Skip to content

Blacksad: An unmissable Crime Noir Comic Series

  • by

When you hear the words Franco-Belgian comics, series like Tintin and Asterix are the first ones to cross the mind, and for a good reason. Depending on your tastes and interests, you could also be well-versed in the adventures of Blake and Mortimer, Corto Maltese, The Incal, Snowpiercer, or XIII.

Among the famous characters of the franco-belgian comic series, you’ll find a black cat named Blacksad. Created by Spanish writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad was conceived with the French market as the primary target. He made his debut in 2000 in the first volume called Quelque part entre les ombres published by Dargaud. He quickly became a prominent figure and the release of a volume is now a sort of mini-event — as it doesn’t happen often!

More than twenty years after the first volume, the Blacksad series consists of seven volumes, following hardboiled private investigator John Blacksad. Raised in a poor neighborhood, John as he puts it, “used to run from the police and now run after the bad guys.” Walking in the footsteps of other famous hardboiled detectives Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, John had a hard life, wears a trenchcoat, and narrates his stories. As cynical as John Blacksad can be, he’s also one of those people who tries to do the right thing and help people in need.

Set in the late 1950s United States, the series is a crime noir comic where all the characters are anthropomorphic animals, more hybrid-like, mixing animals and human traits. Each race is chosen to represent the characters. For this reason, most policemen characters are canids, while underworld characters tend to be reptiles or amphibians. Weekly, a red least weasel who works as a muckraker for a tabloid is John’s occasional sidekick and helps put some new humor notes in the stories as well as another angle for some investigation.

Naturally, the world of Blacksad takes life with Guarnido’s illustrations and coloration, helping create the classic detective atmosphere. The art is full of details, from well-crafted backgrounds to stunning character expressions. Art and writing complement each other, with Blacksad’s narration or simply silence to let the drawing tell the story.

Like all good hardboiled detectives, John Blacksad often has to deal with investigations more dangerous and complicated than they seemed to be at first glance. Nothing pays well and luck is running out, in business and in love for the black cat. Each volume contains classic elements of the genre, a beautiful lady, violent criminals, shady and morally bankrupt characters, and someone, often John Blacksad, trying to make sense of it all.

The world of our private eye is simply a mirror of our own, dealing with the same issues, including racial segregation of the 1950s and inter-racial violence, economic depression, political tensions and corruption, the red scare of the period, organized crimes, and more. This is also a world full of artists, from broken jazz musicians to beatnik writers and theater performers.

Blacksad depicts a broken world, mixing classic tropes, dark thematics, and modern sensibilization. The perfect comic for all the lovers of film noir and a now-classic in its own right.

Blacksad Reading Guide

  • Blacksad
    Private investigator John Blacksad is up to his feline ears in mystery, digging into the backstories behind murders, child abductions, and nuclear secrets. Guarnido’s sumptuously painted pages and rich cinematic style bring the world of 1950s America to vibrant life, with Canales weaving in fascinating tales of conspiracy, racial tension, and the “red scare” Communist witch hunts of the time. This volume collects the first three Blacksad stories.
  • Blacksad: A Silent Hell
    Detective John Blacksad returns, with a new case that takes him to a 1950s New Orleans filled with hot jazz and cold-blooded murder! Hired to discover the fate of a celebrated pianist, Blacksad finds his most dangerous mystery yet in the midst of drugs, voodoo, the rollicking atmosphere of Mardi Gras, and the dark underbelly that it hides!
  • Blacksad: Amarillo
    Taking a much-needed break after the events of A Silent Hell, Blacksad lands a side job driving a rich Texan’s prized yellow Cadillac Eldorado across 1950s America, hitting the back roads from New Orleans to Tulsa. But before long, the car is stolen and Blacksad finds himself mixed up in another murder, with roughneck bikers, a shifty lawyer, one down-and-out Beat generation writer, and some sinister circus folk! When John Blacksad goes on the road, trouble is dead ahead!
  • Blacksad: They All Fall Down · Part One
    Feline private eye John Blacksad tangles with the unions, the mob, and mid-century construction magnate Lewis Solomon, who plans to pave New York City’s green space, come hell or high water. From soaring heights to terrifying depths, Blacksad must steer the right course between the lofty world of Shakespearean theater and the seedy nether regions of the city. Towering above it all is the foreboding figure of Solomon, who will let nothing thwart his dream of power.
  • Blacksad: They All Fall Down · Part Two
    Blacksad navigates from the lofty world of New York theatre to the seedy nether regions of the city, where the criminal classes ply their questionable trades. Towering above them all is the figure of Solomon, a construction magnate well on his way to rebuilding the five boroughs, come hell or high water.

Blacksad is part of our selection of Best Crime Comics to read. For another European Crime Series with anthropomorphic animals, discover Brian Talbot’s Grandville.

Last Updated on May 21, 2024.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *