"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 (five so far) comic albums created by Spanish authors Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist and ex-Disney animator; he was the lead animator for the character Sabor in Tarzan and Helga in Atlantis: The Lost Empire), 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 1950sprivate 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 five albums published so far (the first three in English in an omnibus edition by Dark Horse Comics, the fourth in a standalone hardcover):
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.
Amarillo (2013) is a direct sequel to the fourth book, where Blacksad tries to track down the guy who stole an expensive car he was ferrying.
Accidental Murder: In Amarillo, Chad and Neal have a heated argument, Neal tries to step away, Chad grabs his suit's sleeve... which rips apart, causing Neal to stumble and fall in front of a moving bus.
All Animation Is Disney: Inverted. Guarnido worked for Disney, but it's really hard to tell (except for some of the facial expressions).
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.
Wicked Weasel: averted with Weekly; he's The Pigpen, but he's a good guy, played straight with the weasel henchman in Arctic Nation
You Dirty Rat: The rat from the Cypher Club. Lampshaded by Blacksad in his internal monologue.
Antagonist Title: Arctic Nation is the group of white fur supremacists in the album of the same name who serve as Blacksad's antagonists. It's eventually revealed as a subversion; the real antagonist was Jezebel, who orchestrated everything that happened to get revenge on her father.
Arc Words: "Vengeance is a dish best served cold." in Arctic Nation.
Badass: Blacksad, Ribs, the unnamed reptilian assassin in Somewhere Within the Shadows and the members of the Black Claws.
Badass Biker: a gang of them in the fifth book. Amusingly, all of them are sheep.
Badass Longcoat: As a rendition of the 50's private eye archetype, Blacksad is wearing the prototypical beige trenchcoat, sometimes accompanied by a suit.
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.
Face-Heel Turn: Karup in his backstory. Jezebel recalls that her mother told her that Karup was one of the kindest persons she had ever seen, which is why her mother fell in love with him. He eventually wanted to attain power in The Line, and became increasingly racist and abusive over time to blend in with the white elite. He finally completed his Turn when he abandonded his wife in the middle of the woods in winter, causing their eventual daughters to develop an intense hatred for their father and setting up the plot of the novel to get revenge on him.
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.
In Somewhere Within The Shadows, Blacksad visits the Cypher Club. A baboon and a leopard are seen arguing in the background (in an inversion, one panel has the two in the foreground, while the focus is on Blacksad in the background). The confrontation goes from shouting in the first panel we see them, to strangling each other in the last...
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.
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.
The Grim Reaper: Death himself doesn't show, but Faust LaChapelle dons a costume in his image to go around incognito. Death apparantly 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.
Handsome Lech: In the space of one book, Neal hits on three different women.
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.
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 II and the Red Scare...
The Klan: The Arctic Nation is a mix between this and the Nazi Party. At the beginning they wear uniforms resembling Nazi party ones complete with red armbands, and later wear ones resembling those of the KKK. Because this is a setting of Petting Zoo People, they're white fur supremacists.
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.
Love Interests: Blacksad has one in the first and third album. The first example is posthumously, giving Blacksad his motivation for going on a quest for revenge against her killer, the second example is ultimately subverted.
Mighty Whitey: Played with in Arctic Nation. Plus, considering Blacksad himself is a black cat... or more precisely, 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?". Later when a black horse tries to cover the white patch with black paint, Blacksad very seriously threatens to shoot him in the gut.
Morale Event Horizon: By the fifth book, John admits to Weekly that the misery he's witnessed in his line of work put him really close to it.
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.
No Export for You: Originally, only the first two albums were released in the US (the first even had Stan Lee's comment!), but album three didn't make it. Later, Dark Horse Comics published a collected version of the three albums, though the fourth album was eventually translated to finish in 2010. It remains to be seen how long it will take for the fifth album.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Abe and Chad try to steal a bike from a biker gang, but get caught. Blacksad intervenes to keep the gang from mauling them. They thank him by stealing his car behind his back.
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," "Summertime", and "Road 66")
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.
Abraham Greenberg to Chad Lowell. To quote the writers, the only thing Chad learns from Abe is autodestruction.
Chad himself. Kills one of his two best friends in a fit of rage, and accidentally pushes the other in front of a bus.
Post Humous Character: Natalia Wilford and Leon Kronski in the first album. The entire plot of said album revolves around Blacksad tracking down Natalia's killer and avenging her death.
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.
Played straight when he shoots Ivo Statoc in the head, while the target is standing up and facing him. There's barely any blood where the victim lands.
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 croc.
Rescue Romance: This is the nature of Blacksad's past relationship with the deceased Natalia Wilford, as he helped her get rid of a stalker. They started a relationship afterwards but it wore off after some time, and they broke up before her untimely death.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: After offering Blacksad to come work for him instead of pursuing his revenge fails, Statoc instead tries to buy him off. Blacksad rejects him again and makes a point of defying Statoc's attempt to invoke this trope.
Stout Strength: Ted Leeman, the corrupt hippo detective in The Hell, The Silence seems like a sweaty, obese sloth whose bark is worse than his bite. When Blacksad outsmarts him and reveals himself, Leeman unleashes a brutal beating on Blacksad to show his immense strength.
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.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Statoc reminds Blacksad that he's not the sort of person who would shoot someone in cold blood, and so can't pull the trigger. 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.