Blacksad

Blacksad is a comic book series created by Spanish authors Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist), and published by French publisher Dargaud. Though both authors are Spanish, their main target audience for Blacksad is the French market [ [http://www.normaeditorial.com/main.aspx?sectid=10&page=content&pageid=171 Interview with Juan Díaz Canales] ] and thus they publish all Blacksad volumes in French first; the Spanish edition usually follows about one month later [ [http://www.guiadelcomic.com/comics/blacksad.htm Overview of Blacksad on "Guía del Cómic"] ] . The first volume "Quelque part entre les ombres" (literally "Somewhere between the Shadows", but simply called "Blacksad" in the US) was published in November 2000. The second volume, "Arctic-Nation", was published in 2003 and the third, "Âme Rouge" ("Red Soul"), was published in 2005. (An English translation has been delayed as of May 2007 due to the bankruptcy of its North American publisher, iBooks).

Although it was the creators' first comics endeavour, the first volume was an immense success, selling more than 200,000 copies in France alone.Fact|date=February 2007 The series has been translated from the original French and Spanish into Bulgarian, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Swedish and Taiwanese.

Guarnido and Diaz Canales have received several prizes for the impressive, lavish visualisation and the books as a whole, among these three nominations for the Eisner Awards, and an Angoulême Prize for Artwork. [ [http://www.toutenbd.com/article.php3?id_article=821 Angoulême International Comics Festival - Prize for Artwork] ] [ [http://www.encyclobd.com/laureat/laureat.html?id=2&annee=2001 Sierre International Comics Festival - Prix de la Découverte] ] [ [http://www.mania.com/41246.html Eisner Award nominees] ]

ynopsis

The story is set in a "film noir" environment, in the USA of the late 1950s. All the characters are anthropomorphic animals (female characters are often much more anthropomorphized), their specific species reflecting their personality and their part in the story. For example, nearly all the policemen are canid, usually German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Foxes or Scottish Terriers.

The strip is made with a rather dirty-realist outlook, a dark cinematic style and fairly clean, realistic lines. Coupled with the truly lavish and time-consuming drawing, done in watercolor, the strip appears very realistic indeed despite using animals. The quality of the drawing has improved noticeably throughout the series, with sharper, higher-quality colour and less grainy lines in later issues.

Cameos

The series occasionally features anthropomorphic versions of famous people (not always in a good light), most notably so far in "Red Soul", where Adolf Hitler is seen in a photograph (though not named) as a cat. It also includes characters clearly based on real historical ones; such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, who appears as Senator Gallo (a cockerel); Allen Ginsberg, who appears as Greenberg (a bison); and Otto Liebber (a German scientist), who bears occupational and character similarities to many scientists involved in the Manhattan Project of Los Alamos.

Main characters

*John Blacksad - The main character, a fairly typical detective story private investigator apart from being a black cat. Part of his stories are flashbacks. He sometimes works as a bodyguard when he is in meager times. He usually wears a dark green suit, a red-and-gold striped tie and a trenchcoat. He uses the alias of John H. Blackmore on several fake IDs (debt collector, FBI agent, and customs officer). He is a WW2 veteran.
*Weekly - Blacksad's sort-of sidekick. A brown Least Weasel who doesn't like soap and water and an odour problem (he confesses that his nickname comes from bathing only weekly). He has a near-constant optimistic attitude, working as a muckraker for a tabloid called the "What's News". He owns documents of "Project Noah", to be published in case of Blacksad's death.
*Smirnov - a police commissioner who becomes a fast friend of Blacksad. A brown German Shepherd, Smirnov sometimes helps Blacksad to reach the rich and powerful which he himself cannot touch due to 'pressure upstairs'.

Volumes

"Somewhere Within the Shadows"

Blacksad begins investigating the murder of the famous actress "Nathalia Willford" - a former girlfriend.

