are recounted with a subdued and almost detached delivery.

Sometimes he finds humour in the familiar: anecdotal incidents surrounding bringing up a young child that any parent could relate to, for example. Elsewhere he’ll digress into the wildest flight of fancy: a family trade as professional “shit-kickers” – employed to tread in dog excrement so you don’t have to – provides a memorable digression into the realms of the utterly absurd. Throughout, Decie’s black and white art has a soft-focus feel to it that gives it an almost dreamlike quality.

What I loved the most about the strips collected in The Accidental Salad, though, is that they showcase a kind of unostentatious surrealism; each entry is depicted with such a deadpan, blasé ease that the more fantastic the scenario the more inconsequential and unremarkable it feels. Decie offers up his readership an effortless juxtaposition of the mundane and the incongruous, providing snapshots of a wonderful world of nonchalant nonsense that, once visited, will draw you back again and again.


The Accidental Salad is available from Blank Slate Books priced £5.99/$7.99. For more on Joe Decie’s work check out his website here.

Nick Edwards (writer/artist)

Nigel is just like any other teenage schoolboy. He’s into comics, video games, loud music and going on secret missions with his chum Brian – a talking dinosaur with double-mounted laser guns on his back! Drafted into a case to retrieve the mythical Miracle Bird of Ndundoo, this intrepid double act soon find themselves exploring a fantastic underground world in pursuit of their goal. But hot on their heels are the scheming sauropod Julian and his Evil League of Lizards. Who will win the race to reach this amazing treasure first?

I would have imagined Dinopopolous to be a love letter to a long-gone, magical era of IPC and DC Thomson weekly juvenile humour comics had it not been for the fact that creator Nick Edwards was born long after that U.K. golden age was little more than a bittersweet memory. The very best of those titles ensured that there would always be plenty of visual invention every seven days to keep the readership’s interest, whatever the limitations of the form in terms of running jokes and repetitive plots, and there are certainly echoes of that here. The plot of Dinopopolous is not particularly complex or deep and, admittedly, some may find it rather slight in structure. But that was never the point of a book like this. The true attraction of Dinopopolous is in the feverishly crazed imagination behind its hyperactive, sprawling visuals and its childlike hybrid fantasy world that combines routine suburbia and prehistoric marvel.

Can black and white artwork be classed as psychedelic? It may not have the requisite kaleidoscopic explosion of colour one normally associates with the term but what Edwards serves up here still has a vibrant, hallucinogenic feel to it. I’m reminded in places here of The Etherington Brothers – that fabulous partnership doing such exciting work at the moment in UK comics aimed at children – not so much in style necessarily, but certainly in intent. That’s because Edwards crams so many of his panels full of extra details that a re-reading becomes richly rewarding, and there’s so much going on in the bigger spreads that you miss some of the little nuanced moments the first time around. There’s also more than a hint of platform video games captured in the layouts which adds another level of enjoyment to the proceedings for the inner nerds in us all.

You can get a taster of Nick Edwards's work on Dinopopolous in the video trailer above...

Perhaps Dinopopolous is a curiosity in that the The Dandy/The Beano audience it appears to be pitched at are, to say the least, unlikely to be the readership that will be picking up the Chalk Marks imprint. But, as mentioned above, these volumes are, first and foremost, an opportunity for newer creators to shine. And shine Nick Edwards does, with a debut book that is frantic, frenzied fun and exemplifies some of the very best traditions of British kids comics in a handsome, quality package.

Dinopopolous is available from Blank Slate Books priced £5.99/$7.99. For more on Nick Edwards’s work check out his blog here.

Next week I’ll be taking a gander at HarveyJames’s The Long Day of Mr. James-Teacher and Box Brown’s The Survivalist also from Blank Slate’s Chalk Marks series. Join me then…


Andy Oliver is Broken Frontier’s Managing Editor and a contributor to Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die.

If you are a small press comics creator, or self-publisher, and would like your work to be reviewed in a future edition of Small Pressganged then e-mail Andy at andyoliver@brokenfrontier.com for further details. You can also follow Andy on Twitter here.

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