Blacksad

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Gritty anthropomorphic noir goodness

"I had wrapped myself in a vicious atmosphere made of hate, vengeance, and corruption. From that day on, this would be my world. A jungle where it's survival of the fittest, where people act like animals. I had chosen to walk the darkest path in life... And I'm still on it."

Blacksad is a series of (four so far) comic albums 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 and thus they publish all Blacksad albums in French first; the Spanish edition usually follows about one month later. Because of this is considered both a Spanish and French comic book.

In an anthropomorphic rendition of America in the 1950s private investigator John Blacksad, a black cat, is embroiled in stories of mystery and intrigue. The albums come critically acclaimed and are a dedicated homage to the Film Noir genre. There have been four albums published so far (and only the first three in English):

  • Somewhere Within The Shadows (French: 'Quelque part entre les ombres', 2000) has Blacksad investigating the murder of an old flame.
  • In Arctic Nation (2003) Blacksad is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young girl in a racially charged atmosphere.
  • In Red Soul ('Âme Rouge', 2005) Blacksad watches over an old friend in the midst of the Red Scare, and falls in love.
  • The Hell, The Silence ('L'Enfer, Le Silence', 2010), sets him in New Orleans trying to track down a musician, before assassins do.

In America, Dark Horse Comics has published a Graphic Novel collecting the first three albums.