He investigates about Léon Kronski, a motion picture scenario writer and her last known lover who disappeared. He finds him to already dead, and buried under a pseudonym. After Blacksad is severely beaten by two hired thugs, the police arrests him. Smirnov, a police commissioner, explains to Blacksad that because of 'pressure upstairs' he himself cannot investigate the matter any further. Smirnov offers him a deal, mutually-advantageous to both sides.

As he returns home, a goanna hitman and a rat goon attempt to kill him and each other. The rat quickly dies, and Blacksad interrogates the dying goanna and finally uncovers the culprit of the whole affair, Ivo Statoc, a frog, the richest and most powerful businessman of the city, who considers himself above any law. Statoc shot the actress himself because her infidelity. After brutally infiltrating the office suite at the top of his skyscraper Blacksad confronts the completely calm, cold-blooded Statoc - who first offers him a job, and later a bribe. Blacksad rejects both on a matter of principle and shoots Statoc in the head. The police arranges it so it appears to be a suicide.

"Arctic Nation"

This volume deals with inter-racial violence and racial segregation of the 1950s in a pseudo-American suburbia called "the Line". The book also obliquely addresses issues of economic depression, sexual repression and perversion, all intended to expose the social malaise and prejudice that exist beneath the apparently harmonious surfaces of communities.

Beginning with a black vulture hanged in a street, Blacksad meets his future sidekick, "Weekly". Blacksad rejects him at first due to his unpleasant smell, and because Weekly mistakes him for a fellow tabloid journalist.

Blacksad is working for an old elementary school teacher, Miss Grey (a gazelle), to find and rescue a young bear girl, Kyle (in some editions Kayleigh), who was kidnapped, quite possibly by "Arctic Nation", a racist political organization similar to the Ku Klux Klan.

After becoming friends with Weekly through the latter's persistence, Blacksad is harassed in a bar by three Arctic Nation goons (resulting in one of them being thrown into the bar counter). Their leader, a white Arctic fox called Huk, turns out to be a close friend of the local Chief of Police, Karup (a polar bear). The pair is taken to Karup and he is shown to have some racial prejudice himself.

Blacksad subsequently confronts Kayleigh's mother, Dinah, about her daughter's disappearance, which she has mysteriously failed to report to the police. He suggests an affair between herself and the son of Oldsmill, a rich white socialite. This line of inquiry was prompted initially by Miss Grey. Dinah takes great offense at the insinuation, casting doubt onto its validity as a lead. In the following scenes, he and Weekly clash with a black activist organisation - the "Black Claws"—themselves originally accused of Kyle's abduction, and similar in their tough reverse racism to Malcolm X's doctrines. They force Weekly to publish a statement denying their involvement in the kidnapping. Blacksad then decides to follow the Oldsmill lead, but discovers that Oldsmill's son is mentally handicapped (the result, it is suggested, of the Oldsmill family's endogamy), and thus unlikely to have had an affair with Dinah.

In the meantime, Weekly investigates the activities of Karup's wife, Jezabel (again, a 'white' bear), discovering her affair with Huk and her emotional meeting with Dinah, in which she appears to blackmail Jezabel by threatening to reveal 'what she knows'. This compounds suspicion on Karup, already rumoured to be a paedophile. Blacksad then returns to Dinah's apartment to find her dead. At this point, suspecting Karup of the murder, he confronts him and his wife, whom he accuses of adultery. In consequence, Karup attacks Huk and argues violently with Jezabel: during their tête-à-tête, it comes to light that they have never had sex, and that Karup is, seemingly genuinely, not a paedophile.

At the violent climax, a black magpie called Cotten (complicit in the abduction and threatened into co-operation) leads Blacksad to an Arctic Nation meeting in a derelict war factory where Kayleigh - and Weekly, also having been abducted - are hidden. Blacksad saves Weekly from a gibbet after Karup is betrayed and hanged himself by Huk, under the (false) pretence of kidnaping and child-abuse. As the factory burns and Cotten is shot dead by Huk, Blacksad rescues Kayleigh, along with Weekly. Later, he finds Huk dead in his garage - with a screwdriver through the brain.

