This columnist remembers writing about Blacksad a few weeks ago. Blacksad is a mini-series by two young and amazingly talented Spaniards, writer Juan Diaz Canales and illustrator Juanjo Guarnido. This writer uses the term amazingly talented—which he rarely does, by the way, for two reasons. One, no comic book, book, or movie comes as close to the noir exemplified in movies such as The Maltese Falcon as Blacksad does. And two, Canales and Guarnido use anthropomorphic versions of animals closest in character to the people populating their comic book.
There are shades of Bogart in Blacksad
Originally written in French, the books were quickly translated into English and have become cult classics. One reason for this is because the reader quickly gets used to people who are, quite literally, and pictorially, animals. This writer, for instance, didn’t feel even for a minute that the characters in Blacksad weren’t human. That’s probably because the characters display traits that are all too human: weakness, caprice, envy, and corruption.
This writer’s favourite Blacksad book is Somewhere Within The Shadows, the story of the killing of the famous (and glamorous) actress Natalia Wilford. The police are pressured into calling off their own investigation, but that doesn’t stop John Blacksad, a private eye who happens to be one of Wilford’s former lovers. Blacksad is partly modelled after Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and other private eyes from noir fiction, but he has something going for him that none of the others do—he’s a cat, a big, tough greying black cat with a white chin and white whiskers. If you can overlook the fact that he is a cat (albeit a tough one), he looks just like Bogart did in those noir movies that made his name—down to the big overused trenchcoat.
Despite their appearance, the characters are very human
In his introduction to the book we are talking about, Steranko, a name that won’t be unfamiliar to graphic novel fans, refers to this. “Blacksad’s adventures are, in many ways, like films on paper. Canales taps into the dark heart of stateside noir thrillers for his structural elements: first-person narration, revealing flashbacks, and a nighmarish chiaroscuro of predatory characters in stark silhouette, cluttered offices, frids of venetial blinds, shadowy stairwells, and architectural canyons of iron and concrete illuminated by a maze of flashing neon.”
This writer couldn’t have said it better.
And it’s a pity there isn’t more of Blacksad.
Write to Sukumar at firstname.lastname@example.org