Tropes used in Blacksad include:
  • Abandoned Warehouse: In Arctic Nation.
  • All Animation Is Disney: Inverted. Guarnido worked for Disney, but it's really hard to tell (except for some of the facial expressions).
  • Anachronic Order: The Hell, The Silence
  • Animal Motifs/Animal Stereotypes: Obviously and so much. All the cops are canines - nearly all of them dogs, with at least one fox on the force. The hitmen are reptilian. The 'Arctic Nation' includes an arctic fox and a polar bear. Otto Liebber is an owl and Lazslo Herzl is a monkey: both are scientists. The Joseph McCarthy expy is a cockerel. Also, the beautiful women tend to be cats or dogs; dignified ladies tend to be birds. The authors state that the species of each individual character was carefully chosen to represent who the character really is, and that the connection between the animal chosen and the personality of the character isn't always as obvious as the "cops=dogs" example. In the second album there is possibly a Lampshade Hanging. Blacksad is at a drive-in, watching an awful B-Movie about killer giant ants. In this film, the scientist is a giant anteater, the chief of the military forces is a lion and the President of the USA is an eagle.
  • Arc Words: "Vengeance is a dish best served cold." in Arctic Nation.
  • The Atoner: Otto Liebber in the third album.
  • Badass: Blacksad. Ribs. The members of the Black Claws.
  • Badass Longcoat: Blacksad.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Dinah. The stories are in a 50s setting, so her fashion choice is rather daring.
  • Batman Gambit: A character in Artic Nation is in the middle of one several decades in the making. A key factor in this plot is marrying her own father, while keeping him from discovering this particular bit of information. She succeeds at most of her goals, but her sister is killed in the process and her niece rendered an orphan.
  • Best Served Cold: Jezebel and Dinah have been waiting a long time to enact their vengeance.
  • The Big Easy: The fourth album.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Each album ends with one, the most obvious being the third, Red Soul
  • Bodyguard Crush / Rescue Romance: How Blacksad and Natalia met.
  • Call Back: In Red Soul, Blacksad is sufficiently annoyed when he has to attend a Natalia Wilford Look-A-Like contest when doing bodyguard duty for a rich client.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Unless those were vegetarian sausages we see Karup grilling in an old photo...
  • Cats Are Mean: Adolf Hitler was a cat. See Shout-Out below. Totally averted by Blacksad and Alma, though.
  • Chekhov's Gun and Foreshadowing: All over the place in Artic Nation.
  • The Chessmaster: Jezebel had a grand plan indeed.
  • Cold War: In the third album. The story is set in the months leading up to the Red Scare.
  • Cry Into Chest: Dinah.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Blacksad, especially in his inner monologues.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: A result of Blacksad's necessary detainment in Red Soul.
  • Double Entendre: Ivo Statoc has 'cold blood' in a literal sense and figuratively he professes a cold detachedness.
  • Expressive Ears: Like their real-life animal counterparts characters ears will go back when they are threatened (or are being threatening), they'll droop when they are sad, and perk up when excited. Blacksad often swivels his ears like a cat does to hear things better.
  • Eyes of Gold: Alma
  • Face Palm: Blacksad after Weekly whistles upon seeing Karup's wife, Jezebel.
  • Fantastic Racism: What drives the events of Arctic Nation. Played with, because the characters think of literal color over race.
  • The Fifties
  • Film Noir
  • Flashback Effects: Usually, flashbacks are shown in some kind of monochrome - sepia tone or blue-based - to distinguish them from the present. Special mention, though, goes to the effects towards the end of Arctic Nation. The oldest flashbacks look like pure sepia tone photos, but as they approach the present day, they gradually become more and more colored like reality.
  • Friend on the Force: Commissioner Smirnov.
  • Funny Background Event: In Red Soul, when Blacksad goes to visit Liebber at Columbia he walks past a row of couples. All the girls instantly take notice of him and when he walks by them a few pages later they're all arguing with their boyfriends for taking such obvious interest in him.
    • When Blacksad visits the Cypher Club we see a baboon and leopard arguing in the background.
  • Furry Comic: And a damn fine one at that.
  • Furry Confusion: There are many anthropomorphized species in the series, but apparently insects and aquatic species (such as fish and sharks) are not among them as Ivo Statoc collects non-anthro insect specimens and there are aquariums.
  • Gender Equals Breed: Although it appears that most romances are between members of the same species, this still holds true to a certain extent. For example, Smirnov looks like a German Shepherd, and his wife is some kind of collie. Their children - a little boy and a girl -- follow their parents' breeds. And the same for Sebastian and his wife, Hannah - their son looks far more like Sebastian. Another example is Karup and his first wife, a dog, whose daughters are both dogs.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: When Blacksad has sex it's implied to be very romantic and fulfilling. Whereas when we see Huk and Jezebel having sex it's shown to be much less wholesome.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Cotten
  • The Grim Reaper: Death himself doesn't show, but Faust LaChapelle dons a costume in his image to go around incognito. Death apparently looks like a man with a goat skull in the Blacksad universe, merging some of the imagery with that of traditional Western depictions of Satan.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Blacksad, of course.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Used by an old lady ape in The Hell, The Silence.
  • Hot Mom: Dinah, and Smirnov's wife.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Karup and his wife. Both of his wives.
  • Humanoid Female Animal: Men look like bipedal animals, many female characters almost look like normal humans only with more fur and ears on the head. But only the beautiful women follow the trope — the rest have more variety, like the mouse cleaning lady of the first album, the doe teacher in the second, or the old lady ape in the fourth.
  • If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Blacksad struggles with this when confronting Ivo Statoc.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Blacksad does this to Smirnov's wife.
  • Incest Is Relative: Jezebel's Xanatos Gambit relies on her marrying her own father. She does refuse to sleep with him, though.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite (almost) everyone being anthro animals, and having many specific issues due to that fact, general history seems mostly unchanged, what with World War Two and the Red Scare...
  • Intrepid Reporter: Weekly. He's also a bit of a pervert, too.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans at the end of the fourth album.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the beginning of Arctic Nation Blacksad is writing and monologuing about how he should publish his memoirs. Then he looks in the readers direction and mentions that he "Wouldn't be surprised if it ended up published as a detective novel." He was looking at a hanging body, but the 'Leaning' effect is there.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Not that Blacksad gave Weekly much of a chance to refuse...
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My!: A pair of human women are seen walking down the street in one panel of Somewhere Within The Shadows.
  • Love Interests: Blacksad has one in the first and third album.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Jezebel
  • Mature Animal Story
  • Meaningful Name: "Alma" means "soul" in Spanish and Italian. The title of the book she appears in is Red Soul.
    • "Jezebel" is a fitting name since it's often used to describe "an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman."
  • Meganekko: Alma Mayer
  • Mighty Whitey: Played with in Arctic Nation.
    • Plus, considering Blacksad himself is a black cat...
      • More a black and white cat. Which explains why neither the 'Arctic Nation' nor 'The Black Claws' can stand him.
      • He even makes a smart-ass comment about it; when the Arctic Nation first comes around to harass him, he points to the white patch on his face and says, "What, isn't this enough white for you?"
  • Mr. Fanservice: Blacksad walks down a university hallway to very admiring glances from the female students, and extreme disapproval from their boyfriends. When he comes back, the couples are in full argument mode.
  • Murder by Mistake: Intending to assassinate Otto Ribs kills a similar looking owl, Otero.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Arctic Nation, an organization of white furred animals who want all the other colors to disappear in "a blizzard".
    • They're a lot like the KKK too.
    • There also seems to be a burgeoning Black Panthers expy.
      • You can see pictures of actual Nazis in the third album.
  • Odd Couple: Big and stoic Blacksad with excitable and relatively small Weekly. Also the literal cat and dog combo of Blacksad and Smirnov.
  • Oh Crap: In Album one where Statoc's mammal henchman follows the lizard henchman into a predominantly reptile bar. As the reptiles are happy to illustrate: Hairy guys like him are NOT welcome there.
  • Once an Episode: Except for the first album, every story has a classic American song in the background ("Strange Fruit," "That Old Black Magic Called Love," and "Summertime.")
  • One-Hour Work Week: When he first meets Blacksad, Weekly claims that his articles are of such superior quality that he can get away with only showing up at the office once a week or so, which is how he got the nickname. Later on, he 'fesses up that it's actually because of an office rumor about his bathing habits. Since it's never established one way or the other whether his claim about the amount of time spent in the office is true, it's possible he's encouraged to stay away to save his coworkers from dealing with his...distinctive odor.
  • Pedophile Priest: Karup is the director of the church's children choir. He may or may not be a pedophile... point is, by the end all the townsfolk believe it.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: In the first story, even though Blacksad's old flame was murdered via a shot to the head, there's only a bit of blood and a small hole instead of brains and stuff being splattered all over the wall…
    • … which might be explained by the fact that she was lying down on her bed and the shot was downwards. The nastiness would have splattered the pillow under her head rather than the wall.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Naturally.
  • The Promise: Blacksad's promise to Cotten.
  • Redemption Equals Death: When Cotten threatens to tell the rest of Arctic Nation about the kidnapping he is promptly shot.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played straight in the first album; one of Ivo Statoc's henchmen is a lizard. He does get something of an Alas, Poor Villain moment though.
    • Ribs, the henchman of third album, is a crocodile.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: All the children. Kylie, the little Zebra who plays with her, and Smirnov's puppies. Also, Weekly.
  • Scenery Porn: This series is gorgeous.
  • Shout-Out: Senator Gallo is a cockerel, and is also an obvious Shout-Out to Senator Joseph McCarthy.
    • In Arctic Nation when Blacksad is crouching on a roof overlooking the city his silhouette SCREAMS Batman. Down to his very Batman hood-looking ears.
    • Adolf Hitler is present too, but remains unnamed. As in Maus, he is a cat.
    • Several to Porgy and Bess in album four.
  • Sidekick: Weekly.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: All Alma wants is a dedicated man who will take her to Niagara Falls.
  • The Starscream: Huk the polar fox.
  • Stepford Smiler: Samuel Gotfield is a Type C before he goes completely mental.
  • Stout Strength: Ted Leeman, the hippo detective in the fourth album.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Statoc's building seemed pretty easy to break into. Although this may reflect Statoc's confidence that he could sway Blacksad with money.
  • Use Your Head: Blacksad pulls this on an attacker in Somewhere Within The Shadows. It is very effective.
  • We Can Rule Together: Ivo Statoc tries to offer Blacksad a job in his employ when he's finally tracked him down and already dispatched his bodyguards.
  • You Dirty Rat: The shady rat from Somewhere Within The Shadows
  • You Killed My Mother: This is what drives Jezebel.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Statoc says this to Blacksad. He is quickly proven wrong. Blacksad also notes that without the jolt of contempt he felt from Statoc's upfront taunting, he probably wouldn't have pulled the trigger.