Better late than never. That’s how I feel after discovering Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido. In 2010, yup some time ago, Dark Horse comics collected the first three volumes into a gorgeous collection. If you have read this book go back to the Comics Bulletins homepage and read one of our many articles or interviews. If you have heard of this book but never read it or never heard of it at all let me convince you why you should pick it up.
I admit I picked it up for the art. Juanjo Guarnido is incredible. We have seen anthropomorphized animals in comics, particularly in independents, like Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Omaha the Cat Dancer, and even Cerebus. But not since Disney’s Robin Hood has human characteristics been captured and put into animal skins so well. A smut rag journalist is a weasel; a German Shepard is naturally a police office, lizards are sketchy and a bear or rhino moves and acts with the girth that make up they physicality. What captivated me was how he captured the clothing, their styles, automobiles, buildings and backgrounds. You can spend minutes on each panel soaking up the details Guarnido carefully put down. Back this all up with fantastic coloring and you get environments from wintry chills to enchanting evenings to smoke filled seedy bars and glamor of the rich and famous that breathes life in the book.
Blacksad creators, Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, have taken these anthropomorphized animals and planted them into a Raymond Chandler novel. Their hardboiled detective is a panther named John Blacksad, a younger Philip Marlowe, who served in the World War II, and is skilled with a gun and his fists. He dresses in the standard suit and trench coats that are the stock-in-trade for the P.I. and like most Noir tales, Blacksad is our narrator. Like Blacksad himself, the plots are staple 50’s Noir: standard revenge, pursuit, damsel in distress, a kidnapping, racial tension, with some immigrants, McCarthyism, and mad bombers thrown into the mix.
Juan Diaz Canales doesn’t provide us the verbal gymnastics that I enjoy with P.I. Noir but does a fair job with dialogue and pacing. We’re not asked to figure out the mysteries but enjoy the ride and visuals as we watch over the shoulder of Blacksad.
I am glad Dark Horse kept the collection hardbound and oversized. It keeps the integrity of the book intact and what we get for the price is beyond reasonable. Blacksad is a book for the comic enthusiast.