Blacksad: the return of the most famous detective cat in comics

  • Eight years after the previous installment of the award-winning and best-selling black series, Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido return with ‘Todo falls. 1 ‘, sixth adventure of the feline anthropomorphic researcher, set in a New York of the 50s plagued by urban and political corruption

‘Macbeth’, a Shakespearean drama “about betrayal, power and murder.” Definition dropped by one of the characters of ‘Blacksad‘and what comes to the hair of this new and long-awaited sixth adventure –‘Everything falls. 1’ (Norma) – from the already iconic detective cat in suit, trench coat and skinny, which Chandlerian Philip Marlowe. This time, in the 1950s New York, controlled by gangs, whipped by the urban and political corruption and at the beginning of new journalism. It has been two decades, in 2000, that the scriptwriter Juan Díaz Canales (Madrid, 1972) and the cartoonist Juanjo Guarnido (Granada, 1967) illuminated this black cult series with anthropomorphic animals, on which since minute zero there have been awards – the National Comic in 2014, four Eisners, a Harvey, to name just a few – and of which more than three million copies have been sold in 27 languages.

“Any Shakespeare fits this kind of stories of black gender, which present contradictions of the human being, where is at stake ambition versus ethics. How far can you maneuver when you aspire to some power while keeping your morale intact. You can apply it to any aspect of our time, “says Díaz Canales at the head of a plot in which Blacksad runs into political and business powers when the leader of the subway workers union -the moles- asks him for protection from the threat of the weasel mafia, which wants to control the sector as it has done with the truckers and stevedores.

Urban speculation and political corruption, how to organize transport and mobility in a big city & mldr; topics that are still current. “The fact is that the United States of the 1950s are very similar to those of today in terms of social conflicts. There are problems that have not changed much and that remain unresolved,” he laments, accompanied by Guarnido, from his home study, in Madrid.

For the trade unionist Kenneth, a cultivated bat, the scriptwriter borrowed things from another real one, Jimmy Hoffa. “He had relations with the mob. He disappeared in 1975 and his body never appeared “, says Díaz Canales, who from the beginning was clear that history would revolve around the villain Solomon, a hawk inspired by another historical figure, Robert Moses. “He is a benchmark of New York’s past, a very black novel character, full of contradictions, who handled all the springs of power without having a relevant position, someone in the shadows in the municipality, who spent three decades managing the urban politics of the city while he saw mayors of different political signs go by. He suffered anti-Semitism and did social works for neighborhoods with black population but also penalized them by taking them out of their homes to build residential neighborhoods and highways. ” It is, adds the screenwriter, “the type of personality that leads to reflect and understand that things are not black or white but that the world is full of gray.”

There are also characters reminiscent of Stella Adler, “a pioneer of the actors of the Method, not so much as an actress but as a teacher of actors. She is a strong woman, who vindicates her role in society,” she adds. Just like Rachel’s character, a young reporter who defends the new journalism, in contrast to Weekly, Blacksad’s sympathetic journalist friend, who embodies the veteran of the trade but rooted in sensationalism. “Journalism is becoming a profession of villains in the service of power,” they say in a cartoon. “The very nature of journalism to question power comes into tension with the fact that a media outlet also depends on money – considers Díaz Canales -. And there is a tension between the truth and the truth that some want to present.”

Guarnido’s strokes reflect in every detail and more than a wink different atmospheres of the time, which, for Díaz Canales, invite to an “immersive experience”: from a testosterone newspaper office to the dark catacombs of the metro, passing through the vertigo over a macro-bridge under construction or a party like ‘Playboy’ editor Hugh Heffner’s. “As a child I was fascinated by drawings with profusion of details, such as those of Asterix, Richard Scarry or Jan’s ‘Cole cole’ – Guarnido explains -. Here we represent the time as it is, with coherence, without anachronisms. And it is very funny do it with anthropomorphic animals, some very realistic, others more ‘cartoon’ … The intention was to humanize them enough so that the animal contribution and the different role of each species had a narrative function. But it worked more than we thought and the good thing is that the reader instantly forgets that they are animals. ”

Culture is always in conflict but in the long run it always wins, because it lasts and passes the sieve of time

Juan Diaz Canales

Another image, fresco of the time, is a theatrical representation of the massive and free outdoor festival Shakespeare in the Park, which is still celebrated today, although in the comic, as it happened in reality, it seems to be in danger. “Robert Moses, on whom the gardens of the city depended, tried to ban it because he said that it destroyed the lawn and wanted it to be done by charging to finance its maintenance – says the screenwriter -. Culture is always in conflict but in the long run it always wins, because it lasts and passes the sieve of time “.

Eight years have passed since the previous installment of ‘Blacksad’. During this time, Díaz Canales has lavished on the resurrection of the Short Maltese by Hugo Pratt with Rubén Pellejero, of which they are already preparing the next story, in addition to publishing his first solo work (‘How the water travels’). Guarnido, for his part, turned to ‘El Buscón de las Indias’, together with Alain Ayroles, and now he will do so in the second part of’ Todo falls’, scheduled for early 2023 and for which they already have a script and ‘ storyboard ‘.

It has functioned as a gateway to convince people to take an interest in comics

Juanjo Guarnido

What its creators value the most of ‘Blacksad’ is that “it is a machine to attract new readers to the comic”. “It has worked as a gateway to convince people to be interested in comics, they tell you that they did not think that comics were made like this, as happened with Paco Roca’s ‘Wrinkles’,” says Guarnido, who reveals the complicity of many booksellers: “They tell you that their strategy is to tell the reader: ‘Here, read it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back.’ And no one has returned it, he assures smiling.

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