Read it today, finally: Blacksad!

I'm pretty sure Blacksad has been on my To Be Read list for four or five years. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's been on multiple VERSIONS of my To Be Read list, concurrently, over those years.

Thanks to Laura's crackerjack librarian skills (about whom and which, another post is coming soon), she somehow intuited that this was the day/month/year that we were going to finally read Blacksad. She's been reading lots of newly published graphic novels that get reviewed well in the prepub journals, and she's also going back to catch up on the classics as time permits. Lucky me, when she brings something home that has eluded my attention!

I narrowly missed owning copies of some of the earlier-in-print US editions of Blacksad when I represented the late & lamented Byron Preiss' publishing company, iBooks at PGW. But then Byron died, and iBooks entered bankruptcy and was dissolved shortly thereafter.

by Juan Diaz Canales 
illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido
Dark Horse Comics | 9781595823939 | $29.99 | June 2010

So. Three short terrific mid-century detective graphic stories, drawing from but not infringing on, the greats such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. John Blacksad is a P.I., the classic outsider gumshoe who keeps sticking his whiskers where it doesn't belong, a lover of ladies, and always, a punching bag for the tough guys he comes up against.

He comes up against small town racism, the Red Menace, and naturally, murder. He faces down cold-blooded bigwigs, squawking senators, and complicated family histories with equal aplomb.

And what has made Blacksad such a notoriously beloved graphic work since the first story was published back in 2000 is that Diaz Canales and his collaborator, Guarnido, execute all this classic 1950s homage with wonderfully anthropomorphised characters. Blacksad is a cat. The reporter who sticks close to his side, ferreting out the scandals for the local rag is a ferret. The villainous stand-in for Senator McCarthy in the Red Scare episode is a rooster.

The introduction to this Dark Horse edition is by comics legend Jim Steranko, who helps to put the anthropomorphism in perspective – this is more than mere stereotyping. Similar to Maus' note-perfect interpretation of the Holocaust by Spiegelman as cat-and-mouse drama, the characters' animal races in Blacksad help to illuminate their characters. And because this is noir, everyone acts according to their character.

This Dark Horse edition combines all three episodes, including the first English language publication of part three, Red Soul.

Preview pages available at Dark Horse's site.


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