Welcome, new feature on this blog! Every month (or every once in a while) I’ll write about something that I think everyone needs to know about. It could anything from books, to people, to programs, to websites, to videos, to ANYTHING! Of course, these are things that *I* stumble across, so most of it will be art or technology related. Regardless of what I find, they’re all items which I can appropriately describe as “Kevin approved”.
Blacksad (comic book)
Created by Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist)
Let me start by saying “iuernhgierhngi!!!”, because that’s how I feel about this book.
Blacksad is a French/Spanish graphic novel series about a private investigator named John Blacksad. There’s not much more to the plot, but it takes place in a 1950’s American city with every human replaced with anthropomorphic animals. Blacksad is a black cat.
I heard about this book more than a year ago, and I finally picked up a copy of the now ENGLISH VERSION (YEAH!) at this year’s CTN Expo.
So why do I love this book? Hm… well I guess I can start with the art.
The artwork is the best I have ever seen in any comic book, not to mention a phenomenal piece of art by itself removed from its medium classification. Every single page is filled with so much detail that it boggles my mind. “Boggles my mind” is defined by an event where I turn the page, look at it, and react with a “WHA!?”. The delicate linework, the beautiful colors, the spot-on expressions… there is just so much attention to detail that it has gotten me skeptical that just one person can make an image look this good.
Let’s take, for example, these panels:
Look at that table reflection. LOOK AT IT. An ordinary artist would simply mirror the image at the same angle, but Juanjo Guarnido knows that the angle would vary in the reflection. GAAHHH!! I was geeking out about that earlier.
The amount of detail is not only incredible in terms of artistic construction, but the amount of storytelling in each panel is top-notch as well. In one particular scene, Blacksad is conversing with a friend in a ice cream parlor. As the discussion plays out, a humanoid dog in the background is shown sniffing the air and growing increasingly nervous. The dog eventually leaves the store, and a couple panels later, a set of white-supremacy characters enter the parlor, thus revealing what spooked the dog in the first place. It’s an effective setup technique that is executed with incredible finesse and subtly, and it’s a good showcase of Canales’ and Guarnido’s talent and skill.
The gorgeous artwork is a perfect compliment to the engaging writing. Each tale tells complex stories covering topics such as corruption and even nuclear war. They’re compelling, gritty, and even haunting at times. Blacksad investigates crimes and puts together puzzles to ultimately uncover the many intricate secrets of the secondary characters. As we follow Blacksad’s adventures, we also get a sense of who he is as a character – his motivations, his history, and his weaknesses.
On the back of the large hardcover book, reviews quote Blacksad as being “A tour de force” and “Grade: A, Feels like unearthed film-noir storyboards of a master”, but I honestly think those are understatements. If I were grading it, maybe I could cheat and give it an “S” (like how that happens in videogames, and then you’re always surprised, like “what, there’s something better than an A?!”).
Blacksad really raises the standards of what I thought was possible in sequential art. The three memorable stories contained in the volume I bought have aspects of noir, mystery, suspense, action, romance, and comedy, all masterfully executed. I don’t just recommend this to comic book artists. It should be in the library of every painter, animator, illustrator, writer, film-maker, and anyone who enjoys a good story.
Plus, Blacksad is a smirky bad-ass.