Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Salsa Invertebraxa: a graphic novel starring insects

Yesterday I travelled to the Natural History Museum in London with Duncan Allen to meet the author of an entomological graphic novel.  Duncan is an ex Conservation Biology student who now runs his own environmental education business (Pupa Education) as well as sitting on the council of the Royal Entomological Society. It was in his role as council member that he had been contacted by the author of a graphic novel that has an exclusive cast of insects and other invertebrates.  This was a chance that two die-hard entomologists could not miss so we were up at 5 am and on the train to meet Paul Phippen (the author) under the tail of the dinosaur in the main entrance of the Natural History Museum at 10.30 am. 

Paul was relaxed and easy to engage with, confessing only slightly  nervously that we were the first entomologist he had spoken with but was relieved to find us a sympathetic audience. He talked of the origins of the novel--in a doodle of a mosquito in a flying helmet--and that doodle's growth into the amazing world of Salsa Invertebraxa. 

The novel charts the passage of two fantasy insect on a journey across a tropical forest which is populated with a carnival of insects that are as strange and beautiful as the invertebrates of the real world.  Paul described how he researched the novel and produced the artwork on his apple in his home in Cambodia, just beyond the shadow of the temples at Angkor Wat. Working late into the tropical night his computer was the only light for miles, so hoards of insects would fly in and land around him as he worked.  Salsa Invertebraxa teams with images of an elegant and surreal intensity which is accompanied by a series of poetic couplets that convey a very Darwinian thread to the story line. 

Duncan and I returned to Plymouth buzzing with excitement and eager to write up an account of the day. The interview and review of the book will be written up for the Royal Entomological Society and published in their magazine, Antenna.
In the meantime, check out the book's website and be amazed:


  1. I tracked down a copy of Salsa Invertebraxa after reading this review and was very impressed! Do you know which issue of Antenna your piece will appear in?

  2. Hi .The article will appear in Antenna the coming out in March (2013.)