The book's finale sees Blacksad cornering Jezabel after her husband's funeral, proving, through a matching birthmark, that she is Dinah's twin. Jezabel clears up the loose ends: her father was in fact Karup, who had abandoned her black, pregnant mother to die after being turned by the racist doctrines of the Oldsmill set. However, Jezabel's mother lived long enough to raise the twins, and, fueled by revenge, Jezabel ascended 'white society' under a false identity, eventually marrying Karup, but refusing him any intimacy (in a bizarrely platonic Electra complex). With Dinah hired as their maid, Jezabel seduced and manipulated Huk, using him to carry out the fake kidnapping, thus capitalising on the rumours of Karup's pædophilia. Huk also spontaneously murdered Dinah 'to make sure she kept her mouth shut'; and so in the aftermath of Karup's hanging, Jezabel in turn killed Huk by way of vengeance. The book concludes by highlighting Kyle's innocence and her ultimate abandonment, but her fate is not made clear.

There are probably some discrepancies between publications. Cotten is also seen as Hewitt, Kayleigh as Kyle, and some versions of the book end with Blacksad scattering Cotten's (Hewitt's) ashes to the wind over Las Vegas, fulfilling his last wish.

"Red Soul"

Is based firmly shortly before the Red Scare, Blacksad is employed as a bodyguard for a rich old tortoise called Hewitt Mandeline, who goes on a gambling trip to Las Vegas. After returning home, Blacksad's last assignment is to accompany him to an art gallery, where he meets his friend Smirnov with his family. He finds a leaflet for "An Energy for Peace", a lecture given by his old school teacher, Otto Liebber (an owl) a nuclear physician and Nobel Prize candidate, supported by the rich, young, dynamic, idle communist Samuel Gotfield (a dalmatian) and his titular scientific research foundation.

However, all is not going well for Liebber and the Gotfield Foundation; the lecture hall is mobbed by anti-communist rioters and Blacksad takes an instant dislike for Gotfield, who makes a mockery of the lecture. He also meets Gotfield's fiancee, writer Alma Mayer, who reacts frostily to him. Gotfield invites him to a party at his luxurious coastal mansion where Blacksad meets the so-called 'Twelve Apostles' - twelve Leftist intellectuals who gather near Gotfield for protection from the Witch Hunt: Greenberg, a beat poet, photographer Dora, Klein the sculptor, actor Bill Ratcliff and scriptwriter Jess Logan, Russian painter Sergei Litvak, accomplished chemist Laszlo Herzl and Ms. Mayer herself. After Blacksad grudgingly saves a drunken Gotfield from drowning, with the help of Liebber's close friend Otero, Herzl angrily accuses Liebber of promoting nuclear weapons, ending the 'party' on a poor note. When Otero gets back home, he is killed by a mysterious gavial assassin. It seems he actually meant to kill Liebber.

Blacksad and Alma - who will soon marry Gotfield, planning on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls—begin to have feelings for each other. Blacksad decides to become Liebber's 'Guardian Angel', following him and observing him. Soon he saves Liebber from a car bomb, planted at a garage entrance by the same gavial, but despite a destructive leap through a pane of glass and brutal hand-to-hand combat, he fails to stop the goon from escaping and Liebber disappears from the scene leaving just a wrecked DeSoto.

From Smirnov, Blacksad learns that the gavial is a highly-regarded hit man known as Ribs, and that his bomb was uncharacteristically chemically complex. Suspecting that Herzl the chemist might have hired Ribs to kill Liebber out of professional jealousy, Blacksad confronts Herzl. To his surprise, Herzl is a Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, who shows him photographic proof that Liebber used to work for the Third Reich. (The story never resolves who hired Ribs.)

Stricken with this new information, Blacksad seeks solace from Alma, but before they can meet, the FBI arrests her and other Apostles as communists, inexplicably betrayed by Gotfield. When the FBI agents visit Litvak in his art studio, they accidentally kill him after injecting him with truth serum to try and find out where Liebber is. Liebber, meanwhile, has returned to his old neighborhood (where Blacksad also grew up), only to find it overcome by poverty and his father's church in ruins. Suffering a personal crisis, Liebber hides at the city aquarium, where Blacksad once hid as a child.

Blacksad intercepts the FBI agents before they take Alma away and rescues her, taking shelter in Weekly's apartment. Falling in love with Alma, Blacksad promises to take her to Niagara Falls, which none of her previous husbands ever managed to do, and which to her is an important act of commitment. Blacksad then finds a fatalistic Liebber at the aquarium. Liebber admits to a lifetime of failure, trying to improve the world and reduce suffering, only to make the wrong choices and leaving the world worse than before. His last sin was to follow Litvak's advice: that to maintain the balance of world peace, both Russia and the United States would need to have nuclear bombs - and Liebber has been supplying Litvak with the information for the Russians.

Hoping to minimize the damage, Blacksad visits Litvak's studio only to find his dead body. Realizing that Litvak had copied Liebber's information onto a canvas and then painted over it to disguise it as a work of art, Blacksad goes to the shipyards, where the painting has been loaded onto a boat bound for an art exhibition in East Berlin. It turns out Litvak had made two copies of the painting entitled "Red Soul", one of which would return to North America after the exhibition, while the other copy (containing Liebber's information) would remain behind for the Russians' nuclear program. Blacksad re-routes this painting to Australia.

As Blacksad prepares for his trip to Niagara Falls, the FBI agents arrest him and plant fake evidence to frame Blacksad for killing the painter. Senator Gallo himself interrogates Blacksad, trying to find out where Liebber is hiding. When Blacksad refuses to cooperate, Gallo points out that his fingerprints were found in Litvak's studio and that he is likely to die in the electric chair if he refuses to cooperate. Blacksad is then released.

Blacksad visits Gotfield to find out what made him betray his friends and move into Gallo's camp. Since Gotfield is rich, Blacksad deduces that Gallo must have offered him something money couldn't buy, and this turns out to be the case. Gotfield is now one of a selected group of people who will be evacuated to a special government shelter in the event of a nuclear war. The main criteria for selection is being a friend or supporter of Senator Gallo.

Finding a list of names along with a description of this plan (called 'Project Noah') in Gotfield's safe, Blacksad uses it to blackmail Gallo. Blacksad is not blamed for Litvak's death, and the government fakes Liebber's death and allows him to leave the country. Blacksad gives the list of names to Weekly in a sealed envelope, with instructions to publish the contents if anything happens to him.

The end of the comic is bittersweet. Liebber writes Blacksad a letter, explaining that he has returned to Germany where he is happy again, helping a community rebuild itself after the war, and is teaching children to read and write. Alma, meanwhile, gives up on Blacksad after she reads the (fake) story in the newspaper that Liebber committed suicide after Blacksad turned him in. In her mind, Blacksad is now as much a traitor as Gotfield. Blacksad tries to find her again, but she has vanished.

Commentary

A 'behind the scenes' book has already been compiled, with author commentary. [ [http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&products_id=8187 forbiddenplanet.co.uk] ]

Future Film Version

Variety has reported that a movie version is in the works. It will produced by Thomas Langmann and Louis Leterrier ( The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk), is scheduled to direct targeting for a 2009 release. Budget could be as high as $90 million-$100 million [ [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117979649.html Langmann launches edgy schedule - Entertainment News, Weekly International, Media - Variety ] ] .

References

External links

* [http://www.blacksadmania.com Blacksadmania.com] fr_icon
* [http://www.guiadelcomic.com/comics/blacksad.htm Blacksad in "Guía del cómic"] es_icon